Winter is a beautiful time of year. Especially when the crisp and clean white snow begins to fall. There is nothing more magical than waking up to a world covered in white snow. Unfortunately, the snow that makes us love the wintertime can also be a reason for dread. While it may be magical to wake up in the morning to a fresh blanket of snow, it can also be problematic. Snow shoveling can be a pretty labor intensive task. If you are not careful, you may find yourself with a bad back. Don’t let the fear of snow shoveling injuries keep you homebound. Learning these snow shoveling techniques will save your back.
Use Another Method
If you are hesitant to get out and start snow shoveling, you are not alone! Many people have thrown away their shovels for a snow blower. These powerful machines will drastically cut back on the time and effort it takes to clear away the snow. However, snow blowers can be pretty pricey. Much more expensive than a snow shovel. They also need more maintenance to keep them running smoothly. If a snow blower is not for you, than you will want to keep reading for some back saving tips for snow shoveling with a shovel!
Pick the Right Snow Shovel
First of all, you should make sure that you have a proper snow shovel to work with. Picking an ergonomically designed snow shovel will take a lot of pressure off of your back. Here are a few things you should look for when shopping for a snow shovel. Look for a shovel that has a curved handle. It would also be helpful to have a handle that is adjustable in length. You should also look for a shovel that has lightweight plastic blade. While you may be drawn to some heavy duty shovels, just remember that the heavier the blade of the shovel, the heavier the load you have to move. The lightweight shovels will work just as effectively at moving snow as the heavier models. Snow shoveling doesn’t need to be difficult, and picking the right tool to work with will help the job get easier.
Warm Up Your Muscles First
While you may look at snow shoveling as a chore, it can actually be a full body workout! Stepping out into the cold with tight muscles is a recipe for disaster! Try warming up your muscles before getting started. Get your heart rate pumping by marching in place or doing some jumping jacks. Next, you will want to stretch out your arms. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a quick 10 - 15 second stretch on each arm is plenty. Shake them off and move on to your legs. Stretch out each leg focusing on the hamstrings. Finally, lean back to give your lower back a good stretch. Getting your muscles warm before you start snow shoveling will preemptively prevent injury. Also make sure you are wearing the proper layers so that your hard working muscles stay warm in the cold!
Practice Safe Lifting
There are a few easy techniques you can practice to keep your back safe while snow shoveling. The way you stand when you shovel snow is important. Square your hips and shoulders towards the shovel. Next, when you bend down to scoop up snow, make sure you are bending at the hips, not at the lower back. As you stand back up and try to lift with your legs not so that you do not strain your back. Keep your chest up and your back straight. Avoid twisting around to toss a load of snow. Instead, you should pivot your body and walk the snow to the new location. Pushing the snow is much safer than tossing the snow. Lastly, keep a firm grip on the snow shovel, but keep your hands about 12 inches apart on the handle. This will help you maneuver the shovel more securely.
Break the Job Into Smaller Jobs
As you begin the task of clearing the snow off your property it is easy to want to hurry and finish. However, faster isn’t always better. If you are not pacing yourself, you may find your back in a world of pain. Remember that shoveling a little snow more frequently, is easier than shoveling a lot of snow at once. If the snow is coming down slow and steady, you may want to clear away the first few inches. Then you can come out and clear away the last few inches when the storm has passed. However, if the snow is coming down hard and you do not feel comfortable working outside you can clear away the snow in phases. For super deep snow, you can shovel away the top few inches of the snow first. Then return and finish the bottom inches later.
Take Frequent Breaks
You may be anxious to finish the job quickly, but if you are not taking breaks while you are snow shoveling, you run the risk of exhaustion. The more tired you are the more likely you are to use unsafe snow shoveling techniques. Try to give yourself a 2-3 minute break for every 15 minutes of shoveling. Stand and stretch out your back and limbs to stop your muscles from getting stiff. You will be grateful you took a break when you wake up tomorrow without the stiff and sore muscles from your work the day before.
Keep Secure Footing
Lifting heavy loads of snow isn’t the only way you can injure your back. If you are not careful where you step, you could slip and fall and strain your back. There are a few really simple things you can do to help secure your footing while snow shoveling. The easiest way to secure your footing is to wear the proper footwear. Wear warm winter boots that have traction on the bottom. Even with the proper footwear you will still want to be wary of ice. If you have large patches of ice on your driveway you can use kitty litter, sand, or rock salt to increase traction. Simply sprinkle it over the ice before you go out and begin working. You can keep a bucket of rock salt or sand in the garage for easy access for snow removal days.
Snow shoveling can be grueling work, but you don’t have to feel the effects the next day. If you use smart and safe snow shoveling techniques you will find that the task can actually be quite enjoyable. So get outside and enjoy the crisp winter air as you safely remove snow from your walks and driveways.
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