We still have all of February and even March for snowfalls so we are not done with the season just yet!
1. Warming up
The reason why we need to warm up prior to shovelling is because when we get out in the cold, all of our blood vessels constrict, which increases their pressure when trying to bring the blood to the rest of the body.
At the same time, we suddenly burst into mostly upper body activity, which requires a lot more blood supply!
This puts a strain on your cardiovascular system…
Therefore, before you step outside and pick up the shovel, warm your system up first so it is ready for shovelling:
- Jog in one place for 30 seconds
- Do jumping jacks for 10 seconds and repeat a few times
- Do some air punches forward and overhead for 30 seconds
It’s also a good idea to do some stretches to warm up your muscles and avoid strains!
- Do shoulder/arm swings (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
- Lightly stretch the backs of your shoulders by crossing one arm across your body, then the other for a few seconds at time (don’t hold for a long stretch so you don’t overstretch before having to shovel) and without pushing too hard into the stretch
- Twist your torso from side to side with arms across your chest (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
- Slowly bend forward to stretch the back and the backs of the thighs for a few seconds, repeating a few times
- Slowly lean back with hands on hips for a few seconds, repeating a few times
- Do some lunges
- Do leg swings (perform slowly and with control to avoid straining a muscle with quick, sudden movements)
- Pull ankle to buttock while standing to get a quad stretch, holding only for a few seconds and repeating a few times before switching legs (don’t hold for a long stretch or pull too vigorously so you don’t overstretch before having to shovel)
- Do some calf stretches for a few seconds, repeating a few times on each side
Once you feel warm and limber, you’re set to head outside!
2. Technique is important.
A lot of people try to get it done as quickly as possible. They rush to shovel, try to move a lot of snow at once, and end up twisting their back a lot to get the snow off to the sides. This can lead to muscle strains or back sprains.
- A good rule of thumb is only move the shovel in the direction of your toes! As you push the snow with the shovel, push in the same direction that your feet are pointing.
- Use the power of your legs instead of bending a lot through the back or pushing a lot through your arms. Think mini lunges as you propel the force through your legs and push the shovel and snow forward.
- When you have to lift the snow to throw it out of the way, make sure you are not twisting at the back. Keep toes pointing in same directions as the shovel. Lift with your legs in the mini lunge (or mini squat) position, rather than bending. Then, to throw the snow, use the momentum of the lift as you straighten out to also throw the snow off the shovel and into the snowbank.
- As you throw that snow off the shovel, you shouldn’t have to extend your arms all the way out. The shovel should remain fairly close to your body.
- If you are quite tall, standard size shovels might not work as well for you. Look for longer and/or bent handle shovels to reduce the bending needed through the back.
3. Staying active in general!
Not a lot of us will commit to working out so we can be ready for snow season, but definitely including cardio (running or brisk walks, swimming, cycling) into our workouts will make our cardiovascular system more resilient.
When it comes to shoveling, upper body cardio work e.g. light weights, boxing, etc., is great!
Adding in weighted squats and lunges are great for strengthening those leg muscles we will use to propel and lift the snow!
Adding in some upper body strengthening will be helpful for maneuvering the heavy shovel and snow! E.g. shoulder presses, chest presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions, front arm lifts with straight elbows, etc.
If you do end up getting injured and it’s not improving within a week, give us a call to see how we can help!
Good luck out there in the snow!