Thoughts from Shoveling Snow

A New Physical Chore

As "Snowzilla" blanketed the east coast, millions of adults found their lives full of a rare type of physical demand: shoveling monster amounts of snow. I was one of the adults tasked with this new chore, but secretly I kind of enjoyed it. I like seeing the results I gain from training translated into a useful task. This storm gave me plenty of opportunity to do so. Through hours and hours of shoveling, I had some time to think about how this chore highlights some principles we use in the gym. Here are some of those thoughts:

Is Shoveling Snow a Workout?

If we polled anyone who spent some appreciable time shoveling during this past storm, the likely unanimous answer would be yes. This is because shoveling snow, like many other tasks we perform, provides a physical stress to the body. The task breaks down muscle and burns up energy, much like a workout done in the gym. If we shoveled snow as part of a daily routine we would find that it becomes easier. This is because our body would adapt to this chore by becoming stronger and more efficient.

Which Strategy is Better: Small shifts throughout the day or one binge shovel?

Those who elected for the "binge" strategy likely felt much more fatigued (and later sore) from the effort. This is because a longer, cumulative stress breaks the body down more than multiple, smaller doses. From a gym standpoint, running 5 miles 4 times in a week would be easier to recover from than performing one 20 mile effort. Personally, I tried both strategies and found from experience that smaller shifts were much easier to handle.

Weak Points

I was happy to find that though shoveling wore me out, I experienced no real soreness in the days afterward. I chalk this up to my body already being adapted to the stress of the activity from consistent resistance training. The snow was heavy, but not as heavy as weight lifted during squats & deadlifts. I did experience some mild pain in a few areas that don't get trained as hard during my time in the gym. Constantly bracing the shovel against piles of snow irritated my wrists, hands, and elbows over time. The constant tension on those areas from shoveling are something my body isn't used to, and therefore caused the irritation as these weaker structures got worked in a new way.

Final Thoughts

Living in a society where physical activity is mostly optional, it's (in my opinion) exciting being forced to exert strength in order to return to basic living. Training in the gym is a substitute for this lack of activity, but it also better prepares us for unexpected physical chores that pop up. If you were one of many stuck shoveling for hours, hopefully you found that the training you do in the gym made it easier, and more satisfying.