New “green” fitness studio offers innovative, eco-friendly approach for a healthy lifestyle
When we think of going to the gym, many of us immediately conjure up images dodging through massive strip mall parking lots filled with Hummers and holiday shoppers, and flocking toward the luminescent glow of the Gold’s Gym, Bally’s, or L.A. Fitness sign looming in the distance. After conquering the gauntlet outside, you enter through a set of double doors and scan your barcode as if you were entering the cold confines of CIA headquarters. The impersonal touch of corporate America weighs heavily upon your shoulders—and your conscience—before you even break a sweat. From here, it only gets worse.
Having gained access to the building, you wander through a labyrinth of exercise bikes, treadmills and elliptical machines—all of which are occupied by men and women trying to forget about their current task at hand. Even they don’t want to be here. Instead, they divert their attention to a bevy of illuminated television screens suspended from above in an effort to seek inspiration from the likes of “Cops,” CNN, FOX and Maury Povich to fuel their workouts. With each stride and step, the exerciser mindlessly soaks in the numbing rays from the TV and subconsciously begins the countdown to the next Big Mac.
Don’t forget about maneuvering through the packs of the window-workout crowd. You know—the people that pay $50 a month to meet friends at the gym and talk about how much they hate their co-workers and recommend reputable plastic surgeons to perform the ever-routine nip and tuck. Hearing about the difficult lives of this next crop of wannabe insecure actresses may result in a particularly productive kickboxing class, but ultimately shaves months—if not years—off the lives of those of us who are aware that this world does, in fact, revolve around the sun.
If you haven’t turned around and headed for the exit by now, you have passed the first obstacle to staying fit in today’s modern world. You wish there was an easier way. While you entertain the thought of giving up and embracing a life of obesity, you press forward in search of a better way to build a healthy lifestyle.
What we want is a simple, straightforward approach to counteract the fat-enhancing effects of sitting in an office for 50 hours a week—coupled with our penchant for carne asada burritos—and burn off our excess calories at a place that is clean, convenient, and a comfortable environment. The problem we encounter is that a place like this is not easy to find. Until now…
Meet The Greenasium
I had a chance to speak with Byron Spratt, owner of The Greenasium, San Diego’s first-ever green fitness studio located in Encinitas. Spratt, who developed the Greenasium concept with his younger brother Alex and best friend David Chaffee—both co-owners—has been through the hassles of the mainstream gym experience himself and tells us it is possible to have a no-nonsense workout at his Greenasium.
Even more appealing, The Greenasium team assures you that your exercise regimen will also help the community reduce its carbon footprint—a step that most of us are more than happy to take, especially when it requires no extra effort.
“After being a member of corporate owned fitness chains, I realized the service I was receiving was less than acceptable. I was treated like a number to someone I had never met,” said Spratt. He says, “Our approach is similar to other gyms in that we offer the same services, but ours are packaged in a personal, environmental way. We are part of the community and have a mission to give back to the city and people who have helped us get where we are today.”
A Unique Approach to Personal Fitness
The Greenasium boasts several features that other gyms simply do not offer. For starters, you do not need to enter into a lengthy contract to join, or even become a member. It is finally possible to pay as you go. Placing the clients’ needs as the number one priority adds a savvy personal touch unmatched by those other places.
“We treat people like people, not credit cards,” says Alex, point-blank. “Since we don’t force contracts upon you, we have to really be on top of customer satisfaction. We want you to come back because you want to, not because your billing statement says you have to.”
This philosophy of flexibility is a characteristic unheard of at larger corporate fitness centers. As Byron puts it, “We are smaller and can focus more on accommodating the wants and needs of the clients and the individuals’ goals rather than worry about pleasing stock holders or corporate CEOs.”
The gym offers one-on-one personal fitness training sessions with one of the expert Greenasium trainers, as well as group training sessions. Co-owners Alex and David double as personal trainers and have more than 25 years of combined experience in the business of helping people like you and me achieve our fitness goals—from modest to lofty and everything in between.
Throughout our conversation, they continually emphasized the commitment to their clients—a cornerstone they pride themselves upon at The Greenasium.
“Having been a fitness trainer for 14 years, I feel I have the ability to provide leadership and support that individuals need to live a more healthy and productive lifestyle,” says Dave, who has also been working as a Registered Nurse for nearly two years. “The environment we create is hard to find. We provide unparalleled customer service, immaculate cleanliness, a therapeutic learning environment, and a sense of belonging.”
The sense of belonging is evident in the array of programs they offer. You can sign up for yoga, try out a Zumba class and dance your way into a better body, or build lean muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness with a circuit workout. Don’t feel like working out indoors? Try one of Greenasium’s outdoor sessions.
Alex, who is also a manager at a whole foods supplier, underscores their dedication “from the moment you step in, to the moment you leave. We make you feel comfortable and part of the group. We leave no one behind.”
