Play It Cool

If you do not hydrate well and your body does not stay cool, heat-related illness becomes a real threat.

Published April 01, 2012 05:22

Play It Cool
Marion Bartoli


When training or competing in hot and/or humid conditions, your risk for early fatigue and heat-related illness is directly affected by a number of factors:

• Inadequate hydration
• Excessive sweating
• Lack of heat acclimatization
• Some medications
• Poor nutrition
• Lack of restful sleep
• Sunburn
• Some genetic disorders
• Recent long flight
• Recent illness/fever/infection
• Improper clothes
• Prolonged sun exposure

Combining any of these risk factors with strenuous physical activity in hot and humid conditions can quickly lead to serious HEAT ILLNESS and perhaps a medical emergency.

Some heat Illnesses are considered minor, as symptoms can be easily treated by a healthcare provider and resolved soon after treatment. Initial signs and symptoms of heat illness include:

Exertional muscle cramps - mild to intense muscle spasms in the legs, arms and trunk due to either muscle overload or fatigue or extensive fluid/sodium deficits in the body.
Heat syncope - fainting or near-fainting caused by exposure to the heat, dehydration, and pooling of blood in the legs after exercise. Is characterized by dizziness, tunnel vision, weakness, and low blood pressure and heart rate.
Heat Illness is considered significant if the symptoms noted above progress or proceed to a state which requires significant/extensive medical intervention. Symptoms of major heat illness include:
Heat exhaustion - normal or high body temperature (<40°C/104°F), heavy sweating, (or absence of sweating), significant dehydration, headache, nausea, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, weak pulse, and collapse/fainting.
Heat stroke - is a medical emergency characterized by confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment, and very high body temperature (>40°C/104°F) which can lead to loss of consciousness, multiple organ system failure and damage and death.


Take Precautions! Speak to medical professional about special testing, (for example, sweat loss test & thermal monitoring), to determine your risk for heat-related illnesses and how to prevent or manage those risks.

Safety = Optimal Performance!


Apply these prevention strategies:

HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION = helping your body adapt to and safely tolerate environmental challenges

The time it takes for complete heat acclimatization depends on the conditions between the new and your current environments. This could be10-14 days of progressive exposure to the new conditions, (exercising in the heat), for full acclimatization; but you may start to feel acclimatized after 4-5 days.
How should you acclimatize to the new environment?

• Find a training location with similar heat and humidity weather conditions — always train with a coach/partner.
• Include 6-14 days of progressive acclimatization - gradually increase time and exercise intensity.
• Use appropriate exercise/rest cycles to speed up adaptive changes without excess heat strain.

• Schedule to allow adequate and safe acclimatization (arrive early) and stay hydrated.
• Exercise daily increasing each day up to 90 minutes, progressively increasing intensity of the workout.
• Incorporate additional acclimatization sessions into your training day.

PRE-EVENT ACCLIMATIZATION (the few days before competition)
• Use appropriate work/rest cycles and decrease training duration and volume but maintain intensity.
• After you begin to get used to the conditions, begin to acclimatize on court at peak heat times during the day.
• Limit unnecessary heat exposure - do other training activities during cooler times of day or in the shade.
• Frequent repetitive exposure to extreme heat conditions during practice or competition may not allow your body to fully recover between exposures. Allow adequate recovery time to fully cool your body.

PRE-COOLING = slightly cooling your body prior to an event in hot conditions

In theory, starting competition with a cooler body enables you to increase your heat storage and perform more work before you reach a potentially unsafe core body temperature which limits performance. It delays fatigue and helps you perform longer before you feel the effects of the heat.
How can you pre-cool your body for competition in extreme heat?

• Stay out of the heat - stay inside with air conditioning or at least keep in the shade
• Cold-water immersion in a tub (5 minutes duration) 30 - 40 minutes prior to your competition
• Cold shower (5 - 10 minutes duration) 20 - 30 minutes prior to your competition
• Ice vest/ blanket/towels applied to the core (15 minutes duration) 1 hour prior to your competition

NUTRITION & HYDRATION MODIFICATION = keeping up with your energy needs and fluid and electrolyte balance

• Eat a meal/snack (carbohydrates) and add salt to your food
• Drink non-caffeine beverages with some carbs such as Gatorade©
• Check your urine color or specific gravity to ensure adequate hydration

• Add salt or GatorLYTES© to your sport drink (if likely to cramp)
• If needed, nibble on quick energy snacks like pretzels, jelly beans, or sport gels
• Note: if your pre-match meal is adequate, you will not get hungry during a match

• Eat a snack (carbohydrate and a little protein 3:1 ratio) within 30 minutes
• Drink water and sports drink to  replenish fluids and electrolytes
• Add salt to your food

*The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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