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This winter, shovel smart.

snow shovelingShoveling snow is no fun, and it can be downright unsafe. Here are some shoveling tips that can make an unpleasant task at least a safer, more efficient one.

Make sure you have the right shovel

Make sure you have a snow shovel with an appropriate length handle and blade that works for you. Check to see if the handle is curved (it should be) and rests near your belt buckle. If the handle is too high, you’ll be working harder than you need to. If it’s too low, you’ll be shoveling in a hunched position and risk hurting your back.

If your strength isn’t what it used to be, try a shovel with a plastic blade—usually lighter weight than the metal kind.

Warm up before you start

Like any other type of physical exertion, you need to warm up before you start shoveling. Stretch your shoulders, lower back and hamstrings, lower back and shoulders before you head outside; if you start with tight muscles, you’re risking muscle strains and tears.

Check your form

When you grip the shovel, place one hand close to the blade and the other hand at least one foot apart. This increases your leverage and reduces strain on your back. Instead of shoveling the snow, try pushing it – you want to avoid lifting it. Let your arms and legs do all the work and spare your back the potential ache.

Obviously, if the snow is too deep to push, you’re going to have to lift it with the shovel. Just make sure you do it properly.

  1. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs, and do not bend at the waist.
  2. Try to hold the shovel as close to your upper body as you can. Stretching your arms outward when you lift the shovel full of snow will feel heavier and your risk of straining yourself is increased.

Try not to twist your body when you go to throw the snow from the shovel. Instad, pivot and allow your hips to move with your shoulders; this will reduce the rotation of your spine.

Have a plan

Plan out your shoveling pattern before you start. Decide in advance where you will dump your shovels full of snow before you start to scoop for a more efficient shoveling experience. Work from the center out, dropping that first shovel full farthest from where you’re standing. At the end of the chore, when you’re tired out, you won’t need to move very far to dump those last loads of snow.

When you’re in the middle of a heavy snowfall, it’s best not to wait until it stops snowing to head out to shovel. Go outside and shovel whenever approximately 2 inches has accumulated to make the job more manageable. If you aren’t able to shovel after every 2 inches of snowfall and have no choice but to tackle deep snow, try digging out in layers rather than all the way down to the sidewalk with each scoop.

Pace yourself

Don’t try to complete a strenuous snowfall in one trip. Take breaks every 20 or 30 minutes, and head inside to rest and hydrate.


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