Having watched track athletes all these years, I see this all the time.  It never fails to occur the first time in the season you have warm weather and a nice sunny day.  At least it never fails in Columbus, Ohio where I reside.  Maybe if we lived in Florida year round I wouldn’t see this as often.

In Columbus, our spring is a roller coaster of weather.  Typically, the spring runs the spectrum of different weather – chilly, breezy, rainy, cloudy, sunny.

Usually, it starts off cool (40’s and 50’s) so the athletes get used to running their events in that type of weather.  Then all of the sudden it will jump up to 70’s and sunny.  The first time that happens, you might as well subtract one event from what your athletes are doing because it will be lights out soon.

The kids do what they typically do for a 50’s type day – lounge in the sun, don’t necessarily hydrate or eat correctly – and it wrecks them. 

After running their event, they are more exhausted than usual.  It is harder to recover and bounce back for the next event.  They start feeling and acting a little sluggish.  They might have to scratch an event because they feel light-headed.

Every time without fail, I see this the first time the weather changes to a hot, sunny day.

To try and counter this from happening, do some of the following tips:

  • First off, look at the weather and what time of day your event is. If your game starts at 4:30pm or 5:00pm then you might be alright because the sun will be setting soon.  If you have a morning game that rolls into the early afternoon when the sun is at its peak intensity, you might want to read on.
  • Having some practice in hot weather will definitely help acclimate you to this type of heat. But, you sometimes don’t have control over how hot or sunny your practice is.  Read on.
  • Proper hydration is a big one. If you looked at the weather in advance and know it will be hot, you need to start hydrating with water or sports drink now.  It will be an accumulative effect, but start doing it.  The day of the event, I prefer drinking sports drinks over water if it is 70-75 degrees or hotter.  The electrolytes in those drinks and other ingredients help replenish the sodium and potassium you are losing through sweat.
  • Eat properly and plenty. You need fuel for your body and if you are neglecting this, it makes it tough for your engine to go.  Just like the hydration, eat plenty several days before to make sure you have enough energy to compete.
  • I know you can’t control the colors of your team uniform, but if you can wear non-dark colors and lightweight material. Yes, you want to make sure you are warmed up and can break a sweat, but it will be easier to do that in warmer weather.  Plus, you don’t want your clothes sticking to you because you are sweating a lot.
  • When you can get in some shade. Don’t let that sun beat down on you.
  • The big one you need to do is wear sunscreen. You can hold off on it for about 15 minutes so your body can soak up some Vitamin D, but then get it on.  That sun just drains you so put the reflective screen on.  Plus, if you start getting burnt, you won’t be able to move as effectively.  Also, put some protectant on your lips so they don’t get dry or cracked.

If you follow these tips, your athlete will have a much better chance handling that hot, sunny day the first time he/she experiences it during their season.