Column 14 - Shovelling Snow

Original publication date: December 7, 1983

Snowshovelling. It's enough to make you want to live in an apartment all winter. No matter how hard you try to keep up with it, the snow always gets the better of you. I'm sure few think of shovelling as a chance to get out in the great outdoors and get an hour's worth of good exercise. Most of us view shovelling as a chore that needs to get done so we can drive our car out of the garage or driveway without much mishap.

Well, like it or not, the shovelling is going to be part of our weekly, even daily, routine from now on. If we've got to do it we may as well do it properly and with the right equipment.

If you're looking to buy a new shovel, don't just go to the first store that has them on sale and buy one. Check around and find one that will be the right height and weight for you. If you are 5'6" and your husband is 6'4" and you both plan to do the shovelling, don't buy one shovel for both of you. Someone is going to end up with a stiff back from excessive stooping or very sore arms from using the shovel at the wrong angle. Buying two shovels will be costly but the money spent is worth the pain-free shovelling and often gruelling after effects.

If you have a large area to keep clear of snow a wide shovel will work best. Make sure the material is of good quality, however, so the end doesn't bend and curl up. If you're not careful you could catch the end of the shovel on a crack in the pavement or on a lump of ice, and give yourself a nasty jolt you know where.

With a wide shovel it's best to just push the snow along. Don't try lifting the shovel and throwing the snow off to the side. The strain on your back, particularly an unfit back, could cause serious problems.

Clear away small areas at a time. Going the whole length of the driveway could be frustrating. You may, however, have no choice if your house is quite close to your neighbors with the driveway in between. There may be no place to push the snow. Take rests often, change shifts with someone and stretch your body before and after shoveling.

Stretching before shovelling may seem like a waste of time to some but it certainly helps eliminate the stiff back and sore arms afterward. Most people can appreciate stretching while shovelling. I'm sure most people stand up straight and arch their back several times while shovelling. Shovelling is hard work and should be treated as such.

Have your legs take the brunt of your labour. The muscles are big and stronger than those in the back and can work better under endured circumstances. If the shovel is the right height you won't have to stoop low. Try to keep your back reasonably straight and twist your body using your feet not your midsection.

If you only have a small area to clear, a shovel similar to a spade could work well. You can turn the shovel over and use the end as you would a rake. You can pull the snow across. This works well on sidewalks and porches. If you use this style you have to make sure you keep up with the falling snow. With the pulling action you have to take the same precautions to move your feet and not the upper half of your body alone.

Dress warmly, enjoy the fresh air, and the woman who walks by on your clear sidewalk pushing her baby carriage will be grateful.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.