Don’t wait: Hydrate!

In high school, I competed in many Designated, Sectional, and National tournaments for the USTA (United States Tennis Association). Since I lived in South Florida (known to some as the tennis capital of the U.S. because of the warm weather and good competition), I was not only exercising a lot, but I was constantly playing long hours in the heat. This meant that I had to learn how to listen to my body so I could stay healthy.

In college, when I played on the Varsity Tennis Team for Cornell University in upstate New York, we often played outside, where it was on the other extreme: much colder. Therefore, I had to learn how to adjust and still recognize when I needed to fuel my body with food, rest, or hydrate in cold weather.

If YOU are an active athlete, it is important to hydrate yourself. This process is furthermore imperative if you are playing in severe hot weather or severe cold weather. Exercising in the heat increases your fluid loss through sweating, and exercising in the cold can make it more difficult for your body to recognize fluid losses and increase fluid loss through respiration. Hydration is necessary in both cases.

Additionally, the longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kinds of fluids. If you do not properly hydrate yourself, you are at risk of experiencing dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and heat illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

I specifically remember one National tournament in Miami, Florida where it was fairly hot and humid. The girl fought in a three-setter, but when she was finished, she had to lie on the ground with a wet cloth on her neck until the ambulance arrived. Since she did not drink enough fluids during the match, she was experiencing a heat stroke. Luckily, she was immediately treated and cured, but I learned that even the most highly conditioned athletes can become victims of the heat stroke if they do not take precautions, such as drinking lots of water throughout the day, wearing loose clothing, and taking frequent breaks.

Hydration should take place before, during, and after a game or practice. When you have a tournament the next day, I make sure you drink enough water the night before. Additionally, drink an adequate amount of water during the match changeovers, breaks, and after the match. So remember: hydrate yourself properly during play, especially if you are exercising in extreme weather conditions.

Starting today, I will post a blog three times a week for everyone to read. My posts will consist of health and wellness for teens and pre-teens in a fun and informative content. For more information, please visit www.courtneymalinchak.com

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