You know those people who love to sweat and exercise in humid, heated rooms? Yeah, I’m not one of them. Even just sweating during regular exercise grosses me out—don’t even get me started on hot yoga. So when the Brrrn started offering cold workouts at its boutique studio in New York City, I knew I had to try it. Yes, cold workouts—not just in an air-conditioned room, but in a space that’s chilled down almost as low as a refrigerator. The novel concept seemed like the perfect alternative to those 100+ degree classes that seem to be everywhere. The Brrrn offers three types of cold workout classes: 1st° (a yoga-inspired mobility and strength class in 60 degree temps), 2nd° (a core and cardio slide board series at 55 degrees), and 3rd° (high-intensity interval training with battle ropes at 45 degrees). The varying degree of classes provides plenty of options for exercise novices and athletes alike. Would cold workouts be the answer to my hot exercise woes during New York’s steamy summers? I put the concept to the test during a 2nd° class at the Brrrn. Here’s what happened.
Trying a Cold Workout at the Brrrn
One step into the Brrrn’s lodge-inspired lobby (complete with firewood and retro lighting) and I was glad I packed the recommended gloves and hat in my gym bag. This place takes cold workouts so seriously, they decided to build a cabin in the middle of Manhattan! When you pass through the insulated freezer doors to the studio, the experience goes from rustic-chic to nightclub. Think: A spacious, dark room with blue spotlights, wall-length mirrors, and, of course, bass-pumping music. Oh, and it was cold. As soon as the cold workout started, though, it was easy to forget you were in a low-temperature environment. Most of us were stripping down to our sports bras shortly after the warm up, which included stretches and basic cardiovascular exercises. We took a quick break to pop on our special booties (provided by the studio) over our sneakers, and that’s when the real fun began. A huge component of the 2nd° class involves gliding back and forth on a slippery board that’s roughly 5 feet long. I felt like a speed skater, whipping from side to side—the perfect fantasy for anyone in a cold workout. But this was no glide in the park. We started adding on intense intervals—like lifting 10-pound sandbags above our heads, dolphin push-ups that burned deep into the core, and weighted lunges—between heart-pumping sliding sessions. Every movement got progressively harder throughout the 45-minute cold workout class, and I relished the challenge. Did I freeze? Absolutely not. In fact, the pleasantly wintry space and fun movements made my body feel invigorated. Whereas the heat and humidity might have worn me out in other fitness classes, the cold workout pushed me even harder, and somehow prevented me from getting out of breath as quickly. I felt alive immediately after class, and my legs turned to jello for two days straight. It was the best. Ever need the promise of a reward to keep you motivated? The Brrrn’s got you covered with its communal infrared sauna, available for use after class. Warming up in such a relaxing setting was the icing on the ice-cream cake of the cold workout. Talk about temperate bliss.
Health Benefits of Cold Workouts
The cold workout was certainly a fun experience, especially for someone who loves novelty fitness concepts as much as I do. But according to the team at the Brrrn, exercising in cold temperatures benefits our health and fitness—making this class more than something you only try once. “With cold workouts, you are curbing one of the main stressors on the body that happens when you exercise: heat production,” says Johnny Adamic, co-founder of the Brrrn. “When you drop the temperature, your body can dump heat faster via sweat into the air, you lessen the competing cardiovascular demands on the body, and you can support more metabolic activity.” In other words, cold workouts help optimize the way your body regulates temperature and burns calories. Sounds good to me. And there’s evidence to support the founders’ claims: One study found that cold climates force people to use more energy to maintain their core body temperature. Furthermore, there’s some evidence that cool temperatures actually help athletes perform better. When French researchers analyzed the race times of nearly 1.8 million marathon finishers, they found that the optimal temperature for the fastest women runners was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. A similar study found that peak marathon performance tended to happen around 53 degrees Fahrenheit. If you dread winter, doing cold workouts throughout the warmer months might also help your body better tolerate frigid outdoor temperatures, adds the Brrrn cofounder Jimmy Martin. He only expects the popularity of his studio to increase come winter. “What happens to hot yoga in the summertime? You go from 90 degrees to even hotter. But in the winter, you’ll go from 32 degrees outside to about 40 to 60 degrees in the cold workout studio. It will feel amazing, and people won’t feel as cold as they did before the workout,” he says. The Brrrn has published a whole slew of science-backed info about the benefits of exercise in cold temperatures on its website. But the real proof might just be in the regular feedback from participants in the studio’s cold workouts, says Adamic. “Our Brrrn community has been saying, ‘Oh my god, that was awesome. I worked out harder, and I could’ve kept going. I felt like my performance was better,’” he says. My sentiments exactly.
Potential Dangers of Cold Workouts
As with most things in life, cold workouts are probably most effective in moderation. Personal trainer, weight loss and wellness coach, and champion power lifter Robert Herbst, who has trained in the shadow of Mount Everest, warns that working out in extremely low temperatures could be dangerous for the body. “It takes longer [for the body] to warm up, and muscles are less efficient. Tendons and ligaments are stiffer. There is more stress on the heart because cold air must be warmed and moistened before it can be used in the lungs,” says Herbst. He believes that the only reason to make cold workouts part of your regular exercise routine is if you’re training to perform in extreme temperatures, not just improve your regular fitness. That said, the temperatures at the Brrrn are relatively moderate compared with the climate around the world’s tallest mountains. Ample stretching before and after class can help your body cope with any potential stiffness, and if you’re having trouble tolerating a cold workout, it’s totally fine to step back into the cozy lobby and take a break.
Where You Can Try a Cold Workout
Now that you’ve heard about this fitness class, you might be eager to break a sweat at a refrigerated studio. But where can you try a cold workout? Right now, the founders of the Brrrn say they’re the first to market with the cold workout concept in a boutique studio space, meaning you’ll have to book a trip to New York City to give it a try. Adamic says he wouldn’t be surprised if other cold workout studios started popping up around the country in the future—and he’s ready for the competition. “Competition is necessary for growth. Our protagonist is cold, and we’re using it as a way to encourage people to move better. If other brands are attempting cold workouts, it shows that we’re onto something,” he explains. And even if you can’t make it to Manhattan right away, don’t worry—winter is coming. And you can create your own cold workout right in your backyard—no slippery booties necessary.