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Snowstorms, Shovels & Safety

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Northeast weather remains unpredictable! After a streak of unseasonably warm weather, winter is back in full swing this week!

Much of New Jersey is awaiting a snowstorm with some areas expecting up to 10 inches of snow. Although Jerseyans are accustomed to this kind of weather, it is still wise to exercise caution when moving large amounts of the white stuff.

Back injury, muscle spasms and even heart attacks can be caused by improper lifting, inadequate equipment or overexertion. Here are some quick tips to get the snow safely out of the way…and get you a healthy, safe workout in the process!

Dress appropriately

Wear lots of light, water-repellant layers, which afford you room to breathe and warmth you need. Cover your head and your ears, (frostbite is real!) and remember to wear thick socks. Select insulated, water-repellant gloves that allow you to move your fingers freely, but afford you the warmth you’ll need for a few hours spent outside. Wear proper footwear! Avoid falls by wearing boots with treaded soles.

Warm up

As with any workout, warming up your body gets your muscles soft and flexible before you knock out your routine. This preparation prevents sudden stress to your muscles, which can result in tears and strains. Give yourself a good ten minutes of light warmup exercise to prime your body for the vigorous workout that awaits you.

Start shoveling when it starts snowing

If you get a jumpstart on shoveling, you’ll avoid the risks of injury that come with moving heavy, packed snow.

Pace yourself

Remember this is an intense, cardiovascular activity, which takes a toll on your body! Take breaks, stay hydrated. You may think you’re fine...until you’re not. Assume you need the rest even if you don’t feel like you do. Set a timer. Work out for a specific interval of time, then take a break, take a sip, and get back to it.

Use proper equipment

Shoveling is already hard enough. Use an ergonomically-correct shovel, which is designed to assist you find the proper form. Make sure it’s the right size. A too-small shovel can overexert your back. Too-long can pull an arm muscle. The proper size will give you the best leverage you’ll need to knock out this task.

Use proper form

Push - don’t lift. Snow is easier to maneuver away, instead of up.

If you must lift, use your legs, not your back. Squat with your legs apart, bend your knees, and straighten your back. Lift with your legs. Bend at the knees, not at the waist.  Scoop in small amounts and walk the snow over to where you want it. Do not try to move a shovel full of snow with your arms outstretched.  This puts too much pressure on your spine. Don’t try to be a snow hero. Never remove deep pockets of snow all at once, especially in the case of heavy, wet snow. Don’t twist your body. Turn around with your feet. Your back will thank you.

If you feel funny, STOP

Snow shoveling has been shown to trigger heart attacks. There are many who - aside from snow shoveling - don’t work out.  This puts them at greater risk for cardiac overexertion. Listen to your body. If you don’t feel right, stop shoveling, get help, call 9-1-1.

Enjoy it!

Shovel in such a way that you have the energy left over to enjoy the snow! Have a snowball fight with your friends! Build a snowman with your neighbors. Make snow angels with your kids.

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Follow these tips to ensure you don't spend so much effort getting rid of the snow that you forget to enjoy it.

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