Monday, January 12, 2009

Vancouver Personal Trainer Reveals 4 Safe Shovelling Tips To Save Your Back

We’ve just come through one of the biggest snowfalls of Vancouver history. If you are like most people you probably don't like shovelling and you probably like it even less if you hurt yourself in the process. I can just imagine the number of people so far that have tweaked their backs in their zealous attempts to keep a clear driveway. Be prepared the next time you're covered in snow.

So, without further adieu, here are my top four safe shovelling tips for the next snowfall:

1.) Perform a Proper 5-Minute Warm-up Before Shovelling

As is common before intense exercise, many people fail to properly warm-up and get their bodies ready for the rigors of shovelling snow. Let’s face it, when the snow is wet, it's real work moving it around. And if your body is tight and cold then you will dramatically increase your chances of short or long-term injury.

Below is a great shovelling specific five-minute warm-up to get your body ready to rock. 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 shovelers:

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 flow:

Exercise#1- Stationary High Knee Run
Exercise#2- Jumping Claps (modified jumping jacks with arms moving across chest level, palms facing)
Exercise#3- Alternating Reverse 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

Amongst avid shovelers, back pain is probably the biggest complaint. A sore or tight back usually stems from restriction at the hips (see the warm-up above to best remedy this). There is a greater risk of lower back injury when using a parallel stance as there's a greater likelihood of excessive flexion of the lumbar spine that often leads to back spasms in the short run and herniated discs in the long run. However, by simply switching to a split stance while shovelling, where one leg is forward and the other leg is back, will not only significantly lessen this hyper flexion while bending over, but will also help actively stretch those tight hips at the same time. To create an even balance in the muscles that are worked, do an even number of shovel strokes with both legs forward by alternating every 10 reps or so.

3.) Point Your Toes In Same Direction of Shovelling

This is a continuation of the last tip. Even when you split your stance, you can still be susceptible to injury when tossing snow behind you. So, to further prevent injury, 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 and one I am guilty of. A mistake people make is always shovelling to their strong sides causing further strength and flexibility imbalances that can put your body at greater risk for injury. So in the split stance position with your toes pointing in the same direction, be sure to 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.

The aforementioned tips will go a long way in keeping your body as bulletproof as possible during the next blizzard. Seriously, it’s not cool getting hurt while shovelling. It’s a sign of an even bigger problem: being overweight and/or highly de-conditioned. So feel confident about picking up your shovel, getting some exercises and stay injury-free in the process.

Resurrect your body back to life!

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