I encounter many people who I feel are scared or embarrassed to sweat when exercising. This is totally understandable, as sweating is an involuntary action controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is basically the part of our nervous system over which we have no control. We don’t consciously think to ourselves ‘this is tough I think I’ll start sweating now’ and therefore as we have no control over it, it can be a unique experience to some, especially if an individual is new to exercise.
We also live in a somewhat materialistic world where judgement of others can easily be made, and VERY incorrect correlations between sweat and so called ‘fitness levels’ are made by the educated and often opinionated population. Very often when dealing with individuals new to training there can be a reluctance to continue training once they have began to sweat, however this is actually the point where the body is beginning to adapt to the training.
Sweating, or perspiration as a more technical terminology, is basically what gives your body the ability to regulate its temperature. During exercise, your core body temperature obviously increases and this fires a signal in your brain (in the hypothalamus) to start a cooling mechanism within the skin (in the sweat glands), hence sweating begins.
Sweat is almost entirely made of water, with the inclusion of small amounts of other chemicals such as urea, ammonia, along with salts & sugars. Sweat leaves your body through the pores in your skin. When the sweat hits the air, it causes evaporation. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, you will in turn begin to cool down. Therefore you can begin to see that sweating provides an efficient, automatic cooling system and is completely natural and normal.
It is a myth that an individual who sweats excessively whilst exercising is unfit; the reality is in fact quite the opposite. An individual who is in tune with their body, who trains regularly and has adaptation to the regulation of their core body temperature, will very often begin to sweat in the early stages of their training as their body prepares for the task in hand. The cooling system of an active individual will be more effective/efficient than that of a sedentary individual.
The actual amount an individual sweats is dependent on many factors. These include: gender, the number of sweat glands you have (more glands often equals more sweat, on average anywhere between 2 & 4 million glands per person), the environmental temperature, and of course how intensity of the training being performed. There are also a number of emotional factors that can affect the level of perspiration including anxiety levels, stress, nerves, anger, embarrassment and even fear.
Before, during and after training hydration is obviously vital to performance and recovery, no matter what your goal is. Check out one of my previous blog’s simply titled ‘Are you drinking enough water’ for more info on how much water you should be drinking. With excessively intense sessions, electrolyte replacements can be an option, as stated earlier, sweat isn’t simply just water and replacement of sugars/salts can be beneficial for increased recovery.
If you take away just one thing from this blog is should be that:
Sweating is COMPLETELY NORMAL, and you shouldn’t ever feel self conscious about experiencing sweat during your training.
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