A Run That's "No Sweat"

May 17, 2004

RAY: This puzzler comes to us from Doug Mayer who, actually, works for us.

TOM: Wait a minute. None of those guys work.

RAY. Right. Let's just say he's around us. Anyway, here's Mayer's puzzler. Mayer and his pal Mike get up every morning and run through the mountains, in North Moosejaw, New Hampshire, where they live. In the winter, however, they take a break-- since it's what? 40 below zero with 50 mph winds. Instead... they ski.

But, on the days when it's even too cold to ski, then they drag their frostbitten appendages to the local gym. It's 80 degrees warmer there-- plus they get to watch Oprah on the TV and try to impress the babes.

Mayer sets his treadmill to 12 percent-- the exact grade of the trail up nearby Mount Washington, one of their favorite runs. He runs at 5.8 miles per hour for 4 miles, by which point he's praying for a massive coronary to end his workout. After the requisite 42 minutes, he's covered in sweat and the treadmill is rusting.

Well, this last week, spring finally arrived in North Moosejaw, and Mike and Doug decided to go out and test themselves on Mount Washington, and see how their training stacked up against the real thing.

They set their watches, put out their cigars and ran at exactly 5.8 miles per hour for four miles at a 12 percent grade. There was no wind and, what's more, they remarked how interesting it was that the temperature was 62 degrees that day-- exactly what it was in the gym. Though they have no way of measuring it, it turns out that even the relative humidity was exactly the same. In other words-- same weather, same speed, same grade, same everything.

Yet, when they're done, they're not sweating at all.

Why was that?
RAY: The answer lies in wind. There's no wind on the treadmill. Because, what? You're not going anywhere.

But when you're moving outside and run at 5.8 miles an hour, if there's no wind, you are creating then a wind of 5.8 miles an hour which, is in, fact cooling you off.

There are other factors, too. When you're running in place, you're creating a little microclimate around you. You create this impenetrable cloud of sweat and --

TOM: Disgusting!

RAY: -- and stench, which tends to insulate you from any cooling effect that might take place from the difference in temperature between you and the ambient temperature of the gym.

So, if you want to reduce the amount you sweat, go outside.

Do we have a winner?

TOM: The winner is Art Meadows from Derby, Kansas. And for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Art gets a $26 dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division of cartalk.com, where he can get a Car Talk necktie, which happens to be an excellent Father's Day gift.

RAY: Is this the tie with the food stains that a factory installed?

TOM: No, no, no. This is a nice striped silk tie with the names of our staff members in very small letters. You know our director of top secret strategy, Donnatella Nobody. The Russian chauffeur, Picov VanDropov, the whole gang embedded in the stripes of the tie. It's fabulous.

RAY: Oh, well, there's no accounting for taste, is there?

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