At most gyms, the treadmills are used for pondering the deliciousness of coffee cake and the inaccuracies of the CNN subtitles on the TVs while plodding away at 3.5 mph. But at the Eco Gym in Glenview, Illinois, the electricity generated by treadmills (and other exercise equipment) is used to power the entire facility.
The idea of generating electricity from exercise equipment has been around for a while now — from the garage-tinkerer, to science fiction, to the elusive bearded hipster — but Eco Gym is one of the few businesses that powers their facility almost entirely with human sweat (solar panels fill in the rest).
Customers don’t just run for environmental reasons, either — they have a financial incentive for keeping moving. Uproxx spoke with Dylan Brown, the general manager of the Glenview Eco Gym, about their unique membership discounts:
The way the flex-rate membership works is that for your visit to register as a “workout” you just need to spend thirty minutes or more here. If you total twenty six visits or more [in a month], that month will cost you zero dollars. Our cardio equipment does produce [much of the gym’s] electricity via kinetic energy, but we also have solar panels up on the roof — so we’re not too strict that [customers] use a specific piece of equipment.
When customers aren’t punishing their quads for Mother Earth, they can recover in one of the provided hyperbaric chambers, or sip on a post-workout cappuccino with the gym’s “coffee membership” (which seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of when people want coffee, but which is also a very nice touch).
So, until all other gyms convert to energy-harnessing exercise equipment (and considering the speed in which they refill the soap dispensers in the bathroom, that might take a while), it’s nice to know there’s a place where the treadmills are generating something besides self-loathing and inner thigh chafing.