Top Ten Green Workout Tips
Apart from sheer laziness, one of the ways I justify my lack of gym membership cards is that the whole idea of getting on a piece of energy-using equipment just to use our energy seems like such a waste of, well, energy! And how many regular gym-goers do you know who drive the short distance to the gym, only to then cycle nowhere on a stationary bike?
However, we do still need to find ways to keep fit. So here are ten tips for working out without running down the environment.
Work out at home
There’s a reason a ton of celebrity DVD’s are brought out every year: working out at home is easy and convenient. Plenty of routines—like weight training, yoga, or Pilates—require nothing more than a mat and some room to lunge or squat, so it’s possible to put together a cardio and strength training combination that you can do while watching Friends before dinner. Try creating a home gym using equipment that requires you to generate the power. You could use dumbbells, tubing, kettle bells, jump ropes and self-powered cardio machines such as spinning bikes and rowing machines.
Electrically powered exercise machines at fitness centers and home gyms require a lot of energy to operate, but why waste the energy required to run a treadmill or stationery bike when the whole world is waiting for you? Lacing up a pair of running shoes and going for a jog is the simplest workout; all you need are the shoes. Walking, hiking, biking and jogging are all great cardiovascular activities. Along the way, stop to strength train by using your body weight for resistance with lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, dips and step-ups. If you’re not a runner, you still have options: hit your local hiking trails, take your bike out for a spin, or just add a daily walk to your lunch hour. Not only will you get a great workout, you’ll also have lots of fun connecting with the natural world and your community. You can go it alone, enlist a workout partner or even start a workout group in your neighborhood.
Give your gadgets a charge
Why not hook your stationary bike up to a generator, or battery and use it to power electrical appliances from iPods to televisions and laptops. There are kits (like this one) that are simple to install and give you an extra motivational push to make sure you don’t skip your daily workout.
Join a gym
Okay, okay, I know I just said don’t go to the gym, but the reality is that sometimes there are factors that make it nearly impossible to start your own program—winter blizzards, cramped apartments, and late hours all make working out at home much trickier than hitting the gym on your lunch hour. And using the machines already at the gym is better than buying your own. But try to green your gym experience as much as you can: don’t use two towels when one (or zero!) will do, bring a reusable water bottle, and set the treadmill to a higher incline so it uses less energy. If you live in Hong Kong there is also the option of a human powered gym!
Working out with other people is one of the most effective ways to stick with your plan; keeping each other accountable helps you both get fit faster. Finding a jogging partner or a tennis opponent makes it easier to schedule your workouts (and harder to skip them); even better, sign up for a group race or join a larger team to play soccer, softball, volleyball, or any other sport you love. Bonus: The team will likely have a lot of the equipment already, so you can skip buying your own or share.
Make sure your body is fueled with fresh, organic food, and skip the junk. Go for organic energy bars that don’t include ingredients like sugar or artificial colors and flavors, and that are made from fruit, nuts, fiber, protein, and natural (not trans) fats. Before you exercise, fuel yourself with a snack that’s high in carbs and low in fat—like pretzels—and drink lots of water. After your session, snack on a combination of carbs and protein to replenish your energy supplies.
Mix it up
Replace inactive parts of your daily life with activity and you want have to find any extra time. Try walking or riding your bike to work (yes even in the winter you softie) or walking to the supermarket or post office and you’ll save gas and get fitter.
Even do-anywhere workouts (like yoga) are easier with a mat, and a biking routine is a bit difficult without the old two-wheeled thing. But you don’t have to buy new. Check the web, or your local sporting goods store (or your closet) for deals on used bikes, weights, and other equipment. Eco-friendly yoga mats, which are made of non-PVC materials, are easy to find, and you might be surprised at how good your workout can be just using everyday household objects.
Fancy fabrics help sweat evaporates before it dries on your skin, they keep you dry and warm, and the shoes are cushioned according to your sport. But there are eco-alternatives, too: sneakers made with recycled rubber soles (just be sure to recycle them when you’re done), tops and pants that combine soy and organic cotton blends, and coconut shells transformed into breathable fabrics. Look for companies with sustainable business practices, like Patagonia, REI, and Nau.
Encourage others to change
Having decided that you want to join the gym, you can still encourage your local health club to make some green changes: restrict the use of towels, invest in energy-efficient machines, offer recycling bins for water bottles (or, even better, stop selling them altogether), set up the televisions to shut off when the machines aren’t in use. You could also talk to your workout partner about switching indoor workouts for weekend hikes or bike rides. At the very least it will bring some variety into what can become a boring routine.