July 16, 2008

Fanning the Flames at the Gym

[By Crabby]

As a grown-up, reasonably intelligent person, I do understand that everyone is different. When it comes to opinions and personal preferences, it's all subjective--there really is no real "right" or "wrong."

Is "big band jazz" a better kind of music than "death metal?" Is blue a prettier color than yellow? Is a big bowl of chocolate ice cream tastier than one containing ginger-lime sorbet?

It really isn't fair for me to say--though of course I have strong opinions on all three counts. You all may think differently and doesn't your opinion count just as much as mine?

So when I go to a theoretically air-conditioned gym on a hot day, and the cardio area is sweltering hot, and I realize that fan is set on low and so ask in a general way if anyone minds if I turn it up, and then a woman scowls and says:

"Oh god, please don't, I HATE the fan more than anything,"

despite the fact that everyone else is nodding, yes, please, please, please turn the fan up, we're dying here...

well, then isn't that woman an obnoxious, selfish, crazy-assed, crankpot entitled to her own opinion?

Well, no, she's not. Because her opinion is WRONG.

Areas in which cardio machines are placed should not be hot. They should be cool.

I was also baffled as to why someone who hated the idea of even a smidgen of cool air touching her skin would go to the gym wearing only a skimpy tank top and shorts. I would hereby like to recommend that people who go to air-conditioned gyms but prefer to work out in very warm temperatures BRING A SWEATSHIRT. Or a snowsuit. All of us who were sweating away had done all we could, clothing-wise. There was nothing more we could remove without risking arrest.

Of course I totally sympathize with the people who are trying to do yoga or other forms of stretching in a room set at meat-locker temperatures. It sucks that gyms aren't better at temperature regulation. (But at least it gives you yoga folks an excuse to purchase more of that hip yoga-wear that looks almost like something you could wear to a party, right?)

I have to confess that this is a constant complaint of mine--I often find the cardio areas of most workout facilities are too warm. And yet do I say to myself "gosh, Crabby, if you keep running into this, do you think you must run a little hotter than normal when you exercise?"

No! I say that the gyms and all the other people who are quite happy there are WRONG.

I'm such a grown up.

(Note: I tried to find some actual scientific research to say: "Gyms should be kept at cooler temperatures not just because Crabby likes it that way, but because it's actually better for you!" I could swear I read that unless you're specifically training for hot-weather exercise, that you're not getting "more" out of your workout by being hot and miserable. But alas, after spending a few minutes on google exhaustive research I couldn't find much one way or the other on optimal gym temperatures.

The best I could do was an article citing the guy who invented SuperSlow exercise, saying he discovered when doing his research that people performed best when it was about 61 degrees.

But then I read further in the same article about optimal workout conditions, and decided it might not be the most impressive reference source. Other "helpful" observations: "Nothing is more distracting than an attractive member of the opposite sex wrapped tightly in spandex, and nothing is more repulsive than an unattractive person in that sort of get-up." Thus, when choosing a Fitness Instructor: "Dress slacks and a long sleeve shirt are the minimum you should expect. Ideally, male instructors should wear a tie."

So, um, so much for the research.)

Does anyone have an opinion about optimal workout temperature or the subjective nature of human experience or the evils of scantily clad fitness instructors?


  1. *waves hand!!!*

    I DO I DO.

    I do the recumbent bike at home.
    I jack the a/c up (or would that be down? either way. I make it cooooler) if I can do it w/out my husband realizing.
    I have an oscillating fan thisclose to being on my lap.

    now, if Im outside I do give in to the hot TX temps (although I have been known to ponder a batter powered fan strapped to my back)----it's less for comfort (all my fan seeking) and more because Im SUCH A SWEATER (regardless).

    sorry for the disjointed ramble.

    Time to start the fan----

  2. I am in agreement with you Crabby, I am also surprised that the lady at your gym, seeing that everyone was begging for the fan to be set higher did not just hush up and take it. I am telling you, people never cease to amaze me.
    Right now though, my body temperature is higher, and my office always tends to set the AC too low. So when someone in my area of the office asks if it's too cold and if she should let the AC up a few degrees, I am the one begging for it to stay freezing... Hey, I'm pregnant, back off...

