Grahn takes my hand and slips it into a clear, coffeepot-looking contraption he calls the Glove. Inside is a hemisphere of metal, cool to the touch. He tightens a seal around my wrist; a vacuum begins pulling blood to the surface of my hand, and the cold metal chills my blood before it travels through my veins back to my core. After five minutes, I feel rejuvenated.Oh man, I totally want to get my hands on to one of these Glove things. There should be one in every gym in the country.
Grahn and his colleagues developed the Glove for the military — specifically, for the Pentagon’s way-out science division, Darpa: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Grahn and his research partner, biologist Craig Heller, started working on the Glove at Stanford in the late 1990s as part of their research on improving physical performance. Even they were astounded at how well it seemed to work. Vinh Cao, their squat, barrel-chested lab technician, used to do almost 100 pull-ups every time he worked out. Then one day he cooled himself off between sets with an early prototype. The next round of pull-ups — his 11th — was as strong as his first. Within six weeks, Cao was doing 180 pull-ups a session. Six weeks after that, he went from 180 to more than 600. Soon, Stanford’s football trainers asked to borrow a few Gloves to cool down players in the weight room and to fight muscle cramps.
In trying to figure out why the Glove worked so well, its inventors ended up challenging conventional scientific wisdom on fatigue. Muscles don’t wear out because they use up stored sugars, the researchers said. Instead, muscles tire because they get too hot, and sweating is just a backup cooling system for the lattices of blood vessels in the hands and feet. The Glove, in other words, overclocks the heat exchange system. “It’s like giving a Honda the radiator of a Mack truck,” Heller says. After four months of using it himself, Heller did 1,000 push-ups on his 60th birthday in April 2003. Soon after, troops from Special Operations Command were trying out the Glove, too.