Archive for February, 2010

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Deep breathing from Anxiety Therapy Online

Non smokers don’t get it. I’ve heard nonsmokers say, “Why don’t you just quit?” Or “How can any intelligent person smoke?” (Knowing what we know about smoking and health.) Smoking addiction isn’t a rational decision. People don’t get up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I will fill my lungs with carcinogens.” Like any addiction, smoking is a habit and a physical dependence on a powerful chemical substance. The addiction to nicotine can override people’s intellectual beliefs about health. If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or persistent diarrhea, you know what it’s like to have an overwhelming urge you can’t control. Being addicted to smoking is a similar situation. It gives people strong urges that are very difficult to deny or control.

Read more from the American Cancer Society about nicotine withdrawal:

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can lead quitters back to smoking

When smokers try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Both the physical and mental factors must be addressed for the quitting process to work.

Those who have smoked regularly for a few weeks or longer, and suddenly stop using tobacco or greatly reduce the amount smoked, will have withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks. They will get better every day that you stay smoke-free.

Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:

  • dizziness (which may only last 1 to 2 days after quitting)
  • depression
  • feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbances, including having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
  • trouble concentrating
  • restlessness or boredom
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • constipation and gas
  • cough, dry mouth, sore throat, and nasal drip
  • chest tightness

These symptoms can lead the smoker to start smoking cigarettes again to boost blood levels of nicotine back to a level where there are no symptoms. (For information on coping with withdrawal, see the section, “How to quit.”)

Smoking also makes your body get rid of some drugs faster than usual. When you quit smoking, it may change the way your body handles medicines. Ask your doctor if any medicines you take regularly need to be checked or changed after you quit.

Dealing with withdrawal

Withdrawal from nicotine has 2 parts — the physical and the mental. The physical symptoms, while annoying, are not life-threatening. Nicotine replacement and other medicines can help reduce many of these physical symptoms. Most smokers find that the bigger challenge is the mental part of quitting.

If you have been smoking for any length of time, smoking has become linked with nearly everything you do — waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, and drinking coffee, for example. It will take time to “un-link” smoking from these activities. This is why, even if you are using a nicotine replacement, you may still have strong urges to smoke.

Rationalizations are sneaky

One way to overcome these urges or cravings is to notice and identify rationalizations as they come up. A rationalization is a mistaken thought that seems to make sense to you at the time, but the thought is not based on reality. If you choose to believe in such a thought, it can serve as a way to justify smoking. If you have tried to quit before, you will probably recognize many of these common rationalizations:

  • I’ll just have one to get through this rough spot.
  • Today is not a good day. I’ll quit tomorrow.
  • It’s my only vice.
  • How bad is smoking, really? Uncle Harry smoked all his life and he lived to be over 90.
  • Air pollution is probably just as bad.
  • You’ve got to die of something.
  • Life is no fun without smoking.

You probably can add more to the list. As you go through the first few days without smoking, write down any rationalizations as they come up and recognize them for what they are: messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Look out for them, because they always show up when you’re trying to quit. After you write down the idea, let it go from your mind. Be ready with a distraction, a plan of action, and other ways to re-direct your thoughts to something else.

Use the ideas below to help you stay committed to quitting.

Avoid temptation: Stay away from people and places where you are tempted to smoke. Later on you will be able to handle these with more confidence.

Change your habits: Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a coffee break.

Alternatives: Use substitutes you can put in your mouth such as sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or sunflower seeds. Some people chew on a coffee stirrer or a straw.

Do something to reduce your stress. Exercise or do hobbies that keep your hands busy, such as needlework or woodworking, which can help distract you from the urge to smoke. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.

Deep breathing: When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker.

Delay: If you feel that you are about to light up, delay. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.

Reward yourself

What you’re doing is not easy, so you deserve a reward. Put the money you would have spent on tobacco in a jar every day and then buy yourself a weekly treat. Buy a magazine or book, go out to eat, develop a new hobby, or take a yoga class. Or save the money for a major purchase. You can also reward yourself in ways that don’t cost money: visit a park, go to the library, and check local news listings for museums, community centers, and colleges that have free classes, exhibits, films, and other things to do.

