Sunday, January 13, 2008

Green Microgym Featured in the Seattle Post Intelligencer

Bob Condor does a great job of describing what I'm all about! You can read the text below, or go the P-I website to read it.

Living Well: Local Trainer's Green Ideas are Generating Change


Late one afternoon last week, personal trainer Adam Boesel hopped on a spinning bike for his own workout. He decided to watch a movie on his portable DVD player while exercising.

All sounds very early 21st century. Even more fitting was Boesel's film of choice: Former Vice President Al Gore's award-winning documentary about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Fitting because Boesel planned to use human power -- basically his legs -- to power the battery of his DVD player. At his self-described "green microgym" in Greenwood, Boesel has hooked up two spinning bikes to wind-generator motors so every rotation of the pedals generates electricity that can be used in batteries for the gym's music system and, on this occasion, a DVD player.

"You kind of have to see it (the bike power setup) to completely understand how it works," Boesel said. "The concept is based on reversing the motor's direction ... if you remember as a kid having a bike with a generator that lit up your bike light, that's one way to explain it."

Boesel said that about 20 clients visit his gym for multiple individual sessions and group training classes each week. They pedal more than enough to keep the tunes playing and, in fact, would be able to run the lights without any draw from City Light if Boesel could figure out a way to transfer the energy from the bikes to the circuit box.

Make that "when" rather than "if" he can hook up the bike power to someday switch on the lights. Boesel is determined to explore as many eco-friendly measures as possible at his gym. He believes saving energy resources doesn't have to be limited to our cars, houses, consumer packaging and clothing, to name a few.

"The potential of human power is great," he said. "We have to find ways to not only waste less energy but put energy back into the health club and gym system to help offset what we use."

The inventor in Boesel stems in part from his dad, who was a woodworker. That explains Boesel's love for tools and building things by hand. He laughed and said, "No," when asked if there were Erector sets in his childhood.

Another part of Boesel's enterprise is squarely inherent in his desire to gauge what's next in his field. For instance, as a trainer he focuses on "movement patterns" and balance workouts to help people feel good in all parts of their lives.

"When I go to a pro football or pro basketball game I am always looking for what the trainers are getting the players to do preparing for a game," he said. "You see a lot of dynamic stretching."

One example: When a Seahawks player does a lunge in warm-ups he will add a twist. The typical lunge starts with say, the right foot placed forward a step and bent at no more than 90 degrees. The left leg stays back and under the left hip. In the lunge position, the player then twists his body back by placing his right hand on or toward the left ankle. The move finishes by the player looking back and down at the left ankle.

"The Mariners do some similar things too," Boesel said. "You see them do side-to-side exercises, moving laterally but only for about six feet."

A visit to Boesel's Total Body Turnaround gym (check out his site) will turn up clients doing variations on push-ups and lunges -- "90 percent of the time the workout is different from the last one" -- along with assisted squats (Boesel helps them complete the exercise with resistance bands) and regular use of balance boards.

"I focus on improving range of motion for people," he said. "My goal is that no part of your body is holding back other parts of the body."

And, of course, the Total Body Turnaround program includes regular rides on the spinning bikes.

"I went to school at Evergreen College," said Boesel, laughing. "I met a lot of environmentalist friends who influenced me."

Boesel has plans to increase his gym space to 1,000 square feet, while acknowledging it is harder to be energy-efficient at considerably larger health clubs. He sees himself as a "rescuer of neglected exercise equipment" and outfits his club through Craigslist and other online used equipment sources.

For now, Boesel and entrepreneur friends are early innovators across the health club industry. One company, SportsArt Fitness, has introduced an "ECO-Powr"-brand treadmill drive system that is designed to use nearly a third less electricity than the typical treadmill. Response has been positive but not industry-changing.

One health club company, California Fitness, a wholly owned subsidiary of the 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide chain, is partnering with a firm called Motorwave to install cardio machines (computerized stationary bikes for now) that "repurpose" human energy to operate a club's fluorescent lights. In short, typical stationary bikes only use about 10 percent of their electricity to operate the machine and 90 percent dissipates in the form of heat. The heat will be repurposed. A Hong Kong club will be the first test case and pro basketball star Yao Ming has lent his endorsement.

Other club operators have used recycled materials for renovations, such as flooring made from second-use rubber or carpeting created from soda bottles. Some facility managers have installed low-flow shower heads when possible. But most observers see no real rush to go green in the cardio or weight spaces.

"Health clubs use lots of electricity and lots of water," said Pamela Kufahl, editor of Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro magazine based in Overland Park, Kan. "The cardiovascular areas use lots of electricity. Club owners are doing their best to serve members."

Kufahl conceded that most of us strive for energy savings "in our home life but not the club" or gym.

"Members see recycling bins for their bottles and newspapers and think, 'ooh, my club is green,' " she said.

For his part, Boesel is looking to deepen awareness of any who step into health clubs and gyms. He has performed patent research reaching back to the 1800s to see if his spinning bike setup has been attempted, without finding much.

"The whole green gym concept is in its infancy," he said, ready to cue up Al Gore's movie. "But we have to start somewhere."

Bob Condor writes about health and quality of life every Monday. You can send him ideas or questions at