Can’t Stand the Heat? Here’s What It’s Like Inside Brrrn—the Coldest Workout in NYC

Photo: Stocksy/Rob and Julia Campbell
I generally despise anything even vaguely wintery. I'm the type of person who keeps a space heater in my cubicle and hand warmers in my desk drawer. The first (and last) time I tried cryotherapy, I cried.

So you can imagine my slight terror when my editor suggested I check out New York City’s newest (coldest) boutique fitness studio: Brrrn, which opened in April and specializes in yoga, cardio, and HIIT classes taught in studios where the temps hover between 45°F–60°F.

Although I hesitated at first, I take pride in my ability to try anything in the name of wellness and fitness (acupuncture, hypnosis, turmeric, you name it); therefore, I swallowed my fear and signed up. Keep reading for my Brrrn class review to see if it lives up to its cool factor.

But first, here's why cold-temp workouts could be the hot new thing in fitness

Your body is constantly working to maintain its normal body temp. Putting it into an environment that's much warmer (read: hot yoga) or colder can kick on its caloric burners in an effort to bring you back to equilibrium. Shivering, it turns out, activates your brown fat stores, which boosts your metabolism—even before you add exercise in to the mix.

For example, a study from 2014 published in Diabetes found that people who slept in 66.2-degree rooms increased their levels of healthy brown fat, and research has discovered that brown fat is linked to weight loss. It's worth noting that these studies are about spending time in the cold, not working out in it, but the connection was enough for Brrrn's founders Jimmy Martin and Johnny Adamic to build a business model around the idea.

“We’ve found that turning the thermostat down—creating a cooler environment—improves the workout experience," they explain on Brrrn's site. Plus, they believe that when you exercise in chillier temperatures, your body doesn't have to work so hard to keep you cool, allowing you to put all your energy into working out at a higher intensity. And since HIIT workouts are already known as the most-efficient way to get fit, that’s a win-win. But what's it like to put all this science to the test? Scroll down to see what happened when I tried it.

Inside Brrrn's chill new NYC studio

Imagine working out in the love-child of a beer fridge and a rustic Maine cabin and you’ve basically got the aesthetic of Brrrn. Yep, even by New York’s extravagant gym standards, this is definitely not your average sweat spot. The studio, which is the first to focus on exercising in the cold, offers three class formats: First Degree, a yoga-inspired class taught at 60°F; Second Degree, a slide board circuit-training class taught in 55°F, which is the class I chose; and Third Degree, a circuit-training class (featuring battle ropes) that's taught in a room chilled to a cool 45°F.

A New England-er at heart, I got all the feels when I arrived at the studio, which resembles a quaint ski lodge.

A New England-er at heart, I got all the feels when I arrived at the studio, which resembles a quaint ski lodge. The decor may include corny puns like "Thanks for chilling with us" and "Our workout is cooler than yours," but the ambiance of the studio is seriously hygge. There’s wood panneling, red and orange-tinted lighting, and enthusiastic (dare I say, “glowy”)  fitness instructors gallivanting by the front desk.

From the lobby, I peered through the freezer-sealed door, began humming "Ice Ice Baby," and entered the mirrored training studio dressed for an Antarctic hike: fleece-lined leggings, two pairs of socks, earmuffs, a tank top layered with a long sleeve, and a zip-up topping it all off. I shivered as I looked the two other people already in class who were wearing capri leggings and strappy sports bras.

This is what it's *really* like to work out at Brrrn Fitness

Class started with fire-starters: squats performed while rubbing your palms together for warmth. Then, we slipped into booties (basically scrubs that fit over sneakers to minimize friction and improve glide) before stepping onto our slide boards.

For the next 45-minutes, we moved through a three-move circuit that was handwritten on a large brown roll of paper while our very motivating and engaging instructor, Chris Crowthers, verbally explained each move. They were pretty basic: squats, lunges, planks, mountain climbers, leg lifts. But doing them on a slide board made them feel new and different. (CrossFit and HIIT are my mainstays, so while box jumps, burpees, and push-ups are my jam, lateral movements are not.) The weightlessness of it all was exhilarating.

Plus, it was a lot harder. You have to seriously engage your core and stabilizer muscles to maintain your balance and proper form on the board. While my class only had six other adventure-seekers in it, the work “stations” are pretty close together, so *not* falling is key. It was great to utilize my adductor and abductors—it helped me realize lateral movements are sorely missing from my routine. And while soreness isn't a sign of a good workout, I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up the next day feeling it. Abs activation, FTW!

Gliding back and forth was seriously fun. It definitely did work my inner butt and thighs, but it wasn’t my usual CrossFit WOD.

Excitement aside, though, I didn’t feel taxed or get sweaty at all (that could be because of the low temps), and I wasn’t breathing even remotely heavily. Gliding back and forth was seriously fun and reminded me of ice-skating. It definitely did work my inner butt and thighs, but it wasn’t my usual CrossFit WOD. And in case you were wondering, the music was a little less Vanilla Ice and way more Demi Lovato. Predictably, Ellie Goulding’s hit “Burn” played at the crescendo of the class.

The emphasis on cold temps feels a little gimmicky (time and research will tell if it's legit), but I liked breathing in the chilly air, and the workout was something different for me. So, if cryotherapy, ice baths, and winter excite you, this new fitness-freezer in Chelsea may be the #coldture shock you’ve been waiting for.

ICYDK, your hot yoga class might be doing more damage than good. And speaking of temperature-play, you can do these fun and effective outdoor workouts anywhere.

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