If you live in the Denver metro area, you woke up this morning to 8-12" of new snow on the ground. Shoveling snow is a terrific aerobic, full-body workout, especially if you're using good form.
To shovel safely, keep your abdominal muscles braced and your pelvis tucked. Bend at the hips and knees so your legs and glutes do most of the lifting. Your arms, back and shoulders will help control the load as you lift, and the oblique muscles in your abdomen will rotate your torso as you dump your shovel to the side.
If you're like most Baby Boomers (a little out of shape), shoveling snow is more intense than your normal workout, and it may use muscles that seldom get much of a challenge. And especially if you didn't use perfect form, you may feel your low back tensing up. Try these simple low back stretches to make tomorrow morning less of a pain.
[Note: if you feel a sharp, stabbing pain, chances are you have a muscle in spasm, and a visit to your doctor, physical therapist or massage therapist may be in order. Try these stretches only if you're feeling stiffness rather than pain.]
This yoga move takes your spine through a gentle warm up. From all fours, and with your knees aligned under hips and wrists aligned under shoulders, arch your back and tuck your chin as if you are a cat arching its back. Then gently reverse the curve of your spine, raise your chin and drop your belly like a cow. Cycle gently back and forth between the positions to get blood flowing to the muscles and to increase the mobility in your spine.
2. Child's Pose
This rest pose in yoga is a wonderful stretch for the low back. From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels, hinge forward from your hips, and drop your forehead to the ground with your arms extended. Think about reaching out from the tips of your fingers and lengthening your spine from the top of your head to your tailbone. Once you're in position, just breathe and relax, until you feel the muscles in your low back begin to soften.
3. Figure 4 Hip Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent, then raise one leg so you can rest the ankle on the opposite knee. Pull in on the supporting leg and let the knee of the working leg rotate out to the side. You should feel a nice stretch in the upper hip of the leg that's crossed on top. Pull just to the point of tension (not pain), and as you hold the position, try to breathe deeply and allow the hip and low back to relax.
4. Lying Torso Rotation
This stretch works on both the low back and hip. Lying on your back with your arms extended in a T shape, raise one leg up toward the ceiling and then cross it over your body as you rotate the leg down to the floor toward the opposite hand. You can increase the stretch by pushing down on the knee of the working leg. If your flexibility is limited, put a pillow or two under your foot to lessen the stretch. Hold the position until you begin to feel the tension soften, then repeat on the other side.
5. Standing Lat Stretch
This stretch eases the latissimus dorsi muscles that run all along the sides of the back. These big muscles did a lot of work in your shoveling session, and they will appreciate the stretch. Facing a chair (or a counter), hold the back of the chair with both hands while you drop your hips back and lower your head between your hands. You should feel a lovely stretch down the sides of your back. You may also feel this through your glutes and hamstrings.
You probably rushed right off to work after your shoveling session this morning, but a good workout always deserves a good, relaxing stretch. So be sure to reward your hard work with these stretches and enjoy a pain-free holiday.
(photo credit: Prime of Life Fitness)
To make snow shoveling easier, consider in-home personal fitness training from Denver personal trainer, LeeAnn Langdon at Prime of Life Fitness. Customized to your needs and abilities, personal fitness training from Prime of Life Fitness helps you manage your daily life with strength, flexibility and independence.