Read more at the American Cancer Society’s website here.

Notice that many of the strategies for handing nicotine withdrawal are the same strategies people use for stress management!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I’ve been performing chair massages in the Chicago area for the past 10 years or so. In 2001, I opened my first chair massage station in Whole Foods Gold Coast. Since then I’ve opened several chair massage stations in and around the Chicago area. As a massage therapist and former corporate trainer and writer, I had a number of different “bosses” and I’ve learned from each of them.  I’ve learned to select good team members and treat them with respect, provide them with good working conditions and give them the opportunity to promote themselves.

The Working Well Massage chair stations provide an excellent opportunity for good massage therapists to meet new clients. The in store massage stations also give massage clients a chance to meet and sample the work of a variety of talented massage therapists at a reasonable rate.

Who are these talented massage therapists at Working Well chair massage stations?

In the coming weeks, I will be introducing some of them to you. This week, I am introducing Dennis Frymire, a recent addition to our Lincoln Park team.

Dennis gives  a really powerful deep tissue massage and can also scale back his pressure to give a nice relaxing massage. For those that want deep pressure and a skilled therapeutic massage, I highly recommend Dennis!

Dennis Frymire, Licensed Massage Therapist, Actor

I interviewed Dennis about his interest in massage, his style and his education. Read on for Dennis’ story:

Dennis Frymire

I came into a massage therapy as part of a lifestyle overhaul I realized I needed after my mom passed away in March of 2008. My dad passed away in 2002, and both of them leaving us at such relatively young ages made me realize that I needed make some changes in how I was living, and massage therapy came along with that. At the time I was considering different massage schools, a co-worker in my office had just graduated from The Soma Institute, and she highly recommended the school.

Having trained at Soma, I approach massage more from a clinical and therapeutic aspect. I give a great wellness massage, but I love helping clients with specific knots and stresses that they need to have worked out. One of the reasons I love giving chair massages is that they often have that specific focus on a problem area for the client. As I continue to grow and hone my skills, I am very interested in exploring sports massage further.

I currently massage with Working Well Massage at the Lincoln Park location at 1550 N. Kingsbury.
My hours at the chair massage station are:

Thursdays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Saturdays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

I also give chair massages to club members at West Loop Athletic Club. I also make outcalls to private clients under my own business, Better Life Massage & Bodywork.

I am also an actor, director, and performer around Chicago. As part of a way of giving back to the Chicago theater community, I offer my massage services to fellow actors and performers at a heavily discounted rate.

Note: Although Dennis looks very serious in his professional headshot, he’s a very laid back, easy-going guy. If you meet him in person, he will likely be smiling! Stop by and try a massage with Dennis on Thursdays or Saturdays from 12 noon to 4p.m. at the Lincoln Park chair massage location at 1550 N. Kingsbury.

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Unlit filtered cigarettes
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Coping with stress can be tough. Some people turn to cigarettes as a way to cope with stress. In the long run, smoking doesn’t help your body ward off stress…it creates new health and social problems that lead to more stress. Quitting smoking is also tough but the rewards are numerous.  I was once a heavy smoker myself and quitting was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Quitting smoking also freed me from a crippling dependence not only on nicotine but on the habit of ingesting smoke with the result of having my clothes and hair smell like smoke and having yellow fingers and skin that was aging more rapidly than normal.

The American Cancer Society has great information on smoking cessation. In the next few posts we will share some tips o quitting smoking with you.

Why is it so hard to quit smoking?

Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Maybe you’ve tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people? The answer is nicotine.


Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically and emotionally addicted to (dependent on) nicotine. Studies have shown that smokers must deal with both the physical and psychological (mental) dependence to quit and stay quit.

How nicotine gets in, where it goes, and how long it stays

When you inhale smoke, nicotine is carried deep into your lungs. There it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout your body. Nicotine affects many parts of the body, including your heart and blood vessels, your hormones, the way your body uses food (your metabolism), and your brain. Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in mucus from the cervix of a female smoker. During pregnancy, nicotine freely crosses the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.

Different factors affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products. In most cases, regular smokers will still have nicotine or its by-products, such as cotinine, in their bodies for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.

