As I was shoveling yesterday for the umpteenth time this winter, I was thinking once again about snow shoveling injuries and prevention. One of the things I found myself doing during our first snowfall of the season (back in OCTOBER!), which I imagine is the case for most of you as well, is holding my breath while picking up my shovelful of snow and tossing it. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I corrected my breathing. So how should you be breathing? As with any of the exercised we do in class, I tell you to exhale on the hard part, starting the exhale before the hard part begins (for example, starting your exhale before you stand up from a squat). In snow shoveling, the hard part is picking up the shovelful of snow and tossing it. Intraabdominal pressure builds up when we inhale, which is a good thing as it stiffens our spines and helps prevent injuries. But holding your breath while exerting a lot of effort is a great way to hurt yourself. That pressure needs to go somewhere and if you have a weak spot, say your back, your abdominal muscles (hernia anyone?) or your pelvic floor, that weak spot will continue to get strained until something bad happens.
To prevent that bad thing from happening, you strengthen your core – abdominals, back muscles, pelvic floor – and you breathe properly. Inhale, drive the shovel into the snow, start your exhale, pick up the shovel and toss while exhaling the rest of the way. Here are some more tips for proper snow shoveling form. All good things.
Hopefully, we are done with the significant snowfalls for the season, but being in Minnesota where March is the 3rd snowiest month, I’m not holding my breath!