Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Sweat!

It's happened three times in the last couple of weeks: someone has directly correlated amount of effort in a workout with amount of sweat. As non-sweater I might just start taking offense one of these days. The latest was tonight when our karate sensei had us watch a movie of a karate dojo in Okinawa where a guy wrings his shirt out with sweat. He then asked us all if we would be able to do that, implying that if we worked out hard enough we should all be wringing out our gi's. I answered honestly that there's no way I could. I might be able to work out that hard, but I will never ever fill a t-shirt with sweat. Afterwards, I hoped that he didn't think I was being flip, because I wasn't. I just don't sweat.

Believe me, this isn't necessarily a good thing. I have to pick my triathlons carefully for instance, because above a certain temperature my body just can't cool itself down. While other athletes begin to glow, then positively shimmer with sweat, all of my capillaries are dilating and turning me a brilliant lobstery red in an effort to shed heat while my skin stays dry as toast. I have been out running in the summer and had people shout at me that I was getting sunburnt. "No", I thank them "I just turn this color when I run." It also affects how many calories I can take in via sports drinks. Because I don't sweat much, I can't drink much unless I want to stop at every porta-potty on the course. That leaves me with a nutritional planning challenge that better sweaters don't face.

Interestingly, research has shown that sweat rates vary with ethnicity and gender (as a Nordic-ish blonde woman I must be doubly-cursed since distance from equator in your ancestry as well as the female gender are correlated with reduced sweat rates). Sweat rates are highly variable, ranging from .4 liters per hour to the highest recorded sweat rate for an athlete in an exercise situation: 3.7 liters (125 oz.) per hour, recorded by Alberto Salazar while preparing for the 1984 Summer Olympics. No wonder he stayed cool under pressure.

As for me, I've exercised until I puked. I've pushed myself 'til I passed out. I spent all night once in a Lakotah sweat lodge. All without breaking a sweat. I've never even owned a stick of anti-perspirant. So for all you coaches out there, don't sweat it if your athletes aren't sweating. They might be working just as hard.


Anonymous said...

wow..and I'm on the otehr end where I sweat to the point fo cramping....damn...

Robin said...

Yeah, I'm sure being on the other side is no picnic either. I used to have a friend who had to pile towels all around the treadmill or trainer when he worked out. A nice sane sweat rate would be optimal.