The Shovelton Workout

We got a lot of snow overnight — by Columbus standards, at least — and walking was impracticable, so this morning’s exercise consisted of shoveling our front steps, the sidewalk, and the brick walkway to our backyard.

I’d be in much better shape if I had to shovel snow every day, although I’m certainly glad I don’t need to do so. It involves just about every form of exercise you can think of — bending, scraping, lifting, and then turning to hurl the snow from the shovel to your snow mound. And at our house you get your steps in, too, because there is only one plausible snow mound area and you end up lifting the snow on the shovel and carefully carrying it to that one accumulation point to be tossed onto the pile.

Why hasn’t somebody invented an exercise device that approximates shoveling snow? You could call it the Shovelton. Workout participants would don their winter coats, hats, and gloves, grab the Shovelton shovel, and shovel away. The screen could add urgency by showing an approaching garbage truck, requiring you to quickly clear a path to roll out your recycling bin, and you could up your workout by choosing the “plowed street” option, in which the snowplow has deposited huge mounds of snow and cinders that block your sidewalk and driveway and must be cleared away so you can get to work on time.

Exercise Is Where You Find It

The snow fell on Saturday, and when it looked like the snowfall had ended, I went out and shoveled the snow off our front steps, our brick entrance way, the walkway to the back yard, and the sidewalk in front of our house.

Alas!  The storm was only taking a breather and toying with me, and another four or five inches of snow fell later on Saturday and Sunday morning.  So yesterday I grabbed the back saver shovel and did it all over again.

Shoveling snow is pretty good exercise.  You do a lot of bending, lifting, and twisting, as well as some precision work in scraping off the packed down areas that somebody has walked on.  If the snow is moist, good packing snow, as this snowfall was, you end up with a decent amount of weight on the end of your shovel, ready to be hefted and hurled onto the snowbank you create. It doesn’t take much shoveling to get the heartbeat up and the sweat glands flowing, even though the weather is cold.  Combine that with being outside, taking gulps of crisp fresh air, and you’ve got a nice little workout going.

In my case, I’d say the whole process took between a half hour and 45 minutes.  When I was done I had clean steps, a clean sidewalk, and a feeling of accomplishment.  If I’d been in a gym, it would be akin to one of those exercise routines where you pick up a heavy ball, twist to one side and then another, and then throw it to the side and do the whole process again.

Studies consistently show that most Americans don’t get as much exercise as they should.  One response might be to move to the Midwest and buy a snow shovel.


Saturday Shovel

Yesterday the temperature plunged about 40 degrees over a few hours, then a winter storm slammed us with snow. So this morning I hauled out the back-saver snow shovel and cleared off our sidewalk and front steps.

Every Midwesterner knows you need to shovel as soon as the snow fall stops, before people start walking on the snow and compressing it to the point that it needs to be chipped away — which is a much bigger pain. Now that the snow is cleared I can feel a sense of keen accomplishment, and if the sun comes out Mother Nature will do the rest of the work.

The Winter Fat-Burning Workout

We’re all eager to shed some of those lingering holiday pig-out pounds.  The best way to achieve your goal is not to go to your health club or workout facility, but to head out into the Great White North, where there are plenty of ways to lose that weight and tone your flabby carcass.

The snow shovel lift and hurl:  Shoveling snow is like the Bow-Flex of winter outdoor exercises — it can involve virtually every kind of motion and form of exercise.  Lift your shovel.  Bend at the waist and apply force to your shovel to scrape the driveway clean.  Lift that heavy load of snow.  Twist with your torso and hurl the snow onto the piles to the right and left.  Hope for that magical combination of weather factors that cause ice and wet snow to freeze to your shovel, increasing the weight of each shovel-load by a factor of ten.

The windshield stretch and scrape:  Retrieve your cob-webbed scraper from the dusty recesses of the garage.  Use the scraper to chisel ice off your car’s side windows.  A vigorous up-and-down motion works best.  Then, stretch as far as you can over your snow-bound car and scrape the snow and ice from your windshield and back window and ponder the inevitable question:  why do they make the scrapers so short?

The icy walkway balance beam:  Venture out onto the icy sidewalk, walking with tiny, mincing steps to try to maintain maximum contact with the frozen surface.  Then, react with lightning speed to deftly regain your balance when you begin to slip.  Bonus points if you can do a pirouette without falling.

The sleet avoidance car dash:  Sleet is the worst of all weather conditions, a devilish combination of rain, snow, and ice.  Don’t just stand there getting pelted — run to your car in the Wal-Mart parking lot!  And pray that a benevolent deity guides your footsteps, so they don’t inadvertently find that hidden patch of ice.

Remember, bundle up = weight down:  Dress in layers — it’s cold out there!  After a few minutes of hard shoveling, though, you’ll be overheated, your heart will be pounding, and you’ll be sweating like a blast furnace worker.   Your knit cap will be sodden and you’ll pull at that scarf that now seems to be choking you.  Oh, and your nose will be running, too.  In fact, “running” really does not begin to describe the gushing flow pouring out of those red, flaring nostrils.  With all of that moisture leaving your body through every possible route, you’ll be assured of massive water weight loss!