  3. The colder the better for me, I'm the kind of person who goes alarmingly purple when doing any form of excercise - I stopped going to the gym last year because driving home I was getting a few strange looks at the traffic lights. Now I have a running machine set up at home with the biggest, baddest fan I could find - my husband said I'll have to run harder to counter balance the force of air against my body!
    Diet Betty

  4. There is research on how temperature affects physical performance. In short, if the body becomes overheated, performance declines. This is why an athlete would rather perform her sport in 65 degree, non-humid weather than 85 degree humid weather.

    Sweating is overheating pure and simple. You know that if your car overheats performance declines. Same goes for your body.

  5. Hooray, thank you Fred! (And other of you who agree with me). That's just what I wanted to hear.

    Is there a link to that research? That would be cool (pardon the pun).

    1. All of you are wrong and sound like a bunch of babies. a gym is supposed to be hot or warm. bout 78 degrees is perfect. your body performs best when it is warm. but yes you dont want to overheat. if your working out like you should you will be sweating your ass off. sweat is not overheating idiot. you risk serious injury if its to cold. if your sweating and stop and get goosebumps its to cold. i am a personal trainer and cagefighter and tired of dealing with a bunch of babies in my gym complaining about the temp. its usually the fat asses who do the complaining. omg im sorry your sweating. are you ok

    2. Here here!!! it IS only fat asses that HATE the heat... I am a personal trainer as well, dealing with this crap everyday of an Aussie summer. I USED to be a fat ass too 90+Kg on a 5'5 frame... AND I HATED THE HEAT!!! WINTER was my best friend!!!
      I now weigh in at 63Kg and cannot stand ANYTHING under 22 deg cel. without shivering like I'm in a freezer.
      I run a fitness club and am ALWAYS having arguments with members over the temp.
      Bitches come in to workout, burn calories, burn fat.... Not to be comfortable on the floor. A gym isn't a damned resort.... You don't go workout because you want to be comfortable.... It was being comfortable that got your ass that big...
      If only people would realise that achieving anything worth having in life equals PAIN..... Child birth = PAIN, Puberty = (growing PAINS), A great looking body = PAIN, Being in a meaningful relationship = (at times can be VERY PAINFUL)
      Strength training = DOMS = PAIN....
      Pain is life, pain is growth, pain is evolution.
      It is pain that usually pushes us past our limits....
      If you wanna actually achieve something out of your training, then GET OUT of your "comfort zone" I you just wanna waste your time and the trainer trying to help you... Piss off to a resort, sit on your fat ass with a cocktail and quit your bitching.

  6. As far as I'm concerned, the perfect temperature for running is 50°. I don't mind anything between 20° and 70° and can tolerate 13°-80°. When I have to run at the YMCA, I generally think it's too warm.

  7. Crabby - you are a very funny writer!

    Here are a fewlinks to research which indicates that cooler is better. Bring on the airco!




  8. Hi Crabby,

    I have a branch of a national gym chain one block from my house. I recently transferred to a branch so that I now have to drive three miles each way. (No matter what gas costs) and one fothe many reasons that I transferred is that the a/c was NEVER low enough. I mean, they thought 75 was cool!

    Thanks for letting me know I am not crazy.

    PS. the new gym is cool and I go nearly every day.


  9. Oops! That didn't work did it? Nasty Blogger software! Tsk!

    Here's one:

    Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK. j.gonzalez-alonso@brunel.ac.uk

    Exercise in the heat can pose a severe challenge to human cardiovascular control, and thus the provision of oxygen to exercising muscles and vital organs, because of enhanced thermoregulatory demand for skin blood flow coupled with dehydration and hyperthermia. Cardiovascular strain, typified by reductions in cardiac output, skin and locomotor muscle blood flow and systemic and muscle oxygen delivery accompanies marked dehydration and hyperthermia during prolonged and intense exercise characteristic of many summer Olympic events. This review focuses on how the cardiovascular system is regulated when exercising in the heat and how restrictions in locomotor skeletal muscle and/or skin perfusion might limit athletic performance in hot environments.

