Friday, February 5, 2021

Stones and Snow - By Jim Duggan

     One of the many advantages of living on Long Island is that you get to experience the changing of the seasons.  The optimism of Spring, the warm, lazy days of Summer, the crispness of Autumn.  And then there is Winter.  Short days, plunging temperatures, and, usually but not always, snow.  
     Growing up, I enjoyed the snow just as much as most kids.  A good snowstorm usually brought with it the highly anticipated "snow day."  A day off from school which meant sled riding at the local park, and having to shovel snow. Not necessarily in that order.  Today thanks in part to the pandemic and distance learning, I suppose snow days are a thing of the past.  Anyway, back to the snow, a few days ago the New York area was hit with a large snowstorm which dumped about 14" of the white stuff on the ground.  And, of course, with the snow, we were bombarded with the usual warnings of the hazards of shoveling the snow.  Every television newscast, radio station, and local news channel advised people to "Not overdo it," or "don't exert yourself," and the ubiquitous "lift with your legs."  
     Now, I want to be candid and state that there are certain people who definitely are at risk, when it comes to shoveling snow.  And, for these people, the risk is very real.  Being in cold weather requires a longer time for our bodies to warm up.  Additionally, being exposed to cold temperatures causes our arteries to constrict. This is not a good thing, especially when your heart and muscles are working hard.  In other words, if you are at risk for developing heart disease, or if you currently have some type of cardiac issues, then you should definitely avoid shoveling snow.  Usually, these are people who are inactive, and lead sedentary lives.  So, if you haven't lifted anything heavier than a fork, and have spent most of your spare time parked in front of a television, then heed the warnings and do NOT attempt to shovel snow.  
     I would guess that most people reading this are active, healthy and, like most people who are serious about lifting weights, enjoy a challenge.  Most of us will not be afraid of a little snow. Or even a lot of snow.  And the prospect of a little outdoor physical activity will be a challenge that we readily accept.  And while snow shoveling will never replace a heavy lifting session, you can definitely get a good workout while clearing the sidewalk.  
     Recently, while speaking to my friend Steve Weiner during the storm, we agreed that stonelifting is good for shoveling snow.  Steve made a very good point when he stated the following: "Not many guys in our age group will even dare shovel.  This does not speak well of the physical condition of people as a whole."  Truer words were never spoken.  After many years of countless sessions of hoisting stones, neither of us was tired after having to shovel several times throughout the duration of the storm.  
     Does this mean that one has to be a stone lifter in order to be able to clean out after a snowstorm? Of course not. Although it definitely wouldn't hurt! But in all seriousness, it is important to remember that the type of training you do, and the movements you include in your workouts, will determine the type you will develop.  Pumpers, toners, and other misguided trainees who don't train hard, will have a hard time after any snowstorm. Actually, they will have a hard time with any sort of physical challenge.  Let's face it, pushdowns, cable crossovers, and other chicken exercises will never develop real, main strength.  No matter how "pumped," "jacked," or "buff" they may be.  
     Hard, heavy, full-body workouts, using the basic movements will not only make you bigger and stronger, they will give you the kind of strength that will stand up to any physical challenge.  Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Bent-over rows will build a body that make shoveling snow seem like a walk in the park.  Do you honestly think that a person who regularly does high-rep Squats will have a problem with a foot of snow on his sidewalk? Or someone who has been doing heavy Deadlifts for years? If you regularly include heavy sled work, or lift heavy anvils, a day of hard, physical labor will be a breeze.  And, the following day, you will not be "wiped out" from a day of physical exertion.  You'll be able to bounce back and probably not even need to miss your next Deadlift session. Unless the roads are impassable and you can't make it to the gym!
     So, with another month or so of Winter still ahead of us, don't be afraid of having to pit your strength against the elements.  While the gym may be closed, you can still get a productive workout, secure in the knowledge that years of heavy lifting on the basic movements will have strengthened your entire body for the challenge ahead.  And, as an added bonus, you will NOT have to use one of those gimmick "back saver" shovels with a special handle to protect your back.  So, in the immortal words of Dean Martin: "Let it snow!"

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