Are You Fit Enough to Garden?

Okay, so “Are You Fit Enough to Garden?” is a bit of a trick question. “Gardening” is a scale-able hobby. When most people think “garden,” they envision plot of land set aside for plants. But container planting, patio gardens, and windowsill gardens exist. Therefore, caring for a pint-sized potted succulent is as much “gardening” as cultivating several dozen flowers covering an entire front yard.

The top half of this woman is built like Arnold Schwarzeneggar in his prime bodybuilding and action years.

Over the half-dozen years that I’ve owned my house, digging in the dirt and watching seeds and young plants flourish under my hand has brought me a lot of satisfaction. That’s the main reason I decided to branch out from just my backyard gardens to replacing my front lawn with a garden. But here’s the thing:

I wouldn’t be able to garden like this if I weren’t fit.

I don’t have the luxury of throwing money at non-essential projects. While a garden might be an essential part of my emotional well-being, yard projects aren’t as dire as, say, repairing the broken air conditioning in the middle of a southern summer. If I want a big garden (or some other intensive project), I can’t hire laborers. If I want to complete these projects without hurting myself, I must maintain a fit body.

fit enough to swing a sledge hammer
Even though I’m holding the sledge here, imagine that I’m the hammer and my body is the concrete getting totally wrecked.

My front yard revamp requires a ton of heavy materials:

  • Over 80 2 cu. ft. bags of mulch (average moisture):  260 pounds
  • Over 130 retaining wall blocks:  1,040 pounds
  • Lumber for the fence:  600 pounds
  • Around 30 bags of stones:  600 pounds

And I haven’t even gotten everything yet! We’re already at 2,500 pounds loaded into my car and toted around the yard. Let’s also not forget the drama of The Tiller, which was far too light. But instead of being easier, I had to push and pull harder. The lightness of the machine required more physical labor to dig into my yard and rip up the grass.

I haven’t always been so fit.

Back in January, I made a commitment to myself to work out in the mornings. Evening workouts were too easy to dismiss in favor of plans with friends or post-work fatigue. I’m happy to say that this is the most I’ve adhered to a workout routine in my entire life. Here’s all I do:

  • Tuesdays and Thursday:  run
  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays:  strength train (upper body, abs, and hamstrings/butt)
  • Weekends: rest – or more likely, do yard work
Not me; I have more fat and red hair. But when I’m rockin’ and rollin’ with confidence, this is how I see myself.

As much as I hate to acknowledge physical boundaries and limitations, they do exist. I’ve found that as my yard work in the evenings has grown – especially when I do it for several days or weeks straight – my morning workouts must scale back. Otherwise, no matter how much I sleep or eat (or what I eat), I walk around in a state of perpetual exhaustion, and I start to resent the project. That’s kinda the opposite of the intent – I’m hauling these bags of mulch and lengths of lumber because I enjoy the process and the end result.

In terms of running, I’ve dropped from running six miles in a stretch to four and a half. My strength workouts are shorter – closer to half an hour rather than a hour.

Activity and nutrition are closely tied.

Personally, my morning workouts go much more smoothly when I have grilled vegetables and chicken for dinner the night before instead of saucy, fried Chinese takeout.

Dagnabbit. Now I want takeout.

Although I track what I eat and try to stay within calorie and macro-nutrient guidelines, I also listen to my body.

I’m not normally a big meat eater, but lately, I’ve been craving steak. So when I went grocery shopping the other night, a tray of juicy, red filets found its way into my cart. And holy cow, my energy rebounded after dinner.

I, like many women, am borderline anemic, which is to say:  Ladies, if you work your body hard, make sure you’re consuming plenty of iron!

So to circle back to the question in the title, yes, you are fit enough to garden, in some sense of the word. But if you expect to undertake a large, physically-demanding project in the next year or so, starting working out now. Build muscle and endurance. Figure out the best way to feed your body to stave of fatigue. And be prepared to sweat.