Soon, area high school football players will be leaving their air-conditioned homes and heading back to the field in full pads. The afternoon Houston heat can be brutal, but athletes can make the transition easier by getting acclimatized beforehand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acclimatization is the beneficial physiological adaptations that occur during repeated exposure to a hot environment. To put it in more simple terms: training in a hot environment will gradually become easier over several weeks as your body becomes acclimated to that environment.
“If athletes take the time to do some workouts in the heat before preseason camps and practices start up, the transition will be made much easier,” said Brett Singer, a sports dietitian at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. “When athletes first start to train in hot conditions, the body may struggle to regulate temperature. However, if they are adapted to their environment, the body will handle those temperatures significantly better.”
The Best Ways to Acclimatize
- Acclimatization requires 10 to 14 days of activity, ideally lasting 60-90 minutes each session. Athletes can start with 20-30 minutes of outdoor activity and gradually build up to 60-90 minutes. Activity can include jogging, or sport specific activity such as working on footwork, running routes and practicing their respective sport with friends.
- Make sure you are preparing for the proper environment. If you know you will be practicing in mid-afternoon, then you should be working out at that same time and not during a time when temperatures are cooler. Make sure to account for humidity, as well.
- Athletes should make sure to take time to rest before camps or practices begin. Typically, a day or two of rest between workouts will help to make sure the body isn’t drained before camps start up.
“While you want your body to get acclimated to the heat, you also want to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions,” Singer said.
- Increase intake of fluids. Ensure that during physical activity you are not losing greater than two percent of your body weight from sweat loss.
- Use ice cold towels, dump cold fluids on the head and neck, or even use ice vests to help lower your body temperature in extreme heat.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion. These signs include heavy sweating, dizziness or confusion, nausea, headaches and pale skin. If you notice these symptoms, stop exercising, get indoors and cool off. If symptoms don’t subside, get emergency help. The purpose of training outdoors before camp begins is to get your body adjusted to the environment, not make yourself sick. Start light, and build your way up while paying close attention to how you’re feeling.
For more sports science tips from Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, click here.