By Christopher Cudworth
Between sitting at a desk for hours at work and hitting the roads to run or ride, it seems like we go from sedentary to rushing around. But there is a world where you get the best of both worlds, and something wonderful in-between. It is called a garden.
A garden is tons of work, but it’s generally pleasurable time spent. Even if you do nothing more than place low maintenance plants in the ground and give them a little water now and then, the results can be gratifying.
Of course there are always weeds to pull. Nature hates a void, and there are plenty of creatures and plants that like to fill it in.
But when you come home from a long run or ride and the garden sits patiently ignored all of Saturday morning, it is rather like having a friend to talk to. The plants need watering and holes need to be filled or overeager ground cover needs to be yanked back. The garden, you might say, is an active place. Your work there is a conversation of sorts with the earth. It can be quite a draw.
One British gardener by the name of Guy Hands recently noted, “For men over 45 in England, gardening is the second-most popular pastime after television. Even sex came after gardening, which the French would say sums up the British.”
Well I’m Scottish, which is only like being British in the accent category. We Scots are known gardeners and landscapers. Is that not so? Plus I don’t like television that much and definitely still rank sex above gardening. There are plenty of hours in the day for all that if you plan carefully enough. Or act impulsively. Take your pick.
So I can heartily recommend that gardening is a great complimentary activity for those who run and ride.
Here are a few great reasons why:
1.) You can see your progress. Gardening is not exactly the province of the goal-oriented, but there is much satisfaction to yanking a quadrant of weeds to expose rich earth. So there’s that.
2.) Gardening is physical labor, but you do it all in a confined space. Mostly you use your core for shoveling and raking, your shoulders and arms for planting and weeding, and your back for lifting and moving. None of these competes with your ride-tired legs or sore calves. In fact, gardening is often therapeutically active recovery from those activities.
3.) You can sit and admire your work with the beverage of your choice. Come home sweaty from a run or ride and either take a quick shower or towel off and use your gardening as a cool down. Then, when you’ve completed the work, you can grab a cool drink and sit amongst the plants you’ve tended. It’s peaceful and contemplative. Other than when you jump up and pluck a weed you’ve missed.
4.) Gardening is a journey, not a race. In fact gardening helps you slow time down a little. Because rather than rushing to complete each phase of the season, you want your lilies and irises to last a while. You hope for a few cool days just as you do for running and riding. Take photos of your garden and every year you’ll have a record of your slower journey through time. The plants won’t run away.
5.) A garden loves company, and provides it. When you finish your run or ride it’s great to sit and chat with friends in the garden. But if you’re alone, just keep an eye open and you’ll find all sorts of other visitors. Beautiful insects including butterflies and moths. Birds love watered gardens too.
6.) Sit in the sun and share space with your plants. There’s no better way to gather a little Vitamin D than among a towering wall of potted plants. You can sweat right along with them, and spray yourself with a little water from the hose if you get too hot. Give yourself some time to just “be” and the plants will not complain. They’re not like pets, per se, in needing stroking or attention. Just don’t let anyone hear you talking to them. They often won’t understand the relationship.
7.) Going to the garden center is fun. The smell of flowers in a greenhouse is one of the world’s special treats. So you put on your grubby thin sweats and wander in sandals amongst the geraniums and nasturtiums, choosing friends to bring home for your garden.
8.) You can get closer to nature in a garden. With so much movement in your daily life, accentuated by your running and riding, it is possible to feel disconnected from the world. In a garden you can kneel down or get close to plants or even your vegetables and just consider how amazing the world really is in all its complexity.
It really is nice to have a close-at-hand hobby like gardening to absorb your mind after intense workouts and a busy life. You don’t have to have a green thumb to make it all happen. Keep it simple with hardy plants like pansies and daisies and grasses if you like. Your garden center employees can help you choose plants to line the front of your house or to take over a section of your yard.
It’s an investment that you’ll enjoy no matter how tired you are from running or riding. And that’s a rare commodity indeed.