Winter weather can pack a punch and, with the season’s heavy snowfalls, injuries often result. Improper snow shovelling is often to blame.
But shovelling out after a storm doesn’t have to leave you stiff and sore. With a little know-how, you can clear your driveway without the all-too-common back, neck and shoulder pain cramping your style. Here’s how:
Before You Start
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in the winter months as it is in the summer.
- Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as you get warm.
- Wear proper footwear. Shoes and boots with solid treads on the soles can help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
- Pick the right shovel. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. An ergonomically correct model (curved handle) will help prevent injury and fatigue. Also, if you spray the blade with a silicone-based lubricant, the snow will slide off more easily.
- Before beginning any snow removal, warm up for five to 10 minutes to get your joints moving and increase blood circulation. A brisk walk will do it.
All Set to Go
PUSH, DON’T THROW.
Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it. If you must throw it, avoid twisting and turning — position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.
BEND YOUR KNEES.
Use your knees, leg and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.
WATCH FOR ICE.
Be careful on icy walkways and slippery surfaces. Intermittent thaws and subsequent freezing can lead to ice building up underfoot, resulting in nasty slips and falls. Throw down some salt or sand to ensure you have a good footing.
Once you’ve mastered safe snow shovelling techniques, you’ll be free to have fun and stay fit all winter.
Building Your Core, So Your Back’s Not Sore
You often hear about the importance of strengthening your core. This is true and important, but it is recommended for many reasons over and above just achieving your dream body.
Many people have back pain and this can sometimes be caused by weak abdominal muscles. In fact, developing strong abdominal muscles may actually help prevent back pain by enabling proper spinal alignment, making you less prone to back injuries. Your abs anchor your frontal core, and if they are weak, the other structures supporting your spine, such as back muscles, will have to work harder. By developing stronger core muscles, you’ll be less likely to injure or strain your back muscles.
Below are three exercises that help build your core, so your back’s not sore.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and feet turned out, toes pointed. Contract your core muscles and roll your shoulders forward creating a curve in your back. Lift and move arms in succession as if you were climbing a rope, twisting your core slightly with each reach. Repeat 20 times.
Start in a plank position with abs tight. Pull right knee in and circle it clockwise, then counterclockwise. Keep the rest of your body stationary. Repeat five times and then switch legs.
Sit with knees bent and feet on floor. (A) Straighten right leg. Roll spine into a C-curve. Place left hand behind head and extend right arm. (B) Twist body to the left, roll back a bit more (and hold for one count), then come up. Do five reps and then switch sides.
Try these exercises to help tone your core, three to four times per week for about 15 minutes. Your back will thank you.