Do you find yourself staring out the window in the winter, wishing one of your neighbors would generously come and clear your driveway of all its snow? Shoveling snow isn’t exactly a favorite household chore — especially for those who dislike the cold. That said, it’s a good excuse to get a bit of fresh air, as well as some extra exercise.
The way you prepare your body for shoveling snow can sometimes mean the difference between enjoying and hating the activity. Don’t make the mistake of heading out unprepared, because chances are you’ll procrastinate the next time it snows.
Here are six tips to remember before picking up the winter shovel.
Just because it’s freezing outside doesn’t mean you won’t need as much water as when it’s scorching hot during the summer. Shoveling is physical exercise, so you’ll probably work up a bit of a sweat under all your winter clothing. The air is also dry this time of year, leading to increased fluid loss through respiration. Drink a glass of water before you go out.
What’s worse than exercising without warming up? Exercising without warming up in a very cold environment, of course! Take at least five minutes or so before you put all your winter gear on to stretch those cold muscles — including your legs, arms and back. Here are a few stretches to consider trying.
Do you know how to do a squat with good form? One of the worst things you can do when shoveling snow is to use your back more than you use your legs — you’ll feel the effects after you’ve returned inside. Check out this information on how to do a proper squat and then practice a few before you head outside.
4. Do some hand and finger exercises.
A sore back from shoveling snow is one thing, but sore hands and fingers from gripping the handle is another. Soreness will vary depending on how strong your hands and fingers already are, what type of shovel you use, how you hold it and how heavy the snow is, but you can take some preventative measures by stretching and strengthening your hands before you pick up that shovel. WebMD has 10 excellent hand and finger exercises to try.
5. Dress in layers.
It might be easier to throw on that winter parka designed to keep you warm in weather that’s well below freezing, but taking the time to dress in several layers will make it easier to manage your body heat. As you feel yourself warming up, you can remove a layer or two. Remember to wear breathable clothing underneath warmer winter clothing, such as activewear designed to absorb moisture.
6. Keep track of time — and take breaks!
Grab your favorite fitness tracker, wear a watch or put your smartphone in your pocket so you can easily check the time while you shovel. When there’s a lot of heavy snow to move, time can fly. You may be eager to get it all done in one sweep when you really ought to take a break to avoid exhaustion. If you feel lightheaded, low on energy or any pain at all, stop immediately and go inside to rest and recharge.
Shoveling snow doesn’t have to be a miserable part of winter. Consider breaking out your headphones to listen to some good music or an interesting podcast, and reward yourself with a hot cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate at the end for a job well done!