In winter, it's snow shoveling. In spring, it's gardening. And in autumn, the task that leaves many a home-maintenance enthusiast sore and regretful on Monday mornings is, yes, raking leaves.

Don't underestimate the exertion that raking can require. It's a repetitive movement that can lead to muscle strain if you don't work those muscles regularly. Some advice:

  • Warm up and stretch before starting. As with any exercise, you should warm up your muscles with light activity, such as walking, and then perform gentle stretches. And remember that raking is a full-body experience; be sure to stretch not only your shoulders and arms, but also your neck, upper and lower back, thighs, and calves.
  • Take regular breaks -- every twenty minutes or so.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after.
  • If it hurts, stop. Rest and wait a few days before attempting again.