  10. I completely agree, Crabby! My gym's air conditioning all too often seems ineffectual at best ... unless I manage to nab the crosstrainer RIGHT BENEATH the air vent.

    I certainly find that I work harder when it's colder (partially to warm up ;-)) and I find I end up feeling slightly ill if I work out and it's too hot.

    Turn those fans up, already!

  11. Did you have to mention ginger-lime sorbet before breakfast?? Um, total craving now! And "I was also baffled as to why someone who hated the idea of even a smidgen of cool air touching her skin would go to the gym wearing only a skimpy tank top and shorts." is perfect! I agree with you totally.

    I'm a girl who gets cold easily - esp. when I'm all sweaty. But you know what I do? I bring a sweatshirt. And crank the fans up. Because I'm also a girl who faints if she gets too hot. Can't have people faining can we??

  12. Another...

    Elon University, Elon, NC 27244, USA.

    PURPOSE: The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether performance of a virtual environment (VE) task is influenced by exercise in the heat and carbohydrate supplementation. METHODS: Ten males completed four exercise trials to fatigue. During each trial, subjects cycled at a submaximal workload. Subjects exercised in a normal environment (NORM) and in a hot environment on different occasions. During exercise, subjects drank 10 mL x kg(-1) x hour(-1) of body weight of a 6% carbohydrate beverage (CHO) or a placebo. Subjects completed a VE task before, during exercise, and after fatigue. RESULTS: More failures occurred during placebo than CHO during exercise. The NORM CHO trial had the fewest failures at fatigue. More kills occurred during exercise in the NORM CHO. CONCLUSIONS: Performance of a VE task was negatively influenced by prolonged exercise and heat stress. CHO supplementation may have a positive impact on performance of the VE task following prolonged exercise

  13. One person's opinion should not run the show. The majority should rule.
    I prefer to bike when it's a bit cooler. It's far easier. I don't go to gyms so I have nothing to offer other than my opinion that whiner's should be booted out. But that is only one person's opinion.

  14. I totally agree! I love the fan on me when i'm on the cardio equipment. Also, the feeling of walking into an ice cold gym is nice this time of year.

    I think you should put in a comment card if your gym has those. Mine does and they even post the comment cards and the gym responses. If your gym doesn't have an organized way of getting feedback, you could have a talk with the manager (armed with your research), although every degree down with the AC is money out of his pocket. Regarding the fan levels, surely that doesn't cost more than a few cents more. Good Luck!

  15. I have to stand up for the weirdo here--note that she didn't say she objected to cooler temps, but to the fan. (I can always interpret people's behavior in the light of possible allergies, and I think it likely that she dressed for the heat, hoping that no one else would want to stir up the dusty moldy air.) I'm the one at the gym holding my hand over my nose when a freshly showered-in-scented-stuff person walks by, not when the sweaty stinking person is upwind of me on the treadmill. I'm the one who takes a sheet to yoga class to put my yoga mat on so the carpet won't touch my skin even for a minute.
    I am also the one who isn't really that sorry that I can't afford the time or money for the gym anymore....

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  16. I actually just quit my gym because, despite the owner's insistence that the AC was working properly, it was more humid inside than out. Guess who had her first asthma attack in over five years?

    I've seen those studies about working out in cooler temperatures. And certainly there are those warnings that people should be careful when it gets too hot out. Add it all up and ...

    Tell the woman at the gym that it's a democracy and she's been outvoted. Or that it's a health issue and you're not endangering yours to make her happy.

  17. Little Miss Sweaty Bum would like to register her vote for gym temperature: Cold Cold and Colder (please).

    Towards the end of my cardio session I generally look like somebody's just thrown me in the pool. If people think the A/C is too cold THEY SHOULD JUST RUN FASTER. They are clearly not working hard enough.


    TA x

  18. it's not scientific, but i know runners typically have their best times when it's high-50s and slightly overcast out - chilly at the start, but perfect by finish.

    i hate hot gyms. 90-some degree weather outside just makes it worse indoors, too. there was a reason i only went at the butt-crack of dawn in college (well, before the brand spanking new gym opened late senior year).

