Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Staying Green At The Gym All Winter Long

Many frequent exercisers take pride in their “gym rat” status but for every indoor jock, there are a slew of intensely dedicated outdoor athletes. These are the crazies you see running in pitch black at 6 am covered from head to toe in sweat-wicking gear. Eventually, sleet/snow/ice/salt covers the sidewalks so completely that even the more daring outdoor exercisers invest in temporary gym memberships. So, when wintry weather forces athletes out from the great outdoors into energy-guzzling, climate-controlled gyms, how does one stay green?

In part, eco-friendly choices depend on the preferred exercise method (cardio, strength training, yoga, etc). When faced with row after row of cardio equipment, it can feel daunting to determine the most enviromentally friendly option. Although machines vary in their energy output (the newness of the device has a huge impact on its carbon emissions), on average, a treadmill uses between 600 and 700 watts of energy. That's the equivalent of watching three or four 46-inch LCD televisions or leaving 50 compact fluorescent light bulbs burning, for the duration of your workout. In comparison, many commercial ellipticals and stationary bikes are self-powering, relying on the momentum of the individual to feed back into the machine. In this case, a small amount of power is needed to add resistance, but not to power the device as a whole. In terms of overall energy consumption, the treadmill is the clear loser.

Your best bet: free weights. No electricity needed.

5 tips for staying green at the gym:

1. Turn off all personal TV’s after use.
2. Stick with one towel - don’t grab a new one every time you switch machines.
3. Bring your own water bottle – avoid paper/plastic cups.
4. Urge gym staff to minimally adjust the thermostat (1 degree cooler in the winter, 1 degree warmer in the summer).
5. Take advantage of free weights, exercise classes, and resistance training – a good workout does not need to involve electricity-powered machines.

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