With the weather cooling off, many of us are looking up at the trees, watching the changing colors of the leaves. They might be pretty now, but we all know that soon, the ground will be covered with them. When this happens, we’ll put on a coat or sweater, grab a rake, and start on the cleanup. Sometimes, this could be a pretty big job, depending on how much ground you have to cover. On the one hand, raking helps burn extra calories, like any physical activity. As long as you aren’t overdoing it, you can turn a seasonal cleanup into a decent workout. Just make sure you have water handy, and stay hydrated.There are plenty of ways to hurt yourself while raking, though, and these can be avoided by keeping a few things in mind. First, with the cold weather rolling in, you should start by wearing layers. Once you work up a sweat, it’s easy to take off a jacket or windbreaker. Second, warm up before you start. Like any exercise, raking will strain your muscles, and it uses a lot of muscle groups. Simply walking around the yard to begin with, followed by circular arm movements and easy stretches, can help to avoid harming your muscles while you work.Once you start raking, it’s a good idea to switch sides every 10 minutes. Most people tend to rake on one side of their body, but this puts stress on the same muscles over and over. By switching sides regularly, you’re giving your muscles an even workout without overworking one side. Something else that can help here is choosing a rake that’s a comfortable height and weight for you. Using a rake that’s too short, too tall, or too heavy is an easy way to get hurt. Also, while you’re raking, try to keep your back straight. Twisting your spine while raking can cause injury.Remember, even though this could be a big job, take your time. You shouldn’t be rushing to finish when more leaves are going to fall, anyway, especially if you aren’t used to long physical activity. Take regular breaks, drink plenty of water, and keep stretching. This allows the muscles you’re using to unwind a bit. If you have someone to help you, that’s great, but don’t let that push you to get it done too fast. Don’t be afraid to take a break if your helper wants to keep going, and if they’re looking tired, make sure to recommend they take one for themselves.If the leaves are really piling up, there are a few other things to know. First, it’s better to rake leaves when they’re dry. Wet leaves are heavier, slippery, and can be hiding mold, which can cause problems, especially if you have allergies. Beyond mold, leaves can also be hiding branches, animals, or holes in the ground. This is another reason why it’s important to take your time, so you can keep an eye out for these hazards. Also, wear gardening gloves, to avoid bites and stings from little critters.The last thing to do, once all the leaves are gathered up, is to bag them. Again, you shouldn’t be trying to go too fast. Don’t fill bags to the point that you’re straining to lift them. If you have to move them long distances, a wheelbarrow is a great tool to use. If you’re using a tarp, try to get someone to help move it. Enjoy the fall colors and everything else this season has to offer!