  19. I'm weird this way:

    on the bike trainer at home, gotta have the fan blowing straight on me as I endure the torture that is riding my road bike inside

    a cycle class at the gym: I find the seat farthest from the fan, don't like the oscillating fans that give me a sudden burst of "cooler" stale air

    aerobics room: like it cold when I walk in so it is perfect after a warm up

    In general, I like to sweat. I live in Texas, therefore I think sweating is the only option.

  20. The Bag Lady is not allowed to comment on this situation because she doesn't go to the gym.
    But cooler would seem to be better, in her humble opinion.

  21. Personally I think if you're ever cold in a cardio area, you're not working hard enough. I've yet to meet a cold one.

    I found my new favorite rec center last month which has humongous fans in front of EVERY cardio station, each with their own on/off switch attached to the corresponding equipment. Muahahahahaha.

  22. Mary Anne beat me to it - it may not be that she doesn't like to work out in the cold, she just may not like the fan. It could be the stale air. It could be the sensation of the air blowing on her. When I'm at the gym, I like the fan (I've worked out when the ac wasn't working and man does that suck). But when I sleep with a fan at night, I can't sleep if any of the air is blowing on me, and all the vents in my car are pointed so they circulate but don't blow right on me.

    It could be that she doesn't like air conditioning too (I had a roommate once who didn't like ac, and he had the attic room which regularly got up to about 100 - I seriously don't know how he didn't get heat stroke). Or maybe she's under some weird delusion that she's working harder if she's sweating and dizzy.

  23. You're right. She's wrong and should move away from the fan if she doesn't like it. Next time don't ask just turn it on.

  24. I agree with the majority of comments here. I've NEVER complained of a gym being too cold.

    Also, I know for a fact that ACSM has published guidelines for fitness facilities on appropriate temps and humidity, but I can't find it online either. I'm pretty sure it's in this book: http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Search&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=4476#fig2.

  25. Bag lady, you're /perfectly/ welcome to comment! I avoid gyms (too many people) and I still say that woman should have gone with the majority opinion. Or bought a fan she liked better.

  26. Quite the predicament! I'm a majority-rules kind of person. But I think that everyone needs to be considerate of each other and we all need to remember that others opinions count, so we should try to accommodate for everyone.

  27. I like it warmer when I work out, so I am not a big fan of the fan! However, I realize that many people need it, so I just dress in layers if I have to, cause it's easier for me to take off clothes than for them to take off fat :-)

  28. I don't run into that problem here, but Houstonians keep EVERYTHING air-conditioned to sub-zero temperatures in the summer. I leave my office when my nails start turning blue and go walk around in the 90+ degree heat, just to get some relief!

    Gym? No prob. It's cold there, too.

    What I don't like is the cold water in the pool, which is one of the biggest reasons I hate swimming. Maybe the problem is that I'm too slow (how can I move fast when I'm freezing?), or maybe it's that I don't have much insulation. But whatever the reason, pool swimming is sheer torture for me.

  29. Thanks for the research links and for reassuring me I'm not the only crazy person out there who likes it cool!

    (And sorry to those of you who can't tolerate fans due to allergies etc. I'd still prefer you weren't allowed to have an opinion different from mine, but at least you all have a really good reasons for it.)

    I didn't want to create a long-ass boring post by detailing the whole interaction, but we DID end up turning up the fan, but directing it away from the Fan-o-phobe. Worked great for me--it went from swinging around democratically to a stationary position blasting mostly me. (I always grab the elliptical right in front of the fan. As far as concerned it's MY machine.)

    (And I don't get to have an opinion about pool water as I am not a swimmer. But that sounds like an even trickier issue than air temperature.)

  30. I'm definitely up for "cooler". In fact, I was in the gym today, and thankfully it was comfortably cool. When I came outside, I couldn't wait to get in the car and hike up the A/C to get cool again, and it was only 70 outside!

  31. "Oh god, please don't, I HATE the fan more than anything,"

    I can't stand folks like that. I rank them right up there with the folks who sit on the equipment and talk.