How nicotine hooks smokers

Nicotine causes pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. It also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering with the flow of information between nerve cells. Smokers tend to increase the number of cigarettes they smoke as the nervous system adapts to nicotine. This, in turn, increases the amount of nicotine in the smoker’s blood. In fact, nicotine inhaled in cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body through a vein (intravenously or IV).

After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance means that it takes more nicotine to get the same effect that the smoker used to get from smaller amounts. This leads to an increase in smoking over time. The smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and then keeps smoking to maintain this level of nicotine.

Read more at the American Cancer Society website here.

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A cigarette butt, lying in dirty snow.
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently a client of mine quit smoking. He’s using a combination of tools to help him stay quit and I have to say I am so proud of his progress so far!   When I quit smoking about 17 years ago, I found that the negative press on smoking wasn’t motivation enough. Quitting smoking is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Knowing that I could get lung cancer some far off date in the future should have scared me enough to quit, but frankly it didn’t. I could rationalize my smoking, tell myself I had plenty of time to quit before my health was impacted. I could tell myself that I’d deal with the consequences later. To give me the mental courage to quit I needed something to hang onto. I needed reasons why quitting would make my life better. Strategies for coping with life to replace the coping crutch of smoking.

The reasons I quite smoking were many. Remembering them helped me cope with withdrawal symptoms and keep me away from smoking.
1. I didn’t want to hurt my pets. They could get burned from accidents with cigarettes. It also hurt their little lungs.
2. I got mad when I was winded after walking up a flight of stairs. I wanted to be in better shape. Smoking was hurting my cardiovascular fitness.
3. Smoking wasn’t making me any thinner. I had quit before, gained weight and started smoking again to take the weight off. Only it didn’t work.
4. Smoking made me less desirable as an employee and as a partner. I was single and wanted to look for a new job when I quit. Smoking was holding me back on both counts.
5. I wanted my hair and skin to smell cleaner.
6. I wanted to stop the rapid aging process of my skin. Smoking made me look 10 years older!
7. Cigarettes were getting expensive. Back when I quit they were up to about $2.00 a pack. Now they cost even more. At about $8/pack x 30 days=$240…that’s the price of a car payment!
8. Smoking was no longer “cool.” Being a smoker made me feel socially alienated.

What are/were your reasons for quitting?

The American Cancer Society lists more great reasons to help motivate you to quit smoking. Read on to find out what they are!

When smokers quit — What are the benefits over time?

20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.

(Mahmud A, Feely J. Effect of Smoking on Arterial Stiffness and Pulse Pressure Amplification. Hypertension. 2003;41:183.)

12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 193, 194, 196, 285, 323)

1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)

1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a person who continues smoking. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease, too.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 131, 148, 152, 155, 164, 166)

15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

Immediate rewards of quitting

Kicking the tobacco habit offers some benefits that you’ll notice right away and some that will develop over time. These rewards can improve your day-to-day life a great deal:

  • your breath smells better
  • stained teeth get whiter
  • bad smelling clothes and hair go away
  • your yellow fingers and fingernails disappear
  • food tastes better
  • your sense of smell returns to normal
  • everyday activities no longer leave you out of breath (such as climbing stairs or light housework)


The prospect of better health is a major reason for quitting, but there are other reasons, too. Smoking is expensive. It isn’t hard to figure out how much you spend on smoking: multiply how much money you spend on tobacco every day by 365 (days per year). The amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of years you have been using tobacco and that amount will probably shock you.

Multiply the cost per year by 10 (for the next 10 years) and ask yourself what you would rather do with that much money.

And this doesn’t include other possible costs, such as higher costs for health and life insurance, and likely health care costs due to tobacco-related problems.
Social acceptance
Smoking is less socially acceptable now than ever.

Today, almost all workplaces have some type of smoking rules. Some employers even prefer to hire non-smokers. Studies show smoking employees cost businesses more because they are out sick more. Employees who are ill more often than others can raise an employer’s need for costly short-term replacement workers. They can increase insurance costs both for other employees and for the employer, who often pays part of the workers’ insurance premiums. Smokers in a building also can increase the maintenance costs of keeping odors down, since residue from cigarette smoke clings to carpets, drapes, and other fabrics.

