It is every athlete’s worst enemy. No, not jock itch, but the heat.
With this summer’s temperatures reaching extreme highs, many Cal Poly coaches and athletes training for the fall season are taking action to fight off dehydration and potential heat stroke.
“We are fortunate here,” Cal Poly football head coach Rich Ellerson said. “Our heat is not as extreme as the southwest. We practice for an hour and 15 minutes and then take 20 minutes where we get off the field and get into the shade and hide to hydrate and drop the players’ core temperatures down.”
Heat-related deaths happen nearly every summer, with the most recent one occurring in Georgia when a 15-year-old football player collapsed and died July 31 after a hot practice. The incident spurred Georgia high school officials to adopt a statewide heat-related policy that would require schools to have a written heat policy and a scientifically-accepted device on the field to measure heat and humidity.
But while dehydration may be a major culprit to heat-related maladies, there is also the threat of over-hydrating. After the death of a 28-year-old woman in the Boston Marathon, experts have warned that excessive water intake can dilute levels of sodium in the blood. Experts also advise long distance runners to replace the liquids they sweat out. One way to calculate fluid loss can be through weighing oneself before a run and then weighing again after finishing. If there is a two-percent drop, then the runner has not consumed enough fluid.
“Basically, you get symptoms of dizziness and loss of balance,” nutrition senior Matt Falstreau said. “Your body feels like it’s going to shut down on you. I haven’t had severe dehydration, but I notice when I have been close.”
Falstreau has been running for the Cal Poly Triathlon team for more than a year and worries some athletes do not fully prepare for training in the hot days.
“I hydrate the day before a race throughout the day continuously, but also I won’t just drink water,” he said. “It’s more like half water and half Gatorade. With the Gatorade I can replenish my electrolytes.”
Athletes training in the heat should stay aware of the signals their body is giving them.
“Your body lets you know what to do,” Falstreau said. “If you need water, your body will let you know, but wearing a hat during the run also helps keep your core cooler.”
While the heat may not be as extreme as other locations, coaches and athletes alike are taking the precautions to allow full potential and safety at the same time.
“(With) the combination of mildly cool weather and keeping our athletes hydrated, we have never had an issue,” Ellerson said. “We are really fortunate where we are. Those teams in the southwest have it hard with the high humidity and the high temperatures. We get uncomfortable, but it’s nothing (compared to) what I experienced when I was in Arizona.”