If just the thought of taking a hot workout class is enough to send beads of sweat cascading down your temples, I feel you. Sometimes you don't want to be drenched with sweat in a humid studio, and all you crave is a low-key workout in an air-conditioned studio. Now that it's finally warm, many of us are in need of exactly this type of chill. Enter, Brrrn, a brand new boutique fitness studio in New York City that specialises in cold workouts.
At Brrrn, they offer three types of workouts, with different degrees of chilliness: 1st˚, a yoga-inspired workout in a 60-degree studio; 2nd˚, a core and cardio workout in a 55-degree studio; and 3rd˚, a strength training workout with battle ropes in a 45-degree studio. The classes sound gimmicky, for sure, but the creators of Brrrn insist that there's a deeper reason why they choose to keep their studio so frigid.
As the story goes, Jimmy T. Martin, one of the co-founders of Brrrn, was training a client who told him she couldn't stand the heat, and felt like she exercised better, and looked and felt her best during the cold winter months. "It got me thinking, if those things are true, then why aren’t we turning the thermostat down?" Martin says. He pitched the idea for a cold workout studio to Johnny Adamic, a self-described "big skeptic" with a background in public health, who told Martin he had to do some research before he got on board.
In a heated environment, people are just looking forward to the end of their workout at the very beginning. If anything, the cold brings you into the present.
Jimmy T Martin, co-founder of Brrrn
The thing is, there have been several studies published about the what happens to your body when you're exposed to cool temperatures, between 40 and 64 degrees to be exact. When you're cold, your body has to work harder to maintain your core body temperature. So, you technically use more "energy" (aka calories) in the cold. But that's just one aspect that makes a cold workout more effective, Martin says. As a body-positive studio that's not focused on weight loss, they wanted to be sure there was more to their cold workout than just the calorie-burning schtick.
According to the Brrrn founders, we're all too comfortable in warm temperatures, and our "chronic need for comfort" has affected our workouts. "In a heated environment, people are just looking forward to the end of their workout at the very beginning," he says. "If anything, the cold brings you into the present." Sure, if you are shivering inside a cold studio, it's hard to ignore that. But, some studies about productivity have shown that people are more efficient in warm temps (around 77 degrees), and they make more errors in a cold environment (around 68 degrees). So, the question is, how does a cold workout really feel?
I took a 3rd˚ class on a springy day last week, because I wanted to get the full experience. I wore a long-sleeve shirt and leggings, although some people in the class wore gloves and hats. The 45-degree room truly feels like a refrigerator, and it looks like one, too. Unlike exercising outdoors, there's no windchill to worry about in the studio, so it feels more like walking through the freezer section of a grocery store than stepping outside during a bomb cyclone, which is nice.
The class started with a warmup of squats and a move called a "fire starter," whereby you rub your hands together as if starting a fire. Then, half the class did a strength training circuit with dumbbells, while the other half used battle ropes. I warmed up pretty quickly, although my hands stayed pretty cold.
At one point, I got nervous that if I stopped moving I would get too cold and pull a muscle or something. Apparently, Brrrn gets a lot of questions about injuries. "It's not a concern at all," Adamic says. "Pulling a muscle, whether it's cool or hot, has to do with your movement pattern." That may be true, however it does take muscles longer to warm up when you're in cold temperatures. So, it's important to be careful, actually do the warmup, and dress appropriately for the temps.
When the class was over, we had to stand in a circle and rub our hands once again, then take slow breaths together. Stepping into the lobby, I felt that familiar thaw that you get in the summer when you step outside of an air-conditioned building. At Brrrn, you can treat yourself to a group infrared sauna session after the class (as they say, "heat is dessert"), but I was just happy to be back in my comfy thermal cocoon.
While the cold workout trend might be A Thing, it's not for me. Adamic really believes that some people will be drawn to the "discomfort" of the cold. "By and large, we’re just trying to recalibrate our perception with comfort," he says. "We feel that if you live in New York City, especially, you’re already inviting discomfort into your day — why not add 45 minutes to it?" But that's just it: There are enough uncomfortable stimulants I have to deal with in life, so I don't think my workout environment needs to be one, too.