If You’re Fit, Don’t Shovel Snow

My house just got hit with an 18-inch snow storm. We lost power for two days, had no heat, had a half a dozen big trees come down and our phone is still not working. It’s seems like the winters are getting longer every year. One thing I have learned when it comes to big snow storms is not to shovel snow anymore. I learned my lesson years ago with numerous back and shoulder strains. Just because you lift weights and are in great shape does not mean you are in condition to shovel snow.

One of my most athletic, strong, flexible and fit clients hurt his back shoveling snow about 6 weeks ago and it took him a month to feel 100%. This is a good example of the principal called Specificity of Training which states that you are only conditioned for the type of specific training or sport you do.  There is always some carry over for being physically fit but if you’re not used to being in a bent over position shoveling you are asking for trouble if you do it for more than a few minutes. Being fit can prevent you from having a heart attack while shoveling but it can also get you into orthopedic trouble. This is because you think you can do it and might not get as tired as an unconditional person, yet you can really hurt yourself.

You have to look at it like this. If a world class speed skater like Apolo Anton Ohno who’s been conditioning himself for short track speed skating decided to go play two hours of hard basketball, how do you think he would feel the next day? He would most likely be brutally sore no matter how well conditioned he is for skating. This is because the movements of basketball are different than the movements of skating. Therefore, if you’re in gold metal shape for skating you’re in non metal shape for basketball.

Just because you can bench 225 lbs, squat 315 lbs and run 5 miles without a problem does not mean you are conditioned to shovel snow for 2 hours. If you really want to shovel snow you need to condition yourself for it by mimicking the movements of snow shoveling or designing a progressive snow shoveling program. The problem with designing a progressive snow shoveling program is that you need to live in an area where there is consistent snow such as in Colorado or Montana; otherwise, you cannot design a progressive snow shoveling program.

In conclusion, and most importantly, no matter how fit and strong you are you still have to be careful. You must understand your body, know what you are and aren’t conditioned for, and be smart.

Let me know if you ever hurt yourself shoveling snow and how long it took you to get better.

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Best – Mike Cola

Helping People Build Healthy Bodies

About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

2 Responses to “If You’re Fit, Don’t Shovel Snow”

  1. Hi Mike,

    I think you are dead on with your assumption. I am 45 and average fit–always have done running/boxing cardio over lifting weights–maybe that’s why I had minimal protection from the lower back injury I got this year shoveling so much damn snow. But, I#m not the type to stretch, either. To make matters worse I did it over and over again for long periods of time “while” injured and suffering bad pain.

    I went to an orthopedist and he said stay home for 4 days, warm heat and made me come in 3 of those days for 4 shots–one cortisone, 1 local anisthetic, one anti-inflammation, and one for pain. I felt like I got to about 90%–could of been the effects of the shots, I don’t know. He suspected lumbar strain. Pain was intermittent–not constant, no pain down my legs–and was to the lower right side and I had stiffness. Was so bad that if I were standing straight and just simply moved my head slightly forward it would pull and too much pain coming from the lower right side. With the shot regiment I got more flexibility, etc.

    But, it snowed again and I went out and did some shoveling, and could tell I was not healed. Then, I helped moved some big heavy long boxes and that did not bother me but the next day it did. Now, i have pain throughtout both sides of my lower back and it goes down to the hips–kind of like the area that a girl’s old-fashioned gurdle might cover. I figured I need to start stretching the are so i did some stretches–but maybe too hard. Before this, I was getting stiffer and stiffer all across my lower back–I mean like right after just sitting down–lots of pain and stiffness just to get of the couch. Then I tried the stretching and it seemed to immediately help, but it comes back. Again, it’s not constant pain, just when i bend, try to get up after sitting, etc.

    I’m supposed to go back in to my doc and see what he thinks, I just hope it’s not a disc problem. Again, I’m the kind of guy who can be sore the next day just from stretching my legs, etc.–but I was building up good endurance over the years–but not lifting weights. I’m just not sure if my pain now is from my conditioning worsening, or from a combination stretching that one time and maybe reinjuring it–and I’m not sure if I have a tear, pull, herniated disc or what or what I should do to get this thing fixed–exercise, more shots, accupuncture?

    Any tips on what my injury might be or what I should do to get better as far as exercise, etc. is greatly appreciated. Please email at marksolley@yahoo.com.

    Thank you

  2. I agree with your thoughts on this. I train in Mixed Martial Arts and this keeps me in very good shape, but when golf season comes around, the motion of swinging a golf club for 18 holes and walking up and down hills gets me sore in places I don’t typically work-out.