Don’t Blame the High Temperatures
External heat stroke isn’t based on temperature alone. The body’s reaction is determined by the overall conditions in the environment. For example, athletes in regions with high humidity might experience EHS while working out in 85 degree weather because the combination makes the air feel even warmer. Beyond the temperature outside, it’s also important to consider how wind, humidity, and UV index affect each athlete’s performance during summer workouts.
Keep Athletes Hydrated
We’ve all heard that it’s important to drink eight glasses of water per day, but what does that really mean? For starters, if you’re not regularly drinking enough water, dehydration can cause quite a few concerning effects, including constant fatigue, dry skin, muscle cramps, and organ dysfunction. While it’s not a crucial part of EHS, dehydration can trigger a reaction as few as 20 minutes after the start of exercise. To minimize the incidence of EHS, athletes should hydrate prior to, during, and after their workout.
Encourage Regular Meals
Breakfast is deemed the most important meal of the day, which is why professional athletes tend to front load their nutrition. Student-athletes, on the other hand, may skip meals for one reason or another. But the fact is, their performance is impacted by this decision. They should be encouraged to eat frequent small meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables. Doing this can stave off dehydration and provide the energy for a quality workout.
Properly trained staff can make a significant impact when it comes to identifying and treating EHS. Lack of awareness of the proper signs and protocols for heat-related illnesses can be detrimental for everyone involved and even result in damage to the athlete’s brain and other organs. School staff and even parents should feel empowered to lobby for advanced training of the individuals working directly with athletes.
Adjust Your Scheduling
Certain times of day are warmer than others, with temperatures typically peaking in the afternoon. To accommodate athletes training during months of extreme heat such as July, August, and September, consider altering the workout to avoid uncomfortable conditions. It’s best to keep workouts short, segmented, and scheduled toward the beginning or end of the day when temperatures are cooler. On days when it’s extra hot, modify the workout to focus on less strenuous activities that can cool athletes while conditioning — such as biking or swimming.
Vary Athletes’ Activities
To avoid shocking athletes’ systems, start workouts slowly to allow their bodies to become acclimated to the temperature. Once athletes’ muscles are warmed up and their body temperature has adjusted, it’s OK to pick up the pace gradually. When doing so, make sure to keep an eye on how each athlete is handling the heat. To further avoid exhaustion, rotate athletes in and out of activities for a brief period of rest.
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