It can feel so embarrassing.  You’re just working out and minding your own business, and somebody or several somebodies stop by to ask if you’re okay.  When you look in the mirror after (or during) your workout,  you notice that your face is beet red and sweating.  Super awesome!  Combine a fat body with a flushed face and you can become the target of genuine concern (which includes a bevvy of fitness instructors calculating their liability fitness rates) or (even worse) concern trolling.

What to do?  Should be red faced with embarrassment over your red face?  Should you be concerned?  How do you deal with other folks that are worried about you?  This discussion came up on the Fit Fatties Forum and I thought it warranted a blog post of its very own.

First, having a red face is nothing to be embarrassed about.  It happens to many exercisers of all shapes and sizes.  In most cases, it’s simply the body’s way of working to cool itself.  When you begin to exercise and your body starts to get warm, it begins to sweat to help cool things off.  As your muscles begin to heat up, your body tends to move the heat from your muscles to your skin which causes the blood vessels in your face (and elsewhere on your skin) to dilate.  This is a perfectly normal process which helps keep your body cool as you work out. Naturally, this effect is more pronounced when you exercise somewhere warm and humid.  This process moves a lot of super oxygenated blood around in your skin which not only helps keep you cool but helps maintain healthy skin.

For the most part, flushed skin is no big deal.  If you are feeling great during your workout, there is probably no cause for alarm.  However, if you start feeling dizzy, extra tired, nauseated or are sweating an amount that is very unusual for you, this could be a sign of impending heat exhaustion.  As always, take time to listen to your body.  If you’re experiencing these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, loosen tight clothing, get indoors, and drink some cool fluids.

Also, in some cases, this red skin could be a sign of rosacea–a common skin condition which causes your face to periodically get red especially across the nose.  Also, if you notice that your face is flushing repeatedly without exercise or spicy foods or any other trigger you might want to check with your health care professional.  It could be a sign of a more serious condition.

But for the most part, being red in the face is simply your body’s way of cooling off your muscles and enriching your body’s largest organ (your skin).  If you know that you tend to get flushed, it can be helpful to let group fitness instructors or personal trainers know ahead of time.  This can stave off some of our concerns and stave off some of those worried looks.  If somebody asks you about your red face, you can simply tell them that you are in the middle of a great workout, and this is simply your body’s way of keeping you cool.

Finally, you can’t necessarily prevent getting red skin, but you can minimize it by not getting so hot in the first place.  Work out in dry cool places or indoors.  Work out in shorter bouts (where your body has a chance to cool down) and drink plenty of fluids.

But for the most part, I encourage you to just accept your flushed face as a sign of super cool fitness accomplishment.  Cause you are just hot!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA the Fat Chick)

5 Comments. Leave new

  • I turn red and stay that way almost every time I exercise.
    Sometimes I get a shock to see myself in the mirror.
    But I’ve just accepted pale skin flushes.

  • Patsy Nevins
    June 18, 2015 7:05 am

    I am a very fair redhead & my face flushesm, but mostly, I sweat buckets, something I inherited from my thin father, btw, not my fat mother. I have cerebral palsy & work extra hard to move my body when I am exercising, & I usually finish looking as if I went through a car wash.

  • I have Rosacea and my face flushes beet red just from bending down, laughing, sneezing… It’s gotten really bad lately and my doctor and I are working to find a new medication that helps. In the meantime, I’ve had people tell me I have to leave the gym because they think I’m not well enough to exercise, despite my explaining my condition. I’ve had people stop me while walking around and force me to sit down and have a drink and rest, despite my protests. I’m tired of people assuming they know my health better than me. And people assume that when I get angry or frustrated it’s a further sign of me being disoriented and “going downhill fast”. How do you deal with this?

    • Hi Raven, Yes this is really hard. All you can do is tell people, as calmly as you can, that you have Rosacea and it makes your skin turn pink. And you can tell them that you are an adult who is perfectly capable of monitoring herself thank you very much and that if you need their help, you’ll ask for it. Or you can always just say “bless your heart”. It works for many, many situations. ;o) Jeanette

  • I’m a new subscriber & I’ve been reading the posts – they’re beyond awesome!
    This one caught my eye because I’m one of those red-faced people when I exercise. My whole family was. It’s never been too much concern to us (unless the person in question was panting & obviously distressed). Honestly, we get red-faced just laughing incredibly hard (which we used to do quite a bit).
    The first time I ever thought getting red-faced was a bad thing was when I was in 5th grade. I had PE right before Math class. A classmate & I both would get red-faced when we ran around with abandon (as you do when you’re 10 or 11). Our Math teacher (female) wouldn’t let us into her classroom until our faces were back to “normal”. It was a very shaming thing, especially when there was no way we could help it. She never made anyone else stay out of the room, even though we could not have been the only flushed kids coming out of PE. We were also not ‘skinny’ kids. Not really overweight, mind you, but not of the stick-build variety of people. We were both girls that started developing a little earlier than our peers and having this happen to us everyday was fairly devastating. I had a stomach ulcer as a kid and whenever I got stressed, my system dumped extra acid into my stomach. I ended up throwing up 2-3x per week after PE, mainly because I was so worked up over having to go to math class. I haven’t thought about this in a very long time. I thought this teacher was just a psycho. I guess I’m just surrounded by better people now. None of my dance teachers were ever concerned about my redness, just happy about my smiling face. Here’s to living through things that make you a better (hopefully kinder) person.

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