When it comes to fitness, many of us look for tangible results first, and ask questions later. We want immediate proof of the hard work we put in during our workout. This barometer for productivity could be called “sweat equity”—a workout ethic many fitness enthusiasts base efforts on when powering through a training session. (Show of hands if you measure your success by how many cups of water you ring out of your clothing after exercise!) But what does it mean if you’re not producing sweat in a fitness class that you thought was the hardest class ever?
First, let’s start with Sweating 101. When our resting body temperature (usually around 98.6°F) rises, a signal is sent throughout our body to warn us that we are overheating. This causes us to produce sweat—made up of water, salt and some leftover minerals in the body. Once we perspire, some of the sweat evaporates and the air cools the remaining water. Diet, individual genetic makeup (like sweat gland size), medication use, and daily habits (like smoking or alcohol consumption) all influence the amount of sweat an individual produces.
Taking the variables mentioned above into consideration, below are 5 reasons you may or may not be sweating during your workouts.
Conditioning refers to your activity lifestyle. Overall, how active are you? How often do you workout? Do you take the stairs or the elevator? What movement health habits have you adopted? A mostly sedentary person might have to work harder during a workout, while someone who consistently works out will have built up endurance and stamina. When you are a well-oiled machine in your activity productivity, you actually sweat sooner into the exercise.
So, you’re addicted to your workout classes? You go four times a week and are the plank queen! Repetition is how we learn and, when it comes to muscles and movement, there is something to be said for “practice makes progress.” However, day after day of the same workout routine over time causes your joints and ligaments to settle into a comfort zone. When you suspect what’s coming, it’s safe and dare I say, easy. Although you don’t find your fave fit class mundane, try a new workout, hop on a different machine, and get into the mental unknown. Provoking a physical challenge will confuse muscles and gain a new sweat outcome.
What’s your fitness style de jour? Slow and steady could win the race and be great for your body, but HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) exercises that requires you to keep moving with minimal to no rest in between are notorious for sweaty outcomes. Another firey sport is weightlifting, which recruits a system called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) causing that deep burn. When muscles generate more heat, they require immediate temperature control, aka sweat.
There are some climates we have control over (like a hot yoga class) and some we don’t (like hot weather and hot flashes!) When muscles are engaged, shaking and firing in a 100-degree studio or during a heat wave, your sweat glands certainly get that extra nudge. If you live and train in naturally hot climates, however, your body is more efficient at cooling down (giving you a serious leg up when entering a heated classroom.) For the rest of us, ease into workouts in hot environments or heated rooms by limiting exercise time at first.
Your outfit makes a huge impact on how sweaty you feel post-workout. So, don’t start gloating because you’re floating in a puddle of sweat after class and your workout buddy is bone dry. The material of her clothing vs. yours could be the difference— some fabrics are designed to absorb sweat, making it seemingly disappear, while others stay damp until a good wash cycle. Regardless, you both deserve equal props for putting in the work.