Landlords may choose not to rent to smokers since maintenance costs and insurance rates may rise when smokers live in buildings.

Friends may ask you not to smoke in their homes or cars. Public buildings, concerts, and even sporting events are largely smoke-free. And more and more communities are restricting smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars. Like it or not, finding a place to smoke can be a hassle.

Smokers may also find their prospects for dating or romantic involvement, including marriage, are largely limited to other smokers, who make up less than 21% of the adult population.

Health of others
Smoking not only harms your health but it hurts the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking) includes exhaled smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes.

Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year from lung cancer and heart disease in healthy non-smokers.

If a mother smokes, there is a higher risk of her baby developing asthma in childhood, especially if she smoked while she was pregnant. Smoking is also linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low-birth weight infants. Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and other lung and breathing problems than children in non-smoking families. Secondhand smoke can also cause eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
Setting an example
If you have children, you probably want to set a good example for them. When asked, nearly all smokers say they don’t want their children to smoke. But children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves. You can become a good role model for them by quitting now.

Read more at the American Cancer Society website here.

How to Quit

Government Resources from the CDC website here.

Pathways to Freedom
Pathways to Freedom

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Low back pain is a common complaint these days. Most people work at an office or are spending much of their day sitting. This tightens hip flexor muscles (ilopsoas which consists of the Iliacus and Psoas muscles) and can lead to low back tension. One way to help combat low back tension is to strengthen the muscles that are deep to your “core”,”or the muscles that are closest to your actual spine.

Anterior Spine Muscles

Sylvia Marten from Spine-Health.com shares tips on using an exercise ball to strength low back muscles. read this excerpt from her article, “Using an Exercise Ball to Rehab Your Back.”

Spine Strengthening Exercises on the Ball

Low back injuries often restrict movement and lead to the weakening of low back muscles. Exercise balls are a great option for a gentle core-strengthening program that can stabilize the muscles surrounding the spine and help prevent future injury.

One of the simplest ways to incorporate an exercise ball into your routine is just to practice sitting on it.

Sitting on the ball activates the core muscles required to maintain balance. If you are having trouble balancing, deflate the ball a little for added stability. If your balance feels good, try replacing your office chair with an exercise ball or sitting on the ball while watching television. Besides working your core muscles, the ball also reduces stress on the spine.

Many low back injuries occur as a result of improper lifting; squats that use an exercise ball for support (the exercise ball is placed against the wall behind the small of the back) train the back to retain proper posture and train the knees not to extend over the toes.

The muscle action required to remain upright on the ball also helps in finding a neutral spine position, improving posture, increasing low back mobility, and developing overall strength and control of the core muscles—both back and abdominal. As with any exercise program, it is essential to consult your doctor or a licensed physical therapist before beginning.
Read the entire article at Spine-Health here.

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Tai Chi in the Grange
Image by Darren // DA Creative Photography via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

If you want to try a tai chi class and are not an in home video/dvd afficionado, there are classes around the Chicagoland area you may want to check out. While not an exhaustive list, it does give you a few ideas of where to look for tai chi instruction.

Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA

Midwest Branch of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society
A charitable organization that promotes the dual cultivation of body and mind.

They offer instruction in the Taoist Tai Chi Society® internal arts of health including tai chi chuan in the following locations:

Chicago Center
1922 W. Montrose Ave, Chicago IL 60613
773 275-5992
Arlington Heights Center
332 E. Golf Road,
Arlington Heights IL 60005

United Methodist Church
155 S Main St
(Corner Main and Maple)
Lombard, IL

• Elmhurst
Elmhurst Presbyterian Church
367 Spring Road
Elmhurst, IL 60126

The Tai Chi Center of Chicago

4043 N. Ravenswood, Suite 228
Chicago, IL 60613

4-Week Introductory Class

    Cost: $50.00 a month for one class a week (4 classes) plus a one time registration fee of $10.00.
    Requirements: Come 15 minuted early on your first day to register. Wear loose comfortable clothing.

Ongoing Tai Chi Program [Beginning Level I – Advanced III]
Cost:$80.00 a month.
All forms other than the 64-posture Tai Chi Chuan and Tan Tui are initially taught in special seminars and will incur additional fees.

