Do Cold Workouts Get Results? The Benefits of Cool Fitness Programs

Written by | Fitness

man exercising with rope in the forest

Photo courtesy BRRN FITNESS

After years of Hot Yoga, I realized there was a different kind of burn to be felt working out in the cold.

Workouts have been about heat for a long time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve held yoga poses in scorchingly hot rooms of up to 108°F, but there’s a new movement that’s bringing people to a cooler mat. Brrrn (yes, that’s with three “r’s”) bills itself as the world’s first cool temperature fitness concept. Located in Manhattan’s swank Flatiron district, cofounders Jimmy T. Martin and Johnny Adamic launched their 45°F to 60°F boutique fitness studio and lifestyle brand in May of 2018. The cool duo pair the benefits of routine cool temperature exposure [called mild cold stress] with exercise [called environmental conditioning] to optimize the fitness experience.” Brrrn started off with a three-tier group exercise program: 1st° (A Yoga-Inspired Mobility & Strength Series), 2nd° (A Core & Cardio Slide Board Series), and 3rd° (A Battle Rope Infused Hit Series). All three classes are 45 minutes.

I initially crossed the threshold into Brrrn on a Sunday morning for a 1st° class, and I could tell that in this crisp new studio there was already a visible cult following. The front desk was organized, down to Earth and broke the ice about the cold workout to come. What does one wear to a “cold yoga class?” I’d thrown wool socks, a baggy sweatshirt, a knit hat and a scarf in my gym bag just in case (since the Brrrn website feature pictures of chiseled yogis stretching and bending outside on a winter day). The staff let me know I would probably find myself shedding all this winter gear a few minutes into class anyway, so I opted to leave it in a locker in the dressing room (which was pleasantly scented by freshly used Dr. Bronner’s products). I noticed people heading into the infrared sauna and, for a moment, considered heading toward its heat instead of the cold.

But just a couple of steps into the 60°F studio and I immediately felt relaxed and cool. Light rock music was playing, and I found a space to begin my workout. Minutes into the class, I had already broken into a light sweat and was happy I left my heavy gear in the other room. Cofounder Johnny was teaching the class, and the sequence of yogic poses was challenging but seemed manageable for all levels. I contemplated all the hours I’ve spent in hot yoga studios, slipping and sliding in pools of sweat that had gathered on my yoga mats. While it’s true that sometimes the heat can make your body stretch and move a little more comfortably, it’s not necessarily the healthiest approach to the practice. Overheating, dehydrating and even overextending are all possible in a hot yoga class.

“Cold has been the backdrop of the human experience for millennia,” explained Adamic. “We’ve engineered cold out of our lives. Now we live in these climate-controlled environments of 72°F from the time we wake up until we go to bed, but routine exposure to cooler temperatures is actually good for us. We are reuniting the cold back with exercise — where it belongs.”

As we made our way through the class, Adamic paid close attention to everyone in the room, offering subtle adjustments as we progressed from Downward Facing Dog through Chaturanga Dandasana and the Warrior Series, deepening everyone’s practice pose by pose. By the time we reached Savasana I felt exhausted yet refreshed, and I was already looking forward to our next class, where Adamic would be waiting with more encouragement and advice. I later learned he’s a former public health official for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Obesity Task Force. He joined forces with an athlete-turned-celebrity personal trainer, advertising copywriter and Saturday Night Live background performer Jimmy T. Martin to create the Brrrn program and they conducted their first trial in the beer fridge at Sixpoint Brewery just across the bridge from Manhattan in Brooklyn.

My next stage of Brrrn would be the 55°F Core & Cardio Slide Board Series, which is circuit-based in nature and focused on core and total body conditioning. The class is designed to improve balance and mobility, sculpt legs, strengthen inner thighs, improve core strength and increase overall muscular endurance. And true cold seekers will release their inner snowbeast with the 3rd°, a high-impact class combining dumbbell circuit training with battle rope exercises to improve overall strength and conditioning at a brisk 45°F. While I may be content sticking with the 1st° for now, I’m definitely intrigued by the cooler, more advanced classes and will be back for another cold snap — this time without bothering to bring the extra wool. thebrrrn.com

Also check out Fun Alternatives to Traditional Gyms, and Eight Ways to Stay Fit This Winter

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Last modified: October 23, 2018