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After a back season spent on Xmas face stuffing, winter warmers and no digging, I am downright pudgy. I don’t have a muffin top to my jeans, I boast a full-on wedding cake. Attila says that I still look like the girl he married but when he thinks that my guard is down, he mentions that I could do with some exercise. Easter is over; the chocolate eggs are history so it’s time to inspect my gym equipment. Primula auricula Primula auricula

I regard keeping fit for the sake of it as a waste of energy. If I could have a giant hamster wheel rigged up to a dynamo to power the oven, I’d do it. Starting a recalcitrant lawn mower is an excellent work out for sleepy stomach muscles. By the time that the big bugger is ready for action, I am exhausted. After twenty minutes of weeding on hands and knees, I feel as if I’ve spend a week on a rowing machine. Rather than planking, I recommend a stint of leaning across a pond, clearing the detritus from the pots full of marginal plants. The threat of a cold bath in the icy water will maintain a taut physique, in order to keep your belly or boobs from taking a chilly dip. Rakes and hoes are efficient instruments of torture. If used properly, the garden is cleared of weeds and your flab feels as if it has been given marching orders. Digging the soil and turning compost is good for every last bit of you. Anything wielded with an excess of enthusiasm and poor technique risks putting your back out, so have a care and take a lot of tea breaks. Plum blossom

Plum blossom

Bums and hips may be targeted with weeding whilst squatting and if your lawn is large enough, there are few tasks to beat pounding up and down behind a mower with a heavy roller attached. When I started gardening professionally I had no trailer. I used to lift the equipment into the front seat of my car and after a year of this, I had a six pack and my shoulders met my ears with lumps of muscle that would make Schwarzenegger sick with envy and for which Stallone would swap his eye teeth. Arms and upper body benefit from shearing hedges and overhead pruning. If you have to use steps to get at the target, your thighs will profit from repeated scampering up and down. A pounding heart caused by nearly falling off the ladders doesn’t count as a cardio vascular work out, apparently. Occasionally, you may have to break into a trot. Dicentra formosa (bleeding heart plant) Dicentra formosa (bleeding heart plant)

I have heard it said that an hour’s gardening can use as many calories as a four mile jog. I suspect that this refers to excavating deep trenches for sweet peas, rather than a little light dead heading. It makes sense to start gradually after a long period of being a couch potato. Warm yourself up before a session of prolonged thrashing and don’t stick to one job until you are no longer able to walk, stand or sit with any comfort. Lift correctly, using legs and abdominals to take the strain. There’s no point in striving for buff perfection if you have a peculiar walk due to a hernia or slipped disc. Vary the activities so that every limb is equally worn out and you are pooped all over. Save enough liveliness to put your tools away and to lift a glass of your favourite tipple to your trembling lips. Cheers! To your very good health.

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