Link to their website here.

Durgerberg Academy of Martial Arts & Fitnexx, Inc.

Chicago Martial Arts Classes

Link to Dugerberg website here.

Stirling Tai Chi

(773) 252-74431123 N. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60622

Northwestern Memorial Hospital:

Northwestern Memorial Hospital – Feinberg and Galter Pavilions
251 E. Huron
Chicago, IL 60611

Slow, steady movements encourage the flow of “Chi” or vital energy. Performed in a standing position. Tai Chi helps reduce tension and builds strength and balance. It is ideal for those with arthritis or joint pain. Instructor : Raye Bemis

For more information or to register:
Phone: 1-877-926-4664
Link to February class sign up here.

Forest Park (Yoga & Healing & Tai Chi) Dahn Yoga Studio

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Center Photo 1
7233 Madison St Ste. #2. Forest Park. IL 60130
Phone : 708-771-9642

Website link here.

Clark (Body + Brain franchise center) Dahn Yoga Studio

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2732 N. Clark St. Chicago. IL 60614
Phone : 773-755-9566

Website link here.

La Grange (Body + Brain franchise center) Dahn Yoga Studio

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108 W Burlington Ave. La Grange. IL 60525
Phone : 708-482-0571

Website link here.

Glenview Qi /Ki Gong Therapy Dahn Yoga Studio

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2630 Golf Road. Glenview. IL 60025
Phone : 847-998-1377

Website link here.

Schaumburg (Body + Brain Franchise Center) Dahn Yoga Studio

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1063 N. Salem Dr. Schaumburg. IL 60194
Phone : 847-882-6980

Website link here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapists, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Now you can power your household appliances while you workout! Energy shortages and high levels of obesity–one company aims to solve both problems with one product: The Human Dynamo 4.2. The designer, Henry Works, created this workout machine to harness the energy you produce while exercising.

Human Dynamo 4.2

How Does the Human Dynamo 4.2 Work?

The machine has a 200 watt (max) permanent magnet generator. The control unit allows the rider to vary the output and therefore the effort required. A person in decent shape can average from 60-120 watts per hour (watts).

Note: this is true electrical output; the generator is about 70% efficient so the actual physical work is 30% higher.

The HD Power Control shows watts being produced, watt/hours (WH) for session, battery voltage and total WH produced since first day of use.

Some typical power uses:
Laptop 60-80 watts.
Stereo 30-70 watts.
Small TV 60-100 watts.

As you can see if you work out for 30 minutes at 100 watts you have made 50 watts (half an hour). So you could listen to a stereo at 25 watts for a two hours.

The Future of Harnessing Human Energy-FireWheel Inter Grid Generation – the FIGG System

Henry Works is currently testing a way of connecting a rotary power source, like the Human Dynamo, directly to the Grid. He calls this system the “FireWheel Inter Grid Generation” system or “FIGG” for short. He will be testing this soon at The Green Micro Gym in Portland, OR.

What it means is that no special DC wiring is needed or inverters to hook up machines. The Dynamo will simply “plug in” to a standard socket and the power flows out through the cord into the circuit. If the power in the building goes out, the system stops producing power, making it entirely safe.

How Can the Human Dynamo Help Reduce Your Utility Bill?

As to your utility bill; the electrical meter slows down in relation to the inside power generated and if you have enough machines producing more than you are using, the meter will turn backwards! If you have produced more than you consumed for the month, most utility companies let you store this as a credit for the following month. (To make this much energy, the machines would have to be in use for most of the day).

How Do I Order a Human Dynamo 4.2?

Go to the Website here. The complete machine is $1950. You will need a heavy duty 12 volt battery and 120 volt AC inverter to power small appliances. If you buy basic version the generator-control can be added later with common tools.

Who is Talking About the Human Dynamo 4.2?

Read this article, from the BBC,  “A Gym Powered by Sweat and Tears” and watch the video showing how a gym in Portland Oregon is using the Human Dynamo to power their gym!

Men’s Health magazine has a great article on the Human Dynamo 4.2 in their March, 2010 issue: Harness Your Power

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