Shovel Right, Shovel Light

Most people warn that shoveling to hard will give you a heart attack. While that risk is present the most common result of snow shoveling is a sprain or strain injury and it affects more people than you’d expect. Here are some tips to better prepare you for that next day in the driveway.

Shoveling is exercise

Accept this fact and you’ll fair much better. Getting out for a good shoveling session starts with the right gear. Warm, comfortable clothes and shoes with good traction is an important start. Like any other exercise it’s best to begin with a warm up. Take a brisk walk up and down your street and follow that with some light stretching. This could be as simple as giving yourself a nice big hug to jump start those shoulders, some light bending from side to side to loosen up that torso and take a few long strides steps to get those legs prepared.

Know your limits and rest when you need it. Each lift of the shovel should not feel like you’ve just set a personal best in weight lifting. Stay within your limits. Once you’ve done a dozen or so snow pushes or shovel lifts take a short break and strike that classic ‘elbow on shovel’ pose. This will let you recharge for the next round.

Finally, end that workout with an appropriate cool down. Take another stroll down the street and let those muscles relax with a light stretching session.


Out-smart snow

Your trusty shovel may be your greatest ally or leave you feeling better off with a spoon. Selecting a good shovel is key. Consider these points when selecting your shovel.

  • push style shovels are your best bet
  • a modest size blade helps you lift light
  • an ergonomic handle does make a difference
  • pick a handle length that lets you stay upright as your work
  • a slippery blade coating will keep snow from weighing you down

Plan ahead for the next snowfall and be proactive by heading out for a light shoveling session every 5cm or less. This will let you shovel lightly more often and take good size breaks in between. This will help you avoid trying to take 20cm or more of snow at once. Most often it’s large snowfalls that lead to shoveling related injuries.

Finally, there is always bad techniques in shoveling that can lead to injury even with the best of shovels. These technique tips can help you become more efficient and reduce your risk of injury.

  • Keep your nose between your toes to avoid twisting your back
  • Push the snow instead of throwing when possible
  • Bend your knees to let your legs do the work
  • Keep your head up to help you maintain good back posture

If done right shoveling can be a rewarding and healthy activity. Remember to treat shoveling like exercise by using the right gear, warming up and cooling down. Outsmart the snow by planning ahead, shoveling small amounts often and using the right shovel to it’s full potential. Like all activities you can expect some mild soreness that day and the next, if it goes beyond a couple days, seek professional care.