Jack Frost is making a stunning return this weekend. Christmas across most of the United States is going to certainly feel the part, if not look it. Snow is being projected in most every place that gets snow, some that may not, and cold blasts are in the forecast for typically temperate locations.
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What that means is that many people are likely to be shoveling out. While that seems like a simple thing to do, the CDC says there has been an average of 11,500 injuries annually due to shovel-related incidents.
If you are forced outdoors, take these steps to make sure you do not end up in the hospital.
Shoveling snow is a workout. No matter if you are from Pittsburgh — and ready for a polar blast from Thanksgiving through Easter — or the middle of Tennessee, where it doesn’t usually see more than a dusting, shoveling is hard.
This is also likely to be an aerobic workout for you. Shoveling is going to get your heart rate increased, your core temperature up, and it will stay there long enough to qualify for a class at the local gym. You have to treat it as such and make sure you are drinking plenty of clear liquids.
Snow, especially ‘wet snow,’ is going to be heavy. This can turn into a muscle straining situation quickly. Drink up.
Have the right tool.
Not all snow shovels are created equal. Having the right equipment for removing snow is just as important as hunting or fishing.
There are a surprising amount of shovels out there. If you are from an area that is not accustomed to shoveling you may not be well prepared. Different snow does call for different shovels. Blade width, handle length, blade type, shaft shape can all play a role in your physical outcome.
A basic plan would be to have an ergonomic handle and shaft with a blade that can handle ice, and a scoop that has depth and strength.
The ‘Right Tool’ may not be a shovel.
There are few good stories that involve long days clearing the driveway. Do not be a hero.
If you are clearing a larger space a simple shovel may not work. Certainly many in the Snow Belt already know that but it bears repeating: not every snowfall needs a shovel.
For deep, heavy snow it may be best to use a snow pusher. If you are going downhill on deep snow, you may want to build a ‘snowramp.’ This may be unrealistic unless you are in a place where accumulation is normal, but a snow ramp can be tall and expansive to cover long driveways.
Additionally, an investment in a snowblower may be what wins the day — and saves your body.
Warm up, and cool down.
Sure, it sounds simple. Back to the first tip, this is a workout. Just as you want to stay hydrated you want to warm up before you get out there. And you want to wrap up like you just got done working out.
Many people will take the time to layer up to stay warm. They will not take the time to make sure their muscles are ready, too.
Stretch your back. Before and after. Keep your back as straight as possible during the shoveling. Lift from your knees. All of those principles apply. Make sure to pay attention to that.
Take your time.
Yes, it is cold. No, it is not fun. Do not try to ‘Hulk Out’ and go crazy with throwing snow.
According to FEMA, one square foot of snow can weigh as much as 20 pounds. Most every shovel can hold between 1.5-to2-feet of snow. Depending on your scoop, it could be as much as a 40-pound dumbbell on repeat.
Treat the activity accordingly.
It may sound redundant but this is a workout. It may be one of the most strenuous that you did not know you were about to do. Help yourself.
There are little things that you can do to spread out the workload. Alternate between shoveling with your right hand and your left. It will be easy to continue with your dominant hand but you need to give those muscles a rest. Alternating between griping the handle, as well as which muscle group is bearing the load will help in recovery.
Clear snow with a clear mind.
Perhaps the most underrated tip is to not be impaired while clearing snow.
Drinking alcohol will naturally make you feel warm. It will also make you less likely to realize when you body is fatigued. It is a combination that may lead to a heart attack. Be mindful of pains in your chest, or shortness of breath while outside. If you get sick to your stomach or have other symptoms be sure to consult a physician.