In The News: In Eco Twist, Exercise Machines Power Gym

July 18, 2012, 11:07AM

By: Kelsey Perry

Off The Grid Fitness is powered by people, both literally and figuratively.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based fitness center, which opened last spring as one of the state’s first eco-friendly gyms, puts its patrons’ hard work to use with energy-harnessing cardio machines that capture and reclaim the power produced by users.

The elliptical machines and fitness bikes found at Off The Grid, manufactured by SportsArt Fitness and PlugOut Fitness, respectively, are part of the fitness industry’s push towards sustainability.

Off The Grid currently has three elliptical machines and 15 spin bikes. In addition to the machines that trap energy, Off The Grid offers also has self-powered treadmills, which consume no energy at all.

The elliptical machines are capable of producing quite a bit of power. Ten machines used at full capacity for one hour can produce enough energy to power a 27-inch flat screen television for 17 hours.

Off the Grid founder Eric Guilleminault got the idea from Adam Boesel, founder of the The Green Microgym in Portland, Ore. and the inventor of the PlugOut fitness bikes.

Guilleminault also used recycled construction material and weightlifting machines when possible and installed bamboo flooring, a far more sustainable resource than hardwood. His locker rooms include dual flush toilets and low-flow faucets and showerheads to eliminate water waste, too.

The former personal trainer always dreamed of opening his own gym, but says he didn’t always envision a green gym.

Off The Grid is not only a novelty in Arizona – it’s one of the few gyms in the country investing in the cardio machines. And being a pioneer means there is no guarantee that this green gym will actually produce enough green to survive.

“This is really a case study,” founder Eric Guilleminault said of Off The Grid. “If it works out then great, if it doesn’t, at least we tried.”

It’s too early to tell if the gym’s innovative concept will be a success, but Guilleminault is hopeful that things will pick up come fall and that eventually he will reach his goal of 300 members.

So far, Guilleminault said that Off The Grid’s green efforts are not what is pulling people in, but most agree they are a nice perk. And once members learn how their tough cardio workout is being converted into new energy, Guilleminault said they usually have the same question: Do I get a discount on my dues because I’m paying your electric bill? (The answer is ‘no.’)

Guilleminault said he hopes to one day open additional facilities in Arizona California.  He chose to start his business in Scottsdale because he heard it was a city whose dwellers were interested in both fitness and the ‘go green’ movement.

But in a city where its residents are often as hot as the sizzling temperatures, competition in the fitness industry can be fierce.

“If I make it here, I think I can pretty much make it anywhere with this concept,” he said.

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