Earlier this season, I had a column called “Dress Code Required,” in which I discussed being properly equipped and protected when competing in outdoor sports activities.
Summer is here and the days are long and hot. Staying cool and keeping well hydrated is an important daily requirement when living in the Sunshine State. This is even more important when we participate in outdoor activities like tennis and pickleball. So, I would like to review and remind everyone on how important it is to stay safe and healthy and not get beat by the heat!
There are several simple things we can do to protect ourselves from heat exposure. Making wise choices as a part of our daily routine will help us to not succumb to getting overheated. These wise choices should actually be part of our strategy to allow us to play at our highest level of performance when competing.
First and most important is water! Be sure to stay well hydrated on an hour-by-hour, daily basis.
Feeling thirsty is not the only sign of preliminary dehydration. Early signs of dehydration can include experiencing lightheadedness or dizziness, having a feeling of anxiousness or confusion. Minor dehydration can also lead to sleeping problems.
Extreme dehydration can lead to fainting, heart palpitations, and a possible shutdown of our abilities to pass fluids. Our body’s cooling system will actually shut down and we will quit sweating.
Our body’s natural cooling system is sweat, which evaporates from our skin and cools our body. The problem our natural cooling system has to deal with here in South Florida is more the amount of humidity that our body is dealing with.
I recently returned from a vacation in Northern California, and I had the pleasure of playing pickleball while I was there. The daily high temps were pushing 90 degrees, but the humidity was down around 40%.
I noticed a significant difference in how my natural cooling system functioned and how my body temperature remained more stable. I simply just did not feel as hot as I do when I play here in Florida.
However, even thoughI did not feel as hot and sweaty, I made sure I stayed well hydrated.
As for staying well hydrated, I believe regular consumption of plenty of good old H2O is best.
Along with regular daily hydration, we also need to do recovery hydration after sports activities. I do not really care for sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, because they actually contain high amounts of sugar and are not really the best choice. So how do we know what is the best choice for sports drinks? Read the ingredients!
I recommend a product called Emergen-C. It can be purchased at places like Walgreens or Walmart. It is a powder, which you mix with water, and it comes in several different flavors. I personally like the raspberry flavor. Since Emergen-C contains less sugar than traditional sports drinks, you do have to acquire a taste for it, because it is not as sweet- tasting as traditional sports drinks.
Another good choice for hydration recovery is a product called Pedialyte. Pedialyte is actually formulated for babies and infants who become dehydrated. Pedialyte can be consumed as a liquid or as a freezer pop. As with Emergen-C, you must acquire a taste for the product. I find the freezer pops to actually be very flavorful and refreshing.
Both Emergen-C and Pedialyte are available in generic brands for a few dollars less.
It is also important to be properly fueled with food.
If you plan on being out on the courts for more than an hour, you should plan on snacking while you are competing. Just like a Formula 1 or Indy Car race driver, you want to be sure you have a proper amount of fuel to get you through the race to the finish line.
This means knowing when to refuel and what to refuel with. You want to eat a healthy medium-sized meal approximately one hour before you plan to compete. I personally like to have some pasta and a salad.
You need to continually top off the tank while you are playing. I recommend staying away from processed foods like granola bars or power bars, and sticking with naturalfoods like fruits and whole grains. For instance, a wheat bagel and some cheddar cheese provide for a good blend of carbs and protein and you can never go wrong by just having a couple of bananas in your tennis bag.
Take few bites during changeovers. Remember, you want to be refueling as you go – it’s not a good idea to go out to play on a full stomach.
Unfortunately for consumers, most sunscreens are marketed for the convenience of their applications and a pleasant scent. Sunscreen should actually be odorless and should apply like a thick paste. It should not make you smell like coconut and should not apply like creamy hand lotion!
Some sunscreens do not necessarily provide the amount of protection they claim. Recent studies have shown that 47% of the sunscreens on the market today do not actually provide the SPF stated on the bottle,
So how do we know for sure how much protection we are actually getting? Once again, read the ingredients!
Forget the SPF number, you want to choose a sunscreen which has a zinc oxide content of as high as possible (which is 14.5%). You also want to choose a sunscreen that has as few other ingredients as possible.
You should apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going on the court to compete. You should also apply sunscreen to parts of the body which are not directly exposed to the sun, because a shirt that does not contain an SPF fabric, that is soaking wet from sweat, provides very little protection from the sun.
There is a website called ewg.org which provides independent testing and ratings of sunscreens. You can enter your sunscreen and it will show you the rating on its actual UVA and UVB protection. I found the information provided at ewg.org to be very enlightening in regards to how many sunscreens were not actually providing the protection they were claiming to be providing!
Tennis clothing was traditionally all white; a tradition that is carried on to this day at the Wimbledon Championships. I have noticed over the last several years, that both men and women players onthe professional tennis tour have been wearing darker colored coordinated tennis clothing. While these color-coordinated outfits can be very fashionable, remember, darker colors attract and absorb the sun more than light-colored material.
Several manufacturers, like Nike and Adidas, make their clothing out of moisture-wicking materials, which are cut to fit tighter and are designed to pull the sweat from your skin and allow it to dry quicker by evaporating through the lightweight material. A theory which works well in most climates, but can be challenged here in Florida because of the amount of humidity we are dealing with.
I prefer a loose fitting 100% white cotton shirt, because once it gets saturated (which only takes about 15 minutes in summertime) and we are beyond the point of evaporation, it actually helps our body’s cooling system to work more efficiently. The slightest breeze blowing on the wet shirt actually helps cool the skin.
Companies are now manufacturing towels you can soak in cold water and will retain a cool temperature for up to 30 minutes. Take the towel and drape it over your head, neck and shoulders in between games. You would be amazed how this can dramatically reduce you body temperature.
Other simple and smart things we can do to protect ourselves are to always be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses. It is also a good idea to try to spend as much time as possible in the shade during changeovers and in between games.
So while you are working on a strategy to beat your opponents this summer, make sure to work on a strategy to beat the heat.
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at the Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis juniors program runs year-round, and has classes for players from kindergarten through high school.
Contact Coach Wayne by email at WClark@cityofmarcoislnd.com, by phone or text at 239-450-6161, or visit his website at www.marco-island-tennis.com.