Think winter, and think snow, snow and more snow. There are heaps and heaps of the powdery white stuff everywhere and how pretty it looks drifting down outside your window in flakes. Then, all of a sudden, you’re snowed in and can’t put it off any longer. There’s work to be done. As beautiful as that wintry blanket is, someone’s got to do the job of clearing the snow out of the way. In case you’re not lucky enough to have the help of a snow plough or a partner who’s racing outside with a shovel, and you’ll be doing the dirty work yourself, we’ve got your back – literally. As a chiropractor, I’ve seen my share of people who hurt themselves shovelling and the fact is, injuries can be easily avoided. Here are the tricks of the trade you’ll need to keep in mind when getting out there to clear the snow.
How to Shovel Snow Right
ONE, TWO, STRETCH
Almost everyone ignores this key aspect of shovelling, and almost everyone regrets it. You need to do gentle stretching, getting your muscles prepared for the workout of clearing snow. Pay particular attention to warming up your legs, knees and back before you bend and lift. And remember, you have to stretch both before and after you shovel.
BREAK OUT THE HAT
The best way to feel warm outside is to keep your head and neck covered. You’d be surprised how much body heat you lose out of your scalp. On the upside, even if you hate hat head, you’ll also keep your hair from getting wet and frozen. Neck warmth is just as important. Muscle contractions in your neck from the cold can cause a twisted neck, where you suddenly can ‘t turn your head freely, making you feel like Frankenstein with bolts keeping your neck together.
Boots are a must when you’re out in the snow – and that means real, functional, waterproof ones, not your chic heels or slippery Uggs. You want traction in the snow, not to mention toasty toes that won’t get frostbitten. Choose a pair that are high enough to cover your calves, just in case the snow is deeper than you thought.
The most important aspect of shovelling without pain is taking your time. There is no one watching the clock but you and if you’re in a hurry, there is a real risk you will hurt yourself out there. Shovel in short bursts. If for some reason you are in a rush, clear only the side of the driveway your car sits on, and leave the rest for later when you have more time.
DO IT RIGHT
Too often, people rush outside unprepared, lift heavy snow too quickly, and end up in immense muscle pain. To avoid hurting yourself, warm up, take your time, and then use the proper shovelling technique. That means making sure to bend from your knees, not your back. You want to minimize back strain by using your leg muscles instead. Also, concentrate on carrying light loads of snow each time, to build your muscle strength as you go.
The equipment you use may make the difference between hurting yourself and having fun, so invest in a good shovel. There are many types to choose from, including some with ergonomic handles. The ones with large shovelling heads are meant for pushing snow forward rather than lifting. Find what works best for you and always keep a spare handy in case one snaps or you can enlist some help from a family member or friend.
To get the most out of shovelling snow, think of it as a great way to get in a good workout rather than a chore. Plug some upbeat tunes into your earphones, and jump in with both feet. If you plan it out and do it right, you will end up with a clear driveway and a healthier body. Finished? You just may want to start a snowball fight or make a snow angel. At the very least, treat yourself to some hot chocolate for a job well done. And have a great white winter.