Put Jack Frost in his place: Staying safe in winter weather

Icy sidewalks. Driveways full of snow. As the temperatures drop… so do, well, people. Your morning run or shoveling walkways have the potential to cause injuries that can keep you from your health and fitness goals. Here are some tips to make sure Jack Frost doesn’t get the best of you.

There is nothing that hurts quite like an unexpected tumble on concrete. With icy roads and sidewalks, a slip is just one misstep away. Here are a few tips to keep you upright when you hit the pavement.

  1. Traction is everything. When heading out onto slick walkways, be sure to wear shoes with good traction. If you simply must wear your favorite pair of smooth-soled Chucks, consider purchasing accessory traction clips for your footwear.
  2. Salt, salt, salt. And then salt some more. To keep all walkways ice-free, apply salt and sand frequently.
  3. Secure your leashed pets. I know this may seem like an odd one, but trust me—I see at least one broken wrist each winter that is caused by an excitable dog charging off in the snow or ice and taking its owner along for the ride.

It’s not just falling that makes winter a potential pain. Shoveling driveways full of snow is Philadelphia winter tradition—but it doesn’t come without risk. But don’t put that shovel away just yet—here are some ways you can protect your back and neck while shoveling.

  1. Use your hips and knees in a lunging-type motion to load snow onto the shovel.
  2. While holding the shovel, always pivot with your feet prior to emptying the snow off the shovel.
  3. Keep a straight back.
  4. Keep your belly tight to give your back extra support.
  5. Look for a shovel that is curved or has an additional handle at the base to keep the heaviest part of the shovel closer to your body.
  6. Keep your elbows relatively close to your body and shoulders relaxed.
  7. Avoid repetitive bending and twisting at all costs.
  8. Start shoveling when snow is freshly fallen, before it becomes denser or heavier from ice.

Because most of us do not routinely shovel snow for a living, our bodies may not be properly conditioned for it. Even with the right technique, it is important to take rest breaks every 15 minutes. During these rest breaks, it may be helpful to do the following stretches:

  1. Back extension. Place your hands on your hips and lean backwards to feel a gentle stretch in your lower back. Hold this for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times.
  2. Upper trap stretches. Place your hand behind your back, and bring your ear to the opposite shoulder, turning head slightly towards the same shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side.

These are just a few tips to protect you from injury this winter season. So go ahead and show Jack Frost who’s boss – and don’t let snow and ice cause you an injury that will thwart your fitness goals. 

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