Watching the snow fall last night was pretty, but now it's back to reality and time to clear it off the sidewalks and driveways. Here are some tips to stay safe while you clear your driveways and sidewalks.

1. Don't move the same snow twice. Which isn't to say you won't be shoveling the same area twice; it just means remove snow in  thin layers over the same area rather than wait until it stops snowing and you have all of it to remove at once.

2. Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.

3. "Wax" your shovel blade, making it slippery and thereby preventing snow from sticking to it. Although candle wax, floor wax, or car wax may be used, Pam spray works fine, too. I learned this from living in Iowa all my life.

4. Vow to take breaks: continuous snow shoveling can be hazardous to the health of those in not-such-great shape.

5. Don't throw the snow into a pile; instead walk it over to where you want to pile it.

6. Push, rather than lift, the snow whenever possible.

7. Keep your phone handy and dry. I'm not suggesting you make calls and text while shoveling, but it is important to have your cell phone on you so you can make a call in event of an emergency.

8. Wear breathable layers. Layering is typical cold winter weather advice. Wearing layers of loose clothing makes sense so you can peel a layer off if you get hot.

Shoveling alternatives include safely using a snow blower or hiring a snow-removal contractor. If you do, it's recommended you get multiple estimates, understand the difference between per-season and per-incident pricing, discuss what’s included (shoveling the front walk?), request references, and get it all in writing. Good luck and don't get hurt.