Updated: Jan 16
It’s the time of year where temperatures drop, we do less moving around on a daily basis, and we’re all keeping an eye on weather forecasts for potential snow. Whether you love it or hate it, DC is expected to get some big snowstorms this year and with the snow comes most people's least favorite task of shoveling. Are you prepared for the physical task at hand?
While many are aware of being physically fit in order to excel with fitness programs, they tend to forget the cardiovascular, strength and flexibility components involved in shoveling snow. In fact, Harvard Medical School published an article on how snowstorms and the associated shoveling involved correlate to risk of heart attacks. The author observes, “After shoveling the heavy, 18-inch layer of snow that fell overnight on my sidewalk and driveway, my back hurt, my left shoulder ached, and I was tired. Was my body warning me I was having a heart attack, or were these just the aftermath of a morning spent toiling with a shovel?”
He continues: “Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks… What’s the connection? Many people who shovel snow rarely exercise. Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart.” It’s roughly the equivalent of a sedentary individual walking into a gym, and completing a grueling workout that consists of heavy lifting and constant cardiovascular intensity all while not warming up beforehand or easing into the intensity.
Below on the author’s recommendations, and how we agree with the practical application:
Warm up your muscles before starting Think of the first 5 minutes of any workout at Bodymass. Those are the ideal exercises to be included in a warm-up. If you are interested in learning more about proper warm-up technique be sure to attend one of Performance Care Clinics free mobility seminars. Contact our in-house Physical Therapy team to learn more.
Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones. This is like your warm-up sets. You don’t want to jump into your heaviest set of squats. It’s important to gradually increase the weight. You can learn about how to apply proper progression with the Bodymass Intro to Build program.
Take frequent breaks. Think of shoveling snow as a few reps. You wouldn’t set up on the bench and do all 40 reps at once. You’d break it down into 4x10. Shoveling heavy loads of snow should be no different.
Drink plenty of water. Whether your workouts are strength focused, cardio focused, or snow focused, water is your best friend.
Head indoors right away if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing, or some other physical change makes you nervous. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number. As with any workout, it’s imperative to listen and respect your body, then take proper action based on how you’re feeling.
Before getting to a point where a daily chore can become a health risk, get started on a path to better health. In all our Small Group Training workouts at Bodymass we include proper warm-ups, teaching you to listen to your body, provide adequate progression as well as appropriate rest, which can all be transferable to the guidelines outlined above. Bodymass Build, in particular, is a strength training program that puts the body through full ranges of motion under different types of stress to help build strength, improve flexibility, and enhance stamina for everyday activities.
Throughout the workouts at Bodymass, beyond just the programmed exercise, you will be bending over, picking things up, getting on the ground, getting off the ground, moving weights with full body muscle recruitment, stretching, and developing healthy core activation. All this is done in small group classes under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable coach to make sure everything is done safely and properly. These are the skills that become more transferable to activities of daily living and life beyond the four walls of Bodymass. Even the structured exercises of our workouts can be similar to daily tasks. In fact, shoveling snow isn’t far off from a deadlift. Deadlifts help build strength in picking a load up off the ground, while increasing durability of your low back muscles, lengthening and strengthening your hamstrings, and strengthening your upper back and shoulders. Shoveling snow recruits the same muscles along your posterior chain: you load up the shovel, hinge at the hips to pick it up, squeeze tall with your hamstrings and glutes, and then use your arms and upper back to toss the snow. When thinking of a deadlift position while shoveling, your body will remember how to recruit the correct muscles and limit injury. In addition, training at Bodymass can help improve your cardiovascular fitness which will help better prepare your heart and blood vessels for the winter tasks ahead.
Functional strength and conditioning has countless benefits, but most important is it helps you live life to the fullest. Don’t let a snowstorm ruin your winter. Get in to Bodymass to help you stay prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us!
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Written by: Sam Pfister