With our first snow rapidly approaching, I thought it a good time to cover a few safety tips for shoveling snow. Shoveling, while incredibly inconvenient, can also be a great workout, especially on a day when driving to the gym may not be ideal or particularly worth the risk of driving in bad weather. Unfortunately, done with poor form or without proper preparations, shoveling snow can lead to a litany of injuries.
Common injuries from snow shoveling:
- Back injury
- Shoulder injury
- Pulled or strained muscles
- Fall-related injury
Before we cover proper technique, let’s go over a few tips to set yourself up for success (or at least to avoid injury).
- When in doubt, consult your physician. Not everyone is physically fit enough to shovel. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or do not regularly exercise, ask for help or offer to pay the local kid(s) walking the neighborhood looking for extra cash during snow storms.
- Consider using a snow blower instead of a shovel. They’re more expensive, but a bit kinder to the body. Also, think about investing in heated sidewalk mats and/or rock salt. Magnesium Chloride is a better option than calcium chloride for plants and the environment as well as for pets.
- To prevent fall, wear slip-resistant footwear (rock salt will also assist in this capacity).
- If you do need to shovel, be sure to warm up first. We warm up before working out, so why not do the same before a physically intense activity such as shoveling? Shoveling, when done correctly, is a full body movement. Therefore, legs, hips, shoulders, back, and torso should all be warmed up prior. Shoulder circles (both directions), body-weight rows (wide and neutral positions), the world’s greatest stretch, body-weight RDL’s/squats, and walking knee hugs/quad stretches are all good choices as preparatory movements for shoveling snow.
- Use an ergonomic shovel.
- Wear warm clothing, including a hat and gloves.
- Take rests if you start to feel fatigued. When we fatigue, it’s harder for us to maintain good form. When our form starts to break down, the likelihood for injury increases. Be smart.
- Avoid large shoveling jobs by shoveling smaller amounts throughout the day.
- If possible, push the snow to the side, rather than lifting it.
- Last, but not definitely not least, if you start to feel pain in your chest or shortness of breath, stop. Get help immediately.
If pushing the snow to the side isn’t really an option for you for whatever reason, be sure to follow proper technique.
- Stand in a wide stance with your feet facing the shovel.
- Maintain a straight spine and good posture.
- Bend the knees and hinge from your hips. Draw the navel toward the spine, firm the inner thighs, and engage your glutes. Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Do not twist your body to deposit the snow to the side. Move your feet to pivot the entire body to the side in order to avoid tweaking your back and/or shoulders.
- Turn the shovel over to dump the snow in order to keep your shoulders safe instead of trying to toss it.
Comment below if you have any additional suggestions or if you’ve tried any of the above tips!