AC4 Fitness

Goleta's “Green” Gym

From left: Ian, Tony, and Connor Calhoun of AC4.
Paul Wellman

When Tony Calhoun opened AC4 Fitness in Goleta in June, he did so with multiple goals in mind. He wanted his gym to be environmentally friendly, easily accessible, and enticing enough for his gym’s members to want to come back. “It’s important to make exercise as palatable as possible,” Calhoun said. “We’ve come up with positive reinforcements.”

Members can bring their friends to work out with them for free. They can opt for post-workout relaxation on the HydroMassage table. They can come whenever is convenient for them — the gym is open 24 hours a day. And they can run on a treadmill, pedal on a stationary bike, or orbit on an elliptical all while generating electricity that feeds into the California grid. The gym’s cardio equipment is retrofitted with ReRev technology, Calhoun said, explaining that the program transfers exercisers’ resistance into energy for the building — the transfer of which people can watch in-progress on a big-screen display.

There is also the EcoMill treadmill, an entirely manual machine that requires the person using it to walk or run to make the belt move. And keeping the exercisers cool is the giant overhead fan — made by a company called, ironically, Big Ass Fans— that reportedly reduces the building’s energy consumption by 30 percent.

Located on the corner of Fairview Avenue and Calle Real, AC4 Fitness goes green elsewhere, too, cleaning with eco-friendly products, using storage lockers fashioned out of recycled plastic, and abstaining from selling plastic water bottles. The gym is also entirely paperless. Although he conceded that it costs more money to be environmentally conscious, Calhoun said that being so is “a matter of good stewardship.”

Calhoun has had some time to formulate that symbiotic approach. In the fitness industry for about 30 years, Calhoun used to be the president of Santa Barbara Flex, Inc., which owned the now-closed Gold’s Gyms. When Spectrum bought Gold’s, Calhoun stayed with them for a little while, but then left and had time to “sit on the sidelines, conceptualize, and dream” about what kind of gym he wanted to open.

Many of the ideas behind the gym, where Tony works with his sons Ian and Connor, came from Tony’s other son, Anthony Calhoun IV. Anthony, Calhoun said, wanted to open a family-run gym. After Anthony died in a car accident in 2009, Calhoun took the reins, and AC4 Fitness as it stands today was born.

With 300-something members so far, Calhoun said that people have really embraced not only the gym’s environmental philosophy but also its dedication to being welcoming. Intimidation and competition, Calhoun said, “turn people away,” which is why he made AC4 Fitness free from group classes and complicated workouts. “The industry has made it too complex. The culture here is really important to us,” Calhoun continued. “So far, it’s been a good group.”

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