  32. I am soooo with you on this issue. I sweat enough working out, don't want to start off that way! But there is always that ONE PERSON who is *insert whiney voice* soooo coooold. If you are cold working out, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

  33. Wait, so what did you do? Turn it on? Leave it off? I hope you turned it on!

  34. I usually find offices with a/c are too cold.

    And, unless it's really, really hot out, I don't like to have the fan at home turned up full blast because a)I'd be cold & b)it makes my contact lenses dry out and stick to my eyes (very unpleasant; also the cat hair laying around my house is not so much fun when the fan blows it into your sticky contact lens eyes).

    However, the gym is a different story. I used to go to the gym on my lunch hour at work and in the winter when I was sitting at my desk, teeth chattering, turning blue, it was sometimes hard to talk myself into going to the gym, knowing I would then have to change clothes in the ice box of a locker room...However, once I got moving I definitely appreciated the a/c at the gym (though not so much in yoga class - you're right there).

    Every once in a while I would see people working out in long pants, long sleeves and sometimes even a hat. I thought that was kind of weird. But maybe they really loved to sweat.

  35. I like it cool.

    On a similar topic, I hate it when I am obviously watching the TV and someone asks if I mind if they change it, especially if there are other TVs near unoccupied machines.

    Of course, the reason I don't like it is because I usually tell them they can watch what they like.

  36. Heather: I turned it up! (The whole boring saga is in the comments a few before yours.)

  37. The heat only toughens you up! No seriously....lots of water and a wet cool towel nearby work for me. Great post!

  38. I like me some Bikram yoga, but that's a specialized thing, done in a yoga studio.
    A lot of my new students, when they come into the gym, complain about the cold. Until about 5 minutes into the workout, when they start sweating. Then they never complain again.
    (I went to school with a woman who ALWAYS turned the heater up, in every classroom. When the rest of us complained and told her to wear a sweater, she said that doing so would ruin her cute outfits.
    Some people are just clueless.)

  39. "And sorry to those of you who can't tolerate fans due to allergies etc. I'd still prefer you weren't allowed to have an opinion different from mine, but at least you all have a really good reasons for it"

    It's OK, Crabby, as long as we get our own gym, now.
    >8 ) (I'd say I'll take your opinions if you take my allergies, but I'm kind of used to them after fifty years...)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  40. Here ya go, Crabby...



    I will admit that I personally prefer the fan to blow on say, you, rather than me.

  41. hey, you just gave me my topic for my blog today- I will link here of course. our spinning room got ac today! no more 90* hour long rides.

  42. Well, this isn't workout related specifically but in Germany people think that A/C makes people sick. Yup. Sick. From A/C. Conversations such as "I have a cold" "Oh, must be because the A/C was blowing on your lower back near the kidney area" are quite normal.

    SO FRIGGIN ANNOYING! And this of course means that the A/C is used as little as possible, and NO HOMES have it.

    Stupid Germany.*

    - LS

    *I can say that because I lived there for a long time and am married to a German so I am like 1/3 German. ok?

  43. Ok, so my gym had this really bad winter. First the temps were so cold that I wore a winter hat and gloves while doing cardio. the poor employees were not allowed to do so, too, as it violated their dress code.

    They fixed the furnace and then it was like doing "hot yoga" exercise.

    Now the AC is sufficient but a bit low (with 50 cardio machines, though, we're providing a lot of heat). The worst is the floor exercise room, where one fan just can't push enough air.

    But cooler temps discourage germs to linger and makes it a whole lot more comfy when I start sweating like a mofo!

    Give me cool (but not cold) any day.

  44. I share your sentiments, Crabby.
    When I hit the gym I choose a machine that's right by one of those industrial fans, and face it right on me.
    You're nice, though; you ask first... I just go ahead and do it! :P

  45. I hate being cold, but, I hate being hot more. No, I don't work out in a gym, but the principal applies. I can put on a sweater (or two), but you can only take off so many clothes.

  46. I, too, love the fan... especially considering my gym doesn't have A/C because a) we're in a "mild" climate and b) it's more environmentally friendly. Since I'm already wasting electricity by being in the gym and not outside, when I'm dripping sweat I try to make myself feel better that at least I'm not consuming A/C electricity. That said, if someone turns off one of the few fans that keep me cool enough to stay sane, I want to hit them. Hard.

