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Garden Fit

by Ida Fabrizio

Coaching in garden fitness! 

Since the garden project began at the Castle climbing Centre 6 and half years ago, I have always been intrigued by how much climbers train for physical fitness and climbing technique; by the way they employ personal trainers and really work hard on repetitive exercises to get fitter and stronger and minimise injuries.

During all this time observing them, I’ve been working outside in the Castle garden using many different tools and sometimes getting the odd ache and pain after a day’s work.  Often I hear new volunteers new to repetitive garden work complaining of aches and decided to chat to one of the personal trainers at the Castle, Janos Atkins, about the use of garden tools, the repetitive tasks involved in gardening and asked for some coaching on how best to approach the work to minimise injury and get an all over body work-out.

I believe any physical activity ought to be given the same attention and care as any recreation or competitive sport, especially if it’s your livelihood. To be productive in your physical work and sustain it in the long term, taking care of your body is definitely something to consider.  At the Castle we’re always looking for more sustainable methods in our food system to grow organically; using hand tools is key to this way of growing so staff and volunteer’s alike need to be mindful of how they use their body as an extension of the tool to avoid injury.

Janos was keen to help me on this project and had already thought about the body and tool use in his own personal life. It was then that I noticed the climbing movement courses posters in the centre which showed silhouettes of body positions, so I approached the graphic designer Susie Norris, who was also very keen and interested to help me with this project.

We all met up in the garden and took photos of Janos using the tools; Janos assessed each tool as he used them and we thought about the correct postures, positioning and noted all the muscles used for each tool. Susie then took the photos and information to create eye-catching illustrations and artwork for the Garden Fit guide. 

A couple of weeks ago we ran a workshop and invited the TCV (Trust for Conservation Volunteers) Green gym facilitators along. They gave us some really good feedback and were very grateful for the lessons learnt to pass on in their own volunteer sessions. The workshop had input from Personal Trainer Janos Atkins and Sarah Bayley an Osteopath who runs Climber Clinic at the Castle who gave everyone a talk about regular injuries she treats and how to avoid them when gardening.

A huge thanks to Janos and Sarah who have helped me think about and teach gardening tool techniques more mindfully. Also thanks to Susie for giving her time, enthusiasm and graphic skills to help create the Garden Fit guide.

The intention of the guides are to illustrate the correct way to use garden tools in much the same way as you see for gym equipment and climbing. These guides are intended to inspire new and experienced gardeners to think about how they use their tools and keep their body healthy in the long run, during sustainable and productive land work.