You are an Athlete!

by Rebecca Nault, DPT

Most of us don’t spend our weekends throwing touchdown passes, running marathons, or sinking the game-winning three pointer, but all of us depend on the same muscles as professional athletes to rake leaves, shovel snow, and get things done in our daily lives. Since we don’t have a highly-paid staff of athletic trainers standing by, it’s up to us to care for our bodies both pre- and post-activity. Failing to do so can result in injury, pain, and a reduced quality of life.  

All professional athletes have a set of exercises and drills they do to condition their body to prevent injury and ensure success at their particular sport. This includes a proper warmup with easy low-load cardio, strengthening to build stability and performance, and a cool down which usually includes stretching. 


Practice proper body mechanics when raking and shoveling this fall and winter! Download and print our infographics to use as a reminder.

Welcome to “game day”: you just woke up to 8 inches of snow, and you need to be at work in an hour. Before starting your athletic activity, in this case shoveling snow, perform dynamic warmups for no less than 5 minutes to prepare your body for work. Including upper body and spinal rotation exercises would be especially helpful for activities such as shoveling and raking. Think there isn’t enough time for warmups? March in place while brushing your teeth, or do lunges while your coffee brews.

Simple warm-up exercises include:

  • Marching in place
  • Going for a short walk making sure to swing your arms
  • Riding a stationary bike or elliptical with low resistance
  • Walking lunges

Proper form is key to athletic excellence. While shoveling or raking, we should always follow the basic rules of body mechanics. 

When you lift, follow these rules: 

  • Keep the object close to your body
  • Lift with your legs
  • Keep your back straight
  • Do not twist

A routine of strengthening exercises targeting your core can strengthen your body’s built-in natural back brace to prevent injuries. 

Strengthening exercises include:

  • Bridges
  • Planks
  • Lunges 
  • Squats

Once the game is over, it’s time for a proper cool down. This can consist of another easy walk, marching in place or a 5 minute bike ride. There are also some simple stretches you can do to keep your muscles from tightening up. 

Cool down stretches include: 

  • Single and double knee to chest
  • Prone back extension
  • Lower trunk rotation
  • Cat/cow yoga pose

Above all, it is critical that we know our limits and what our body can handle. Following all these principals to a T still does not guarantee that you won’t get injured. If you have recurring pain, whether it’s related to your “sport” of choice or not, it’s important to seek treatment in a timely manner to avoid further injury and stay at the top of your game. MKE Physical Therapy is here to help! 

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