  47. i have a treadmill, and when i walk on it, i turn on the swamp cooler and the (non-ceiling) fan, and that's all i get. when my mom works out on her treadmill, she turns on her swamp cooler, and her non ceiling fan, and her ceiling fan, and i swear to you it is 40 degrees in that room and windy. if i could exercise in those conditions, i would. in fact, if i could turn my exercise room into a giant restaurant sized fridge, i'd do that, too. are there seriously people who prefer to do cardio with warmer than necessary temperatures?

  48. I'm with you Crabby - colder is better. Like Alice I go an alarming shade of purple when on the elliptical for an hour and am literally dripping with sweat by the time I'm finished - always "mop up" / sanitize the machine after myself :0)

  49. I used to love riding my rollers until I had to sell them when I moved because I live now in a closet under the stairs, but I HAD to have a fan, a huge box fan actually, blowing from the front to simulate riding a bike on the actual road. I could ride a hard workout for an hour. Now on my crappy exercycle in the corner I sweat too much and have no place to even set a fan nor even plug it in!

    Maybe at some point one of my 3 jobs will generate enough funds for a membership at the gym a block over, that would be nice, if the air was cold enough, thanks for pointing that out!

    Oh and definitely the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Mr. Spock said that, and it is truth. Also very old Buddhist teaching.

    So yeah, put the whiner in her place, the egocentric control freak. ;)

  50. I know I'm in the minority - am very thin, and feel
    colder a lot more than
    most people I know, and from reading this I can see that my hopes of having the
    temp of the aerobic area of the gym I go to be raised
    from 61 to 68 will be difficult to happen
    (sounds like this would be a dream temp for many of those posting here)

    I do wear many layers, do wear wool caps, I do try
    to dry off and change to drier clothes in middle of workout, but I think
    the coldness (to me) of the room esp at 61-67
    and the constant blowing of the a/c, and combined
    with me sweating under the clothes and caps, that it causes me to get chills and sore throats, especially after changing
    clothes and trying to dry off, since can't really get all the sweat off that quickly.

    since they have the thermostat at 61, it means that the a/c will be on all the time once the bldg starts heating up past 61; whereas if they did what most places do (I think) and had thermostat on some defined temp, lets use 68, then the a/c would not go on until then,
    or in colder weather in the morning, the room would warm to 68 and stay there, with a/c used only as needed.

    I can see point of someone who mentioned about fan blowing on them and having effect - since seems similar to a/c blowing right on someone - that at least for me, when sweating a lot, it can cause chills and sore throat - there is probably some explanation for this medically but I can't find it yet.

  51. I hate, hate, hate working out in a hot gym. I'd rather workout outside in the heat than in a gym with hot stifled air smelling of the sweat of everyone around me. If Ms. Crabby doesn't want to feel the fan she should move to a different cardio machine. I see no reason why others should have to suffer to make one person comfortable. Some people just have entitlement issues and think everyone should please them. She should put on some pants and a long sleeved shirt and get over herself.

    I also think that I perform better in the cooler temps. I know I love to do longer runs in the early morning when it's chilly outside. The heat definitely decreases my endurance. Sometimes, when training for a summer outdoor event I will train in the heat to prepare but overall I think that it's better to train in cooler temps.

    And just for the record, I'm the girl who keeps a heater in her office so she can stay warm when her co-workers turn the AC up. Since I'm in the minority I use a heater rather than make them work at a temp that is hot for them.

  52. I HATE FANS - you go to the gym to work out and sweat!!! Stop being a girly girl!!

  53. Why is it called a Warm-up and Cool Down? If your just going to keep you body cold the entire time with a fan blowing on you?

    I have had to stop doing cardio because it has been so cold that even after lifting weights and getting warm and sweating a lot. As soon as I get on the machine and there is a fan on, my legs freeze. My muscles get cold and they will not warm up again.

  54. I am baffled. The problem with fans isn't the temperature. It's the very unpleasant sensation of air blowing in my face that I can't stand. I wear a shirt or jacket in the gym in case it's too cold for me. Crank up the AC all you want, but don't blast me with fast moving air.


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