Column 10 - Exercise Raking Leaves

Original publication date: November 9, 1983

Last Sunday the morning was cold and frosty but the afternoon turned out to be beautiful. After being in the house all morning I decided to go out and rake the lawn. I had lots of energy. For the first few minutes. With every pile of leaves I collected, the more the thought came to mind to wait until I had someone to help me. I really didn't appreciate the help I had. My two year old and my three year old. While one was jumping in my nice pile of leaves, the other was either sitting subbornly in another pile or scattering the leaves with another rake. My frustrations mounted as did the pile of leaves.

I decided I'd better approach the raking from a different angle. I gave up on vigorously trying to get the raking done that afternoon and we played more so than we raked. The raking did get finished but without the frustrations. My back was not sore the next day. It might have been if I had let my frustrations get the better of me and if I had not stopped to play.

Raking, like snowshovelling, is a chore that few feel worthy of concentration. We do not rake every day, so no matter how fit you are, you'll use muscles that are not normally used. You probably won't feel sore until the next day, especially if you had raked incorrectly. You'll hate the sight of these pretty leaves next fall.

Remember to use your legs when raking. The muscles in them are large and strong and can endure prolonged work. Your hip joints enable you to move safely in all directions and are supported by strong ligaments. The muscles along the spinal column are much more delicate and do not stand up to prolonged work as well. Move your feet and legs. Don't reach and twist with your upper body. When bending down to scoop the leaves into the bag, bend at the knees and lower yourself down with a straight back. Use your legs to assist you back up again.

After all the leaves are in the bag, don't carry the bag with one hand, arm out at your side. You could be straining your back as well as your arm. Bend your knees, crouch down, arms around the bag, and use your legs to get up and carry the bag to the garbage. If you use a big drop sheet to collect the leaves, drag the bundle behind you with straight arms, holding your head and back straight. The elbows are designed to save muscle work and danger of damage by locking together when the arms are straight.

Rake the leaves when the weather is suitable. Your muscles won't react as you'd like them to in cold windy temperatures. There isn't much sense working vigorously to rake the leaves if the wind is blowing just as vigorously to scatter them again.

Use your common sense. When you get tired, take a break. If you see a professional landscaper leaning on his rake realize that he's not just wasting his time, he's saving his back.

Copyright 2020 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.