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Fall is here. Winter is coming. And that means all kinds of wild weather; wind, rain, and most definitely snow. Once we’ve raked up all of the fallen leaves from our yards and driveways, the next season brings a new tool: your snow shovel. All of this raking and shoveling can lead to a cleaner driveway but it can also result in physical injury. A simple warm-up and light stretching will make a world of difference and protect you from muscle strain or the dreaded tweaking of the back.

Fall leaves aren’t as heavy as wet snow, but both pose an equal opportunity for injury. It might seem a little silly but a little silliness may save you from spending the next couple of days nursing a back injury. We need to think of shoveling as the “big game” and in order to be ready for the “big game,” we need to first warm-up, nothing excessive but an increase in heart rate will get blood pumping into our muscles, and some functional stretches will keep the body loose.

1. Get started with a ‘good morning’
‘Good mornings’ are the yoga term for what you may already do when you get out of bed to wake up your back muscles. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, with a slight bend in the knees, bend at the waist, keeping the back straight and neutral. With your hands at your hips, slowly bend to the hips, then slowly return to standing. Repeat 3-5 times.

2. Wake up the lower body
Squats are a great way to warm up the bigger muscle groups in our legs and to get the blood moving. Complete a set of 10-15 squats, two times.

3. Loosen up the upper body
Now for the arms. Windmills or swimmers, where you make large circles with your arms, will help awaken the shoulders and the back. Complete two sets of ten arm circles, going both forward and backward.

The warm-up shouldn’t take you more than five minutes, although if you’d like to do more then, by all means, you should. Once the warm-up is done, and you’ve bundled up with appropriate layers, then you’ve set yourself up for what will hopefully be a productive snow shoveling session. This is guaranteed to be a workout so be sure you take some breaks and stay hydrated.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a driveway and sidewalk cleared of snow. And there’s also the reward of a great physical workout, that is, assuming you’ve taken care of yourself with a warm-up and post-shoveling stretch. Nothing too aggressive, but some downward dogs to plank repeated a few times is an ideal full-body stretch before you settle in for a mug of hot cocoa and a cookie or two as a reward for all of your hard work!

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