Is your body winter-proof? Cold weather can create obstacle course-like conditions that jeopardize your safety. So it’s important to implement movements that help prepare and protect your body from such winter-related burdens as balancing on black ice, sliding on slick sidewalks, and shoveling snow.

The following winter workout helps improve overall stability and balance. You will need a light medicine ball or weighted object, as well as a small step, for these movements. For best results, repeat this circuit three times, two to three days each week.

Snow patrol. Ranking high on the list of awful adult responsibilities: snow removal. This tedious task is chillingly dull, time consuming, and unsafe when performed improperly.

Many of us are in the hazardous habit of lifting heavy objects, such as snow, with our arms and back rather than our lower body. These faults in form can cause damaged discs and chronic back pain. By strengthening your core muscles and learning to lift from your legs — the biggest muscles in your body — you can shovel more safely and effectively.

For those on snow duty this winter, try these exercises:

Squat rotations:

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Hold a light medicine ball (or any small, weighted object) in your hands.
  • Simultaneously hinge back at the hips into a squat as you twist your torso, bringing the ball down to the outside of your left foot. 
  • Push through your heels to elevate your body, rotate your trunk and pivot your left foot bringing the ball up to the right. Your eyes should be locked on the ball for the entire exercise. Repeat 10 times then switch sides.
Squat rotations
Squat rotations

Side step lift:

  • Stand with your left foot on a step and hold the medicine ball in your hands.  Your foot should be positioned slightly in front of your body.
  • In one smooth movement, step through your left heel while laterally lifting your right leg (keeping that leg straight) and elevating the ball overhead. Hold this position for five counts, then lower your body back to the starting  stance. Repeat 10 times then practice on the right leg.
Side step lift
Side step lift

Walking on thin ice. A slippery street is often hard to detect. While we cannot avoid all slip-and-fall injuries, we can take steps to reduce the risk. Next time you think there may be ice present, take these precautions:

  • Take small steps, gliding your feet rather than lifting them.
  • Move slowly. A fast pace is an easy way to lose track of your tread.
  • Wear shoes or boots that have good traction. 

These unilateral exercises build better balance by forcing the muscles to stabilize the body.

Stationary single leg hold:

  • Stand near a wall for support. Using your left hand, pull your left leg behind your body, keeping your knees close. 
  • When you feel balanced, lift your right arm overhead. Try to avoid shifting your spine to the side while holding this position. After 10 counts, release and switch legs. Repeat on both sides three times.
Stationary single leg hold
Stationary single leg hold

See-saw:

  • Stand with your left foot on the step and once you feel balanced, slowly bring your right leg up so your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for two counts.
  • Next, carefully hinge at the hips, lowering your chest until it is parallel with the floor and extending your right leg straight behind you. Hold for five counts then return to the starting stance and step off the block.  Repeat 10 times then practice on the right leg.
  • Modification: If you do not feel comfortable practicing Step 2 from an elevated position, divide Step 1 and Step 2 into two separate exercises, using the step only for the first exercise. 
See-saw
See-saw

The weather outside is frightful, but staying safe can help make it a little more delightful.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach with a focus on movement and mindfulness. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.