As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, it can only mean one thing: winter is coming – as well as the chores associated with the season. Activities such as raking and bagging wet leaves, storing heavy patio furniture, hanging outdoor decorations and shoveling the first snowfall might seem harmless but they can be hard on the body if you aren’t prepared.
Here are some suggestions for getting your body “winter ready”:
1. Stretch before you start an activity
We know you want to jump right into the raking (so you can finish it sooner) but your body will thank you later if you take 10 to 20 minutes to stretch beforehand. “Active stretching helps prepare the soft tissue's elasticity as well as increasing the range of motion of a joint in preparation to move,” explains Fayez Abdulrahman, a certified Athletic Therapist and Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Premiere Performance in Montreal. “Your risk of potential injury increases without stretching.”
Stretch the area that is specific to the activity. For example, if you are going to be lifting heavy garden furniture, stretch your upper body (back, arms, shoulders) and your legs (hips, knees, ankles), since this activity will be a full-body workout.
2. Stretch after you finish the activity
What, stretch again? We know that you just want to put your feet up and relax now that you have finished your chores. However, stretching after you finish will help the muscle tissue relax. “This helps the body to clear waste and provide more nutrients to the muscles,” says Fayez. “It also prevents the muscles from getting tighter and shorter. When the muscles get shorter it restricts the range of motion of the joint and this can lead to an increased risk of injury.”
Make sure to stretch the areas of the body that you used during the activity. The easiest approach? Just do the same type of stretches you did to warm up.
3. Start strengthening your body
If you will be shoveling a lot of snow this winter it’s best to be prepared – by making your body stronger. “Strength work helps improve your strength (obviously), flexibility, mobility, endurance and stability,” says Fayez. “This will allow you to perform these activities with greater ease, as well as decrease the risk of injuries. It’s win-win!”
If you don’t know where to start, see an Athletic Therapist. They can help you with strength and conditioning exercises in order to help prevent injuries.
4. Rest if you overdo it
You finished all your chores, relaxed and then wake up sore the next day. Now what? “Rest!” explains Fayez. “We don’t do enough of that in our busy and active schedule. Rest allows the body to heal and recover. Also, supporting your body with good sources of nutrients, water and TLC goes a long way in speeding up recovery.”
If your sore body doesn’t improve with rest, you might be injured. “Injuries that come up after an activity are usually due to overuse,” says Fayez. “It’s best to get an evaluation by an Athletic Therapist at that point. You don’t want it to become an injury that will stop you from your day-to-day activities.”
Following these few tips can help you warm up to the idea of completing cold weather chores without the fear of injury. Now if only we could offer some tips on warming up to the idea of the cold weather itself…
B. Sc. CAT (C)
Fayez graduated from Concordia University in 2006 from the Exercise Science Athletic Therapy program and was certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association in 2007. He has been actively working in the field of fitness as a personal trainer (since 2003) and athletic therapist (since 2004) helping people achieve their goals while keeping them motivated.