It’s not the first time it’s come up during my coaching consultations. “I don’t know what’s wrong. No matter how hard I workout, I don’t sweat.” What I’m really hearing is, “I’m frustrated that I didn’t sweat because that means I didn’t burn enough calories.”
It seems logical. You see people in Zumba working hard and they’re dripping sweat. They must be burning a ton of calories. That’s an easy assumption to make. The more we sweat the more we burn. Right? Not quite.
Sweat, like feeling sore the next day after an intense workout, gives us physical feedback almost like instant gratification. We just worked so hard and the reward is a calorie burn that we can measure by how much we sweat. It’s our body’s way of communicating but it’s not saying what we think it might.
So what’s sweat really and what is our body really saying when it sweats?
I hate to break it to you but sweat is not a measurement of how many calories you’ve burned. I remember taking a Pilates certification course where our instructor graded us on whether we could make our client sweat. I remember thinking that was unfair. Because sweat does not mean someone got an effective workout.
Sweat does only one thing. It is your body’s natural cooling system.
When you’re body gets hot it cools down by sweating. It’s like your natural thermostat. That’s it!
If it’s a hot day and you’re sweating…..you’re not burning more calories. If you’ve come down with a fever and are sweating….you’re not burning more calories. If you’re nervous before a presentation at work and start sweating….you’re not burning more calories. So if you’re dancing in a Zumba class and you’re not sweating as much as the person next to you, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re burning fewer calories.
Then how do you know how many calories you really burned?
There are 2 ways you can measure calorie burn during a dance fitness class.
- Heart Rate Monitors: Once people start using a heart rate monitor, they are surprised by how many calories they really burn. There are a ton of options out there but the most accurate ones include a chest strap. Using a heart rate monitor will give you a total number of calories you burned based on your age, height, weight, and workout intensity (measured by heart rate).
- Pulse Test: This is an effective easy way to measure whether you are in a fat burning zone.
- Figure out your max heart rate. To do this, subtract your age from 220 if you’re male; subtract your age from 226 if you’re female.
- Then determine your fat-burning range, which is 60% to 70% of your max heart rate. For example, a 40 year old female is 186 with a fat-burning zone between 111 and 130 beats per minute.
- Take your pulse about half way into class for 10 seconds. Multiply that number by 6 to get your total beats per minute. If the same 40 year old female took her pulse for 10 seconds and counted 20 beats, then she’s working within her fat burning zone at 120 beats per minute.
Now, what if you want to increase the amount of calories you burn?
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