The white winter is upon us. This means gifts, dinners, family trips and holiday cheer, but it also brings in a heap of obstructive snow. With your driveway and front door blocked, you might have to pull out that shovel. Tedious as it might be, snow shoveling is inevitable and if you plan to do it yourself, you need to do it safely. Go through these essential tips to avoid straining your heart or muscles during shoveling.

1. Warm Up
As with any form of workout, prepare your body by stretching for 10 minutes. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to get sprained. Doing some basic leg, arm and back exercises will loosen up and relax your muscles and help prevent any post-activity soreness.

2. Dress Light & Layered
Light, layered and water-resistant clothing will insulate your body. Cover your head and hands, and choose gloves that are flexible and have a good grip. If it gets really cold, consider covering your face as well. Wear shoes with slip-resistant soles to avoid slipping.

3. Pick The Right Shovel
Your snow shovel shouldn’t weigh more than 3lbs and the length of the handle should be elbow-height when you stand upright. A wooden or plastic grip will be warmer and lighter than a metal one. Choose a piece that is curved at the neck, thus placed at an angle. This will help keep your back straight while shoveling. Go for a smaller blade, which will reduce the amount of snow you lift each time and, in turn, will reduce the stress on your spine.

4. Maximize Your Leverage
The way you hold the shovel will affect your output. Maintain a distance of at least 12 inches between your hands while holding the tool. This will not only help you shovel faster, but will also place less strain on your lower back.

5. Push Instead Of Lifting
Try to push the snow away—don’t try to lift it. Don’t twist your body to throw the snow to the side; instead take a step in the direction you want to throw it in. Doing this is quicker and easier on the body. Never throw the snow over your shoulder, as it can result in a severe back injury.

6. Maintain A Steady Pace
Rushing through the process will do more harm than good. Restrict yourself to approximately 15 scoops per minute, making sure to take a break every 15 minutes. Stay hydrated with warm beverages to boost your energy levels during the break.

7. Do It Early, & Often
Don’t wait for a good amount of snow to pile up. Tackle thin layers instead. Fresh snow is lighter and more manageable to deal with than a wet, heavy pack. However, avoid shoveling altogether when the temperature dips to -40 degrees, or if it’s too windy.

So if you plan to do the shoveling yourself, keep these rules in mind for quick, risk-free results.

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.