Now, get out there — and feel the burn!

A Frozen End To The “Lake Effect”

Anyone who has ever lived in northeast Ohio has heard of the “lake effect.” It happens during early winter, before Lake Erie freezes over.  Storms pass over the open, shallow waters of the lake, pick up warmth and moisture, and then dump greater amounts of snow on Cleveland and points east.

Every year northern Ohioans hope for word that Lake Erie has frozen over.  Today the National Weather Service announced that Lake Erie is 90 percent frozen over, so the “lake effect” has ended for this year.  Folks in Chardon, Ohio are happy to hear that news — they’ve already received 95 inches of snow this winter.  That’s just shy of 8 feet of snow.  Chardon probably has the most accomplished snow shovelers in the world.

With Lake Erie now frozen and the “lake effect” ended, attention can now be focused on the drunken idiots who drive their SUVs out onto the lake and fall through the ice.

Snow To The Windowsill, And The Great Wall Of Webner

Snow to the windowsill, with buried bushes underneath

Columbus was hit with another blizzard today.  As of 6 p.m., I’d say another six inches had fallen on New Albany, and more is supposed to be on the way.

The firm closed early due to horrible road conditions, and traffic moved at a crawl on the drive home as snow continued to fall at a rapid rate.  When I got home I promptly changed into snow gear, grabbed my trusty long-handled, flat-edged shovel, and began the latest driveway snow-clearing exercise.

This is perhaps the fourth large snow storm we’ve had in the last two weeks, and because temperatures have stayed at or below freezing during that entire time period there has been very little snow melt. The massive resulting accumulation of snow poses some difficult challenges for the shoveler.

The Great Wall Of Webner

On one side of my driveway, next to the house, the snow has been piled about as high as it can go, to a point only a few inches below the windowsill.  On the other side is the Great Wall of Webner, where the snowmass is about five feet high and growing with each new falling flake.  The Great Wall is a gnarly mixture of ice shards, packed snow, and slush, with a fresh white dusting on top.  The weight and density of the pile is such that, were a lump of coal at the bottom, it would even now be assuming diamond form due to the immense pressure.  It takes some effort to toss even more snow to the top of the pile.

Snow on the rear patio bannister

In the meantime, the yard and grounds have taken on an alien look.  Snow is perched precariously on the bannister on the back patio, as if Jack Frost has been playing some wintry game of Jenga.  In the front yard many of the the bushes are completely buried by snow, and several of the shrubs separating our property from that of our neighbor are bent down to the ground with the weight of the snow.

It took me about an hour or so to shovel our driveway clear of snow, and by the time I reached the foot of the drive the area next to the garage, where I had begun my efforts, was already covered by another inch of fresh snow.  As I put away the shovel for the night, the snow continued to fall.  I’ll be shoveling again tomorrow morning.

Saturday Shoveling

I liked UJ’s post about New Year’s resolutions.  I think almost everyone — except for supermodels, movie stars, and the exceptionally rare individual like UJ who has stayed at his same weight since high school — vows to lose weight in the new year.  Health club memberships get sold, treadmills get bought, and two months later the health club is a forgotten option and the tread mill has become an expensive clothes hanger.

I think more people would be in better shape if they just did the basic chores around the house the old-fashioned way.  Rake the leaves with a rake, instead of using a leaf blower.  Mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds, rather than hiring a service.  And, when it snows, shovel your driveway and walkways instead of hiring a guy with a snowblower.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve gotten a lot of snow recently.  Today I set out to shovel our driveway, and I think it was a pretty good workout.  To begin with, it was overcast and cold outside, maybe 20 degrees.  There were about six inches of snow on the driveway.  We’d been driving over it to get to the garage, so most of the snow had been pulverized into a hard layer of compressed snow and ice.  The only effective way to remove it was to use a flat-edged regular shovel and try to jimmy under the edge of the snow/ice layer and then flip it up, uncovering the asphalt beneath.  It was slow going, and with all of the chipping and carrying of ice chunks to the side of the driveway it didn’t take long to get warm and then break a sweat.  At the base of the driveway, where some salt from the road had mixed with the snow, there was a thick, heavy, churned mass of slush that adhered to the shovel when you scooped it up and then tried to dump it on the side.  Repeatedly scooping, shaking, and tapping shovels full of damp slush will definitely get your heartbeat going.  The calorie count website says that shoveling snow for an hour burns 408 calories, about equivalent to one and a half Snickers bars.

When you do something like shoveling, it is of course important to have some good music on the Ipod to help you through your chore.  Today I used my “Empty Nest” playlist, which consists solely of songs I’ve heard since Russell went off to college.  It was an inspired selection.  I’m A Ram by Gov’t Mule and Reptilia by the Strokes, for example, are songs well suited to hacking away at ice and snow on a frigid day.