The beauty of our Canadian winters is to wake up to a fresh new snowfall. It is a great time to get active and enjoy the great outdoors and get out there to practice winter sports activities. Between playing hockey, skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating, many people are suffering from back injuries related to winter sports activities every year. Ever thought about shoveling as a winter sport? It is indeed a great winter workout, but one that if not careful, you could end up with an injury. 

This is why a proper warm-up and cool-down after an outdoor activity can help reduce your risk of injury and keep you comfortable while enjoying your favorite winter sports. 

I love that my patients enjoy winter activities, nothing like a great winter workout! Though sometimes, people forget that warming up their muscles and moving their joints before any sport is key to preventing injuries.

Winter Sports Activities

Here are 5 key strategies to prevent soreness and back pain while enjoying your favorite Winter Sports Activities:  

Strategy #1: Warm-up Adequately— Warming up your body is key to increasing blood flow to the muscles. The best way to get started is to do some light cardio, such as: 

  • Jumping Jacks – 30-50 times
  • High knees – 30 seconds
  • A brisk walk around the block

The main purpose is to warm up your body and get ready to complete your dynamic exercises to then participate in your winter activity. Remember to take it easy at first—you do not want to over-exert yourself. 

Strategy #2: Perform Dynamic Mobility Movements—Focusing on the big joints of your entire body, such as the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and wrists. The idea is to keep your body in motion without bouncing during the movement. 

  • Bodyweight Squat: Start by standing up tall, with shoulders back, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward. Raise your arms in front of you at shoulder height. With all your weight on your heels, inhale as you squat down, bending at the knees and sticking your buttocks back. Keep your head and chest up and your back straight. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • The Knee Up Lunge: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a big step backwards with your left leg, bending your front leg in a 90-degree angle. Place both arms at shoulder level for balance. Bring your left knee up into your chest as you inhale. Lower your left leg down without resting your foot on the floor and repeat 10 times. Switch to the right leg and complete the same movement 10 times.
  • Lateral Walking: Position your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position. Keep your feet in line with your shoulder and distribute your body weight evenly. Shift your weight over one leg and take a step sideways with the other leg while maintaining the half-squat position at all times. Keep moving sideways and repeat 10 times. Remember to keep your hips level, back straight and face forward during the entire movement. Slowly shift your weight and switch legs to complete 10 times going in the opposite direction.
  • Dynamic Walking Hamstring Stretch: Stand straight with your arms by your side, palms facing forwards. Place your right foot ahead of you with your heel down, toes up. Lean your body forwards reaching your arms back behind you. Keep your legs straight as you sweep your arms from the back, forward and up. Bring your body upright again as your arms reach the horizontal position. Step onto the right leg to repeat with the left leg.
  • Hip Rotations: Stand tall to begin and make sure you are well balanced on both legs. Put your hands on your hips and start making small circles with the hips starting in a clockwise position. Do 10 on one side and then do the same movement counterclockwise.
  • Hip Pendulum: Stand tall and gently place your right hand against the wall. Swing your left leg from the hips, letting the momentum swing your leg.  Repeat 10 swings, then switch sides and swing your right leg. As an extra challenge, relax both arms by your side as you swing your leg, great for balance! 
  • Good Mornings: Stand upright, brace your core and pull your shoulders back and place your hands at the back of your head with your elbows opened wide. Your back should be in a straight neutral position. Bending at the hips, lower yourself toward the floor keeping your back straight and a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement and return to the start position. Repeat 10-15 times. To facilitate this exercise, think of shifting your buttocks backwards. 
  • Arm Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms parallel to the floor. Circle your arms forward starting with small circles and gradually making the circles bigger and bigger. Reverse the direction of the circles. Complete the movements for 10 seconds in each direction. 
  • Shoulder Rotations: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your arm to your side. Rotate your shoulders forward and bring them to the back, then switch and rotate them to the back moving them forward. Another great shoulder rotation is the criss-cross, where you are crossing both arms in front of you back and forth. You can also swing your arms up forward, towards the back and up again with a continuous flowing motion. Then try doing the same by going backward and up and back again.

Warming up is essential, it prepares your body to engage safely in any type of physical activity. Missing this important step can lead to minor or serious injuries. Taking the time to properly warm up is sure to guarantee a more enjoyable result during and after all types of winter activities.

Strategy #3: Stay Well Hydrated—During winter sports, we dress in layers to keep warm, but we do not realize that our body is sweating. This can cause our bodies to become dehydrated without us noticing it. Keeping your body hydrated will help you keep your body warm and protect your joints. 

Strategy #4: Don’t Aggravate Previous Injuries—Avoid participating in sports when you are already in pain or injured as this can make your injury worse. Once you have the go-ahead from your health team to continue exercising and doing your sport, then you can begin again. Until then, give the time to your body to heal properly. 

Strategy #5: Cool Down And Static Stretching—This is just as important as warming up your body, it starts the recovery process, increases flexibility and promotes relaxation of your tired and constricted muscles. One of the most straightforward ways to cool down is to go for a light walk after your sport. When you get home, don’t forget to do some static stretches to cool down, such as cobra stretch, butterfly stretch, cat or cow stretch, inner thigh stretch, quadriceps stretch, knee to chest, shoulder stretches, or any of your favorites. 

Bonus Tips For Shoveling: 

  1. Proper Shovel: Invest in a good shovel, it will help you not only get the job done but save you from getting injured.
  2. Shoveling Techniques: Do not twist, lift and throw the snow, instead, try pushing smaller amounts of the snow aside. If you must lift the snow, bend at the hips and knees and lift with your legs and not your back. Reducing the stress off your back will prevent injuries. 
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great way to loosen up tight muscles and work through tough knots. If you’re unfamiliar with this step, no worries! Simply grab your foam roller and roll gently over all of the major muscle groups, spending extra time on any areas that feel tight. You may also want to use a lacrosse ball to get to those nasty knots that need more attention, especially those in the gluteus muscles. 

Another great tool that has exploded the market is the Theragun®. It is a massage device that mobilizes soft tissues to reduce muscle soreness and increase your range of motion. It is a deep muscle therapy that delivers rapid and long vertical strokes into the muscle, causing a neuromuscular response. It is known to reduce pain, increase blood flow, break up scar tissue, decrease lactic acid, release muscle spasms, increase lymphatic flow, improve range of motion, improve body awareness and help recover more efficiently and effectively.  To check out the items I personally use, click on the following link:

Now you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors! Be sure to take it easy at first and listen to your body. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and take a break. With a little bit of preparation, you will be well equipped in staying injury-free all winter long! 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post on winter sports warm-ups. Remember prevention is the best way to keep enjoying your winter sports and stay injury-free.

Have fun out there!

Dr. Nathalie