Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 30, 2006

Maybe we're just inspired by the example set by Seth Roberts who, after years of self-experimentation, came up with the Shangri-La diet (and whom we learned about from Freakonomics' Steve Dubner and Stephen Levitt), but we've found another enterprising individual who may be to physical fitness what Seth Roberts is to dieting!

Meet Reinhard Engels - or rather, read about how a rainy day and necessity intersected to lead to his invention of the shovelglove:

It was a rainy Sunday. I hadn't gone to the gym in over three months, and I was feeling painfully out of shape and antsy to do some kind of exercise. But I didn't want to go out in the rain, and the prospect of subjecting myself to the boring torture of the gym seemed even drearier. I wanted an exercise I could do right there, in my bedroom, without any fancy equipment.

But I didn't want to do sit-ups or pushups. I didn't want to grovel on my stomach on the floor, like some degraded beast. "There must be some kind of movement I can do standing up, with the dignity of a human being," I thought, "some kind of movement that is natural and interesting, that my body would like to do."

I started making all kinds of spastic movements, hoping to come across something that resonated. I remembered reading something in some French novel about coal shovelers having the best abdominal muscles of anyone the author had ever seen. I started making shoveling motions.

Now there are a few problems with shoveling, from an exercise perspective. For one, if I actually went outside and started shoveling, I'd get all wet (remember, it's raining). The neighbors would think I was crazy, and if I did it at the wrong time I'd actually annoy them. I'd also have to have something to shovel, a waste of space, at least (our backyard is more of back alley). So outdoors is out. But I couldn't really shovel indoors, either. Even if I just did a pantomime with a shovel, I'd need some kind of weight to move, and I'd need some way of keeping it from scratching the floors or killing the cats.

That's when it occurred to me: what I needed was a shovel with a weight attached to it, and a fuzzy glove to keep it from scratching the floors or killing the cats. At first I thought I'd call it "fuzzy shovel," but "shovelglove" seemed catchier.

Now I had to make the darn thing. I went to the local hardware store, and after some experimenting, I wound up with something that worked: a sledgehammer with an old sweater wrapped around it. It had the right shape, just enough weight, and the requisite softness. And it was pleasingly simple.

There's a lot more, including video! Go see, and then decide if a trip to the hardware store is in order....

Update: 6:57 AM PDT: Criminy, Dubner's fast!...

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