Wasting Gas, Snow, and Winter Workouts: Where’s Your Bicycle Pump?

Anyone who lives in the northeast, and increasingly anywhere on the east coast, needs a few pointers on snow removal.  Mainers tend to be experts on the subject, although many Mainers have opted out for mechanical solutions.  If you still do it by hand, you are eligible for the Super Mainer workout.

For the person hand removing snow, let it be known that there are many types of snow.  Although the Eskimo abundance of words for snow is evidently a myth (via the all-knowing wikipedia) the Sami people have rough 180 snow related words.  For the flat-landers among us (anyone south of the down-east area of Maine), let’s use descriptive sentences rather than rely on generalized words like “slush” and “sleet.”

First, today’s snow is a nice light powder.  It’s the sort of snow that makes snow blowers look really good, but it’s the easiest snow to clear off.  Right now we have about four inches, which necessitates a nice, light plastic shovel with no steel tip.  Anything less than four inches could be dealt with easiest by a push broom.  That’s right, a standard janitor’s broom would probably serve anyone getting a couple of inches of  light snow a year.  Just push the stuff out of your way and use a light touch to brush off your car.

Once we get around four inches a light plastic shovel will serve, unless we have rain involved.  Rain will saturate, and make a plastic shovel bow and crack.  At this point you start getting a workout.  The key is to lift only what you feel comfortable lifting with each shovelful.  We’re talking possibly hundreds of repetitions, so pace yourself and keep to 80% of your maximum heart rate.  If you don’t know about that sort of thing, keep yourself humming.  When you can’t hum easily, you’re going too fast.

The legs are the key to a good lift.  Never, ever feel the lift in your lower back.  Bring that back forward (think “Time Warp” pelvic thrust or Elvis depending on your age) and always feel it in your legs.  Switch arms every ten strokes or so to maximize your workout and minimize your chances of tearing something.  Remember, it’s your workout.  Fling it high, fling it low, or just push away that snow.

If you’ve got ice in with your snow, it’s time to bring out the steel-edged heavier shovel.  Again, use your kick to get through a thin plate of ice, and half your shovelfuls to minimize the weight.  When the ice gets really thick, get out the garden shovel and use light taps to break up the ice before you shovel it away.  Always pace yourself and never get beyond humming.

Now, on a light day like today you might feel you haven’t gotten a good workout.  It turns out that tire underinflation is one of the major problems with winter driving.  As the temperatures drop the air in your tires condenses, and you end up with tires that wobble even when there isn’t any ice.  Not only that, but underinflation is also a gas waster (more than carrying around a full tank of gas- see post).

The best way to finish off your workout is to get a high quality bicycle pump with a gauge and inflate those tires to the max.  Yes, the max, which is less than what the manufacturer recommends on the inside of your driver’s side door (ever read that sticker?  I didn’t even know it was there.  One of our cars says the max winter pressure is 60, well above the tire’s max of 44 psi.  So I’m going with the tire over the car manufacturer). If you can pull off the snow and the dozens of pump reps it takes to get your car up to full tire pressure, you win the Super Mainer award!

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