The importance of heat safety and hydration in workouts is not lost on today’s generation of coaches and athletes. Gone are the “Junction Boys” days of water deprivation and unsupervised two-a-days in the blazing heat. Ever since the University of Florida team of scientists developed the first (nearly undrinkable) versions of Gatorade a half century a go, methods of avoiding dehydration have continued to evolve.
And with COVID-19 breaking teams up into smaller units, even solo, for workouts, maintaining heat safety is an even bigger responsibility. The Beat the Heat playlist, a series of videos available on YouTube by Gatorade, offers a few tips, with its superstar athletes serving the advice.
The hydration equation is an easy way JJ Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans, measures how much fluid he needs to rehydrate following a tough outdoor workout. Weigh yourself before the workout then check how much weight you lose in sweat after the workout is complete. For each pound lost, drink about 20 ounces of fluid to fully rehydrate.
Another way to monitor your hydration level is by comparing your urine color to household beverages like lemonade and apple juice. George Kittle, tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, explains that if your urine is dark like apple juice, you probably need a hydrating beverage like Gatorade to replenish fluids and electrolytes. If your urine is lighter like lemonade, you’re in good shape, but remember to stay hydrated.
In addition to drinking fluids to stay hydrated, applying cool, wet towels to the body can help bring your temperature down. A quick cool-down method that professional hurdler and sprinter Sydney McLaughlin relies on simply requires a wet towel and a cooler. Before a workout, wet a couple of towels and put them in a nearby cooler or freezer. When you feel hot, take a towel out and tie it around your head or neck.
If you don’t have access to a cooler, make your own with a few household items: an empty cardboard box, bubble wrap, aluminum foil and scissors. Cut bubble wrap into pieces that match the sizes of each side of the box and wrap each piece of bubble wrap in foil. Line the box with the foil-wrapped bubble wrap pieces, fill with ice and keep your Gatorade and other fluids cool. Watch professional beach volleyball player April Ross demonstrate how to create this DIY cooler here:
Head Start on Hydration
When it’s hot outside, it’s important to begin hydrating even before athletic activity begins. On a day you’re planning to train, David Cutcliffe, head football coach of the Duke University Blue Devils, recommends hydrating when you first wake up so you have enough fluids in your body once the workout begins. Then continue to hydrate throughout the day, during and after your workout, with a cold drink that helps replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.
It’s important to acclimate yourself to the hot weather when working out outside. Kansas City Chiefs head trainer Rick Burkholder suggests starting your training with a one-hour workout then adding 15 minutes each day to ease your way into the heat.