Don’t Sweat It

The idea for this study came from my friend and team mate Alice Butler. Alice and I were talking in my basement one afternoon after I had just finished a vigorous spin on the stationary bike. After taking notice of the puddles at the base of the bike, Alice asked why I didn’t use a fan. “Do you think it really makes a difference?” I replied. “That would make a good scientific study wouldn’t it?” was Alice’s response. Brilliant!
Would a fan keep your body cooler and reduce the amount of sweat produced or would it merely make it evaporate more quickly and give the illusion that one had produced less sweat?

I had to find out.  For the sake of science, I took a detour from my training schedule to conduct this vital study.
In this study, speed and distance would be irrelevant.
Heart rate and body weight would be the measured.
Heart rate would have to be as constant as possible between the two studies to isolate the impact of the fan.
The difference in body weight before and after the ride would indicate the amount of sweat produced.
The temperature in BR’s basement is a constant 65.
Clothing for the two rides would be identical: a free cotton t-shirt from some ride or walk, nylon/spandex sports bra, nylon soccer shorts, cotton “ankle high” socks, cotton do rag, and a pair of green Karhu running shoes.
The first ride determined the HR specs of the study.
Knowing that my LT is 164, I knew that I wanted to spend the bulk of the time above 160 but I didn’t know how long it would take me to ramp up to 160. I did know that I would only have about 50 minutes to complete the study before I had to get to work.
To keep fluid levels constant, I did not drink any water the morning of or during the ride.
I woke up Friday morning… weighed in, put on my previously described ensemble, I-Pod and heart rate monitor and hopped on the RTN.
I was pressed for time so I skipped the warm up and pedaled pretty hard from the get go. 12 minutes later I was at a HR of 160. I decided that keeping my heart rate between 160 and 170 for the next 40 minutes would be a nice solid workout parameter to base my study on. I did so. Average heart rate for the entire ride was 164. This ride produced 2.5# of sweat. I was anxious to see what impact a fan would have on the sweat produced under similar heart rate parameters.

Sunday morning came. It was raining outside. Perfect. My guilt for riding inside vanished. I unearthed our dusty 20″ x 20″ Galaxy box fan and aimed it at the RTN.  The Galaxy was about 6 feet from the RTN and was set on “medium”.  A small  dust storm was created when I fired up the Galaxy which had been sitting dormant since the last time that we had water in the basement.

Once the dust settled, phase two of the study was underway.  All things were the same as the previous ride. The addition of the fan was the only variation. I was definitely more comfortable. My heart rate also tended to stay closer to 160 than the previous sans fan ride where  it was at or near 170 for the last 15 minutes or so.  162 was the average . When I looked on the floor, there were only a dozen or so quarter sized puddles. Much smaller than the 4″ lakes produced without the fan!

The question here was if the fan was keeping me cooler or was my sweat merely evaporating faster? The answer to this question would be found on the bathroom scale…..2 pounds of water loss. Wow that is 20% less than without the fan!

I have never been a fan of fans but now I think that they are cool.

Join the fan club.

Okay I must get back to my regularly scheduled training program. I just  hope that this detour has paid some dividends in enlightenment of the often miserable trainer bound athelete.

Yours in Science,