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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Snow Shoveling Safety (Are You Kidding Me?)   
by Nancy Carlson

We're officially in the midst of another winter season here in New England. Now
I know some people have snowplows and snow blowers, but there are a ton of
people who still break out the shovels to get rid of the white stuff. I can't tell you
how many clients of mine have tweaked their backs in their zealous attempts to
keep a clear driveway.

Today I am going to reveal my top safe shoveling secrets. For those of you who
do not live in New Hampshire like me, you still need to know this information
too. This global warming stuff is a weird thing. It recently snowed in Vegas for
the first time in like 25 years!

Here are my top five safe shoveling tips:

1.) Perform a Proper Five-Minute Warm-up Before Shoveling

Yeah, right! Who's actually going to do that? Well if you want to save yourself
some pain, take five minutes and give it a try.

Just as very few people properly warm-up before intense exercise, so do many
people fail to get their bodies ready for the rigors of shoveling snow. Let's face
it, snow, especially when it's wet, is a real beast to move around. And if your
body is tight and cold then you will dramatically increase your chances of short-
or long-term injury.

Here's a great shoveling specific five-minute warm-up to get your body ready to
go. There is a special emphasis on opening up the hips and chest to save your
back and shoulders, the two most commonly injured areas of broken down

Perform each exercise in the following warm-up circuit at a slow, controlled
tempo for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest and transition between exercises. Do
this warm-up indoors to better increase core temperature and total body blood

Exercise#1- Stationary High Knee Run

Exercise#2- Jumping Claps (modified jumping jacks with arms moving across
chest level, palms facing)

Exercise#3- Alternating Forward Lunge, Overhead Reach, and Twist

Exercise#4- Alternating Lateral Lunge with Opposite Hand to Toe Touch

Exercise#5- Prisoner Squats (hands behind head with finger interlocked)

2.) Split Your Stance When Shoveling

Back pain is probably the biggest complaint for those who shovel a lot. In most
cases, a sore or tight back stems from restriction at the hips (see the warm-up
above to best remedy this).

If you shovel with a parallel stance (one leg right next to the other one) you are
setting yourself up for some pain However, the simple switch to shoveling with
a split stance, where one leg is forward and the other leg is back, will not only
help prevent hyper flexion while bending over and moving snow, but will also
actively stretch and open up those tight hips at the same time.

3.) Point Your Toes In Same Direction You Are Shoveling

This is a continuation of the last tip. Even when you split your stance, you can
be susceptible to injury whenever you perform a rotating back extension (e.g., a
shovel toss over your shoulder). So, to further bolster your body, be sure to
always shovel snow in the direction that your toes point to minimize excessive
spinal rotation that can literally wrench your back.

4.) Shovel EQUALLY to BOTH Sides

This is a further continuation on the last two tips. Another big mistake people
make is that they always shovel to their strong sides causing further strength
and flexibility imbalances that can put your body at greater risk for injury.
Imbalances between the left and right side can cause real problems. So, we now
know you want to split your stance and shovel in the direction your toes are
pointing, but you should also be sure do an equal amount of shovel tosses to
your left AND right. Do 10 shovel tosses to your left with your left leg forward
and then do 10 shovel tosses to your right with your right leg forward. Repeat
until your driveway or sidewalk is crystal clear.

5.) Buy a Condo

Or have teenagers around -- this is helpful too! Okay, I am joking, if only
because shoveling snow is the only activity some people I know get!

Back to reality: The previous tips will go a long way in keeping your body as
bulletproof as possible during the next blizzard. Seriously, it's not really cool to
get hurt shoveling. It's a sign of an even bigger problem: being overweight
and/or highly de-conditioned.

And if you do get hurt shoveling, be sure to lie when some asks why you're in a
wheelchair. Just tell them you got hit by a snow plow truck, it makes for a better
story and your co-workers or friends won't bust on you for the next six months!

About the Author: Nancy Carlson PFT, YFS is a beloved fitness boot camp instructor and
real world fat loss specialist. For a FREE 1-week trial to her Get Fit NH boot camp to
experience the best personal training in the Concord and capitol region, please visit
Get Fit
NH Boot Camp
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