Mary Mack's picture

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In 2015 we're planning to launch our first regional edition of Faith & Fitness Magazine for the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota) market.  It will offer regional specific content for the many readers we have there. Much of this content will also be available to all of our readers. This is the first article by Mary Mack our Twin Cities Editor. Be looking for much more from her and our Twin Cities Networking and Event Director Nikki Herreid Ness.

It’s upon us once again-- the season of snow, slush and socks trapped in the toes of your sorrels (those are boots for you non Midwesterners.)

At first it’s invigorating to experience this snowy season.  Sledding, ice-skating, hot cocoa, Advent and the reminder that with the white blankets of pure snow we have a chance to see creative Creator in every part of the season.

But after the Christmas lights are down, the hot cocoa runs dry and the slushy shoveling turns to daily drudgery, how do we keep the fun, joy and the fitness going strong throughout winter? Joy can be a source of strength for us and what better time to be strong then when we are shoveling and snow blowing? Winter work is a workout, so here are a few tips on keeping our bodies strong as we go through this season.

SEASONAL STRENGTH AND SAFETY

Shoveling or sweeping snow is a great cardiovascular workout and if your anything like me, I want to complete the job as best I can. Our brains drive to complete a task, we feel good jumping in to a project, we see progress, we are in a groove even. But part of winter safety is knowing when enough is enough.  

 What NOT to do: 

  • Don't push past pain in your joints or chest. "No pain, no gain" isn't always a hard and fast rule
  • ​Don't write off sharp pains or pains that come on fast in localized areas. Muscle soreness is usually wide spread, sharp pain is not wanted. 
  • ​​Don't keep working if your suddenly dizzy, hot or feel nauseated. Have a seat, grab your water bottle near by. 
  • ​Don't start a a project on an empty stomach or without all your tools handy

​What TO DO: 

  • Do have a snack and water near by. 
  • Do know your limits--get to know how hard cardiovascular exercise feels in your body
  • Do listen to your body and its signals. Sit down if you overheat or if you are not feeling well 
  • Do let a family member or neighbor your going to work outside in the cold.
  • Do stay properly hydrated all day and the day prior.
  • Layer your clothing so you don’t overhead or have to wear wet and sweaty clothes while you work. 

God has designed our bodies to adapt to outdoor conditions, self heal and self regulate as well, but sometimes we aren't keen on the signals our body is sending.  Here are some simple ways to use your BODY to stay safe and strong. When shoveling or moving snow, lift from your legs, they are some of the strongest muscles of your body. The key is learning to use your legs and rely on their strength instead of letting your back do the work.  Engaged your core, pull your belly button back to your spine and squeeze tight as you move through any motion. You can invest in ergonomic shovels to ease the load and eliminate potential injury from your low back. Many hands make light work; so make it a family affair. Play a game, have a race to finish, make a big pile and sled down it…you could even get some matching scarves to ham it up for the neighbors.

SET THE TEMPERATURE WITH JOY
Too often, when those of us into health and fitness hear that the joy of the Lord is our strength, we connect with the strength part and leave the JOY part sitting on the sidelines. The JOY we cultivate this season is what carries us, with strength, through to the end of the task. As a mom and wife especially I am called to set the proverbial temperature of the home… I am the Joy Setter! If I let Gods Joy shine THROUGH me regardless of my emotions or circumstances, it can change the whole tone of the day.

 

HELP OTHERS

We can bring Joy to the neighborhood too by helping others with what they may need: Carrying groceries over an icy stoop, shoveling, hanging lights, and salting their walk. Encourage them to come out if they are physically able to and join in a sledding party, winter walk or caroling! So often we huddle inside during winter months, we neglect our strength and cardio conditioning and we neglect showing those in our neighborhood the reason we have our joy year round.  If you and your family are able and active, spread that message to your neighbors, we are indeed the salt of the earth, spread it thick during these cold hard months to come.

 

HEART HEALTHY WORK
The state of our bodies affects our effectiveness in the spiritual world, so aim to use everything God gives you to be a healthy instrument for His use! Winter work can help you get a new kind of cardio in. Dr. James Meschino of Meschino Health dot com reminds us in his research that benefits included in aerobic and cardiovascular health, we see conditioning for life. “[Your] Heart gets stronger and the tissue extracts oxygen with much more efficiently and so that means, when you’re at rest your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.” 

Regular cardiovascular exercise --even from winter play or work outside has these incredible benefits:

  • lowers insulin levels
  • lowers blood pressure
  • burns fat 
  • reduce depression
  • helps you sleep
  • reduces risk of disease like cancer, diabetes and more!
     

With the winter months being challenging enough for our heart conditions, physically and emotionally, anything we can do to ward of depression and help reduce stress and disease should top our nice list!

HAVE FUN!
Winter workouts don't have to be ALL WORK, don't forget all the fun winter activities that keep your heart pumping and your joy levels lifted. You can have a snowball fight, sled, snowshoe (which is a great leg workout too), make an igloo, ice skate and so many more. Even taking your little angels, be they kids, nieces or neighbors and making snow angels will touch your heart in many ways. 

SET IN SNOW
So, set the tone of the winter season: Get outside, cultivate a strong core, as a team in your household, help others and keep your cardio health a priority. Above all keep your JOY shining. You can make strenuous work fun, safe and light. It’s just the start of the winter season here in Minnesota, We’ve had just a few snowfalls and are gearing up for more this week. We keep our shovels ready, snow blowers tuned, cocoa hot and our eyes on God, the author and finisher of our faith. We aim to see Him in the strength we feel in our legs as we heave snow from the sidewalk. We sense Him in the burn in our lungs from the cold air as we work outside. We hear Him in the laughter of our families as we spend time together and in the purity of the white snow, like a blanket of grace for all. Covering the old, the dead, the former things and making all things new. 'Tis the season for many amazing things!


Twin Cities Best Places for outdoor fun: 
Wells Fargo Winter Skate in Rice Park 
Buck Hill Snow Tubing 
Holidazzle Village featuring MInneapolis Holiday Market 
Snowshoeing at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 
St. Paul Winter Carnival Securian Half Marathon 


PHOTOS SHARED BY SOME OF OUR READERS

Use the CONTACT US link to share your photo and caption too!

The Cox family in Virginia (LEFT) put on their gloves and hats, got outside and together built a couple of snow people. Great exercise and a time for family cooperation and conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rhymer family from North Carolina (RIGHT) celebrates their daughter's birthday by doing some downhill turtle tubing.

 

 

Locality: 

About the Author

 
  • Mary Mack's picture
    Mary Mack is a contributor to the Twin Cities Edition of Faith & Fitness Magazine. She is a personal trainer, fitness model and writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. In her blog here she shares about her faith in God and her personal journey in fitness. When she's not lifting or writing Mary likes to garden, camp, knit and hang out with her family.

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