Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


Technology and Fitness : The Sustainable Gym
Posted By Scott Bird
Rob Deveraux (California Fitness) and Doug Woodring (Motorwave)

Rob Deveraux (California Fitness) and Doug Woodring (Motorwave).

This is the first part of this month’s collaboration with Run to Win‘s Blaine Moore, a look at the role of technology in fitness equipment. First cab off the rank – The Sustainable Gym.

What is a sustainable gym?

Exercise bikes

Exercise bikes.

Think of a bank of stationary cycles at a typical commercial gym. Gymgoers come and use them for a while – making use of the surrounding lights, music, televisions, informative displays (calories burned, distance travelled etc) and the resistance afforded by the bike itself. Most of that is only really visible to the gym’s owner when the electricity bills arrive.
One of the many ideas behind the Sustainable Gym (notably developed and supported by renowned inventor Lucien Gambarota) is to re-use some of the energy expended by the gym’s patrons to power these devices. Whilst this wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the electricity bills overnight, it’d cut them down considerably.

Sounds great – where can I try this?

Part of the California Fitness team

Part of the California Fitness team.

Gambarota is currently working with entrepeneur Doug Woodring and Hong Kong’s California Fitness chain; developing a range of energy-harvesting gym equipment. Several California Fitness gyms already carry a number of machines from the Powered by YOU range.
Another option is to construct your own. As a noted supporter of the ‘DIY Gym Equipment’ concept, I’m very much in favour of this idea.
Although the obvious equipment to benefit from this treatment sits firmly in the cardio area, there’s no reason to avoid the heavier resistance machines. Rowers lie somewhere in the middle ground, and are ripe for a bit of energy-saving DIY.
Has anyone here played around with the equipment in their own home gyms (cardio gear or otherwise), with an idea to re-using some of the energy put into them?

How much energy can be produced this way?

Compact Fluorescent (CFL)

Compact Fluorescent (CFL).

According to Steve Clinefelter, President of California Fitness, each person can produce approximately 50 watts when exercising at a moderate pace for one hour. As the energy efficiency of the various appliances involved gradually improves, the gym’s expenses will fall even further. Definitely a good thing.

How does it work?



The energy produced from using the machine in question (elliptical trainers are the preferred machines at the moment) is stored in one of several batteries; which are then used to contribute to lighting, music etc around the machines. One machine has also been configured to convert the energy directly, serving as a real-time demonstration of the concept.

It should be noted that some of the electrical devices powered by the machines (part of the lighting setup, for example) is not active until the equipment is in use. Ride a bike, switch on some of the lights.


Here are a couple of videos which help to illustrate the setup.
Watch a brief video [.mov, 22.6mb] of Lucien Gambarota showing one of the devices in use.
News report for the South China Morning Post outlining the system and [streaming, 4.6mb .flv download].

Incidentally, if this has got you thinking about grabbing one for yourself, swing by the SttB Strength Store. Massive range.

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



NB : if you love talking about strength-training as much as I do, you might also like to check out the weekly newsletter (there's also a daily version available). A regular dose of fitness-focussed discussions, absolutely free.


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Written By Scott Bird
Scott is a long-time fitness enthusiast (Jan 2004!), writer and photographer living in Sydney, Australia. If you share the passion for spending a bit of time under a bar, welcome. Love hearing how everyone else trains. You can connect via X (Formerly Twitter), Facebook and the various networks listed in the sidebar.
Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift. Artwork by Vince Palko.