Rather than take him at his word, he encourages people to experience The Greenasium firsthand. “It’s hard to describe how we treat you, so you should really stop in and see for yourself.”
The Power of Green
To top off a fresh approach to fitness is one thing no other gym or studio in San Diego can boast: The Greenasium is the only place in the county—and one of only a few in the world—where you can generate your own electricity on one of their visCycles, manufactured by Re:source Fitness in Portland, Oregon. These stationary bikes are retrofitted with an inverter that harnesses kinetic energy created by spinners as they pedal through their workout and transforms it into AC power which, as it is plugged into the wall, passes the current back into the power grid. One rider can produce enough electricity to power the box fan that cools the gym. Three at a time can offset electricity used for the music, computer and lights.
At first glance, I was very impressed with the technology. However, after thinking about the concept in comparison to the other “green” measures like expensive electric automobiles or solar panels, the skeptic in me wanted to know what the catch is. These bikes must be ridiculously expensive, right? Not so.
“The bikes cost only slightly more than the standard,” assured Byron, “but since we purchased them directly from the small business that merged the technology, we were able to actually save a bit of money. We also benefit by having a piece of equipment that is a cardio exercise machine, marketing tool and great conversation starter.”
OK, fair enough. But they probably feel particularly strange and awkward compared to a conventional exercise bike, right?
Chaffee corrects this assumption, saying “they are nearly identical in feel, resistance, watts, and such. The only big difference is that they generate electricity.”
Personally, I consider myself fairly conscious of the environment and am happy to help preserve our planet’s natural resources…but, please—make it easy. It’s hard enough for me to separate my plastic from my paper waste and my beer bottles from the cardboard six-pack holders in which they originate. The Greenasium does just that. In fact, it is actually impossible to not make a difference in the conservation effort at this studio. Even a semi-intelligent dolt like me can be a part of the green movement just by walking on the gym’s floor, consisting of recycled tires, or utilizing the low-flush toilets after recycling a liter of energy drink.
When faced with a chance to exercise in exactly the same way I would normally exercise while conserving energy instead of wasting it, I don’t see how you can go wrong. So rather than being relegated to exercising in a facility where the power meter spins infinitely faster than the 20 or 30 treadmills and ellipticals inside, your energy is expended to burn calories, build a better body and produce some serious kilowatts. Pretty cool stuff.
A Little Added Peer Pressure
If you are like me, sometimes a little added reinforcement from exercising with friends not only causes you to push your workout with more vigor, it also helps in sticking to your weekly routine. I am extremely good at talking myself out of going to the gym, but when you try to weasel out among three or four friends, the ensuing chorus of being called “wuss” is sufficient motivation to save face and high-tail it off the couch.
The Greenasium takes this approach in their group training sessions, where you and a group of two to five friends receive guidance from one of the gym’s certified trainers and work together to work out. This also provides the individuals with the chance to observe proper technique and coach their cohorts along the way.
In addition to working out in a group, you can work out as a couple. Ladies, this is a great way to get your guy to start working off all of the added calories consumed during football season and keep him from looking like one of the oversized linemen he watches every weekend. Guys, it’s always a risky proposition to recommend that your lady-friend exercise more (triggering a response along the lines of “what, are you saying I’m fat”), but exercising together can reinforce your commitment to each other. It also scores you major points in her book, which in turn, scores you points in other areas of interest within your relationship.
Understand what I’m saying?
For those of you getting ready to tie the knot, The Greenasium offers special programs tailored to help you look your best when you say “I do.” Bridal bootcamps, bachelorette, and groom-to-be programs are featured with the goal of preparing for those wedding photos or avoiding being left empty handed at the altar at the last minute.
Giving Something Back to the Community—Imagine That
Perhaps the most enduring idea throughout my conversation with The Greenasium guys is the importance of giving back to the community, and that concept is what is catching on most with the customers.
“The environmental theme gets people interested, but they keep coming back because they feel part of a movement, within themselves and the community,” says Byron Spratt.
The feeling of community is further accentuated in other ways. David Chaffee manages The Greenasium’s community programming aspect, acknowledging that “we can’t completely be green with everything thing we do inside the gym, so we balance it out every month when we volunteer for local events such as beach clean ups, waste recycling pick ups, and street fairs.”
Imagine going to a gym where everybody knows your name. A place where you can focus on a workout that is tailored to fit your needs and abilities by a sensible trainer that you can relate to, as opposed to one that gets paid to eyeball female clientele and chews through stacks of rebar in their spare time.
Try to imagine the satisfaction of breaking a sweat at a locally-owned company rather than slaving away behind the façade of corporate domination. Imagine doing all of this and actually taking steps to preserve the environment at the same time. At the Greenasium, it is not an imagination. It’s reality.
October 22, 2010
– Photos provided courtesy of The Greenasium
More information and Links:
To learn more about The Greenasium, visit their website at: www.thegreenasium.com
Re:Source Fitness, manufacturers of VisCycles: www.resourcefitness.net