Feeling the Heat?

The summer months in Houston are very tough, as everyone knows to be outside for long periods of time. Houston often times remains very hot through most of September. Here are some easy tricks that I have used over the years while competing in tennis during the hot summer months. 

Heat exhaustion and fatigue occur when the body overheats. The problem with Houston weather is the humidity. In drier climates the sweat from our body evaporates, which pulls the heat out of the body, thus allowing the it to cool off. The humidity in Houston prevents evaporation, therefore causing the heat to remain in the body, and the brain does not get the cooling signals to regulate temperature.  
I would keep a small cooler with about three bandanas which I would tie around the neck, and put on my arms and legs on change overs. You can also buy the cooling gel products on the market that you can tie around your neck, or simply wet a towel with cold water and drape it around the neck during water breaks. The body then gets the cooling signals to the brain and is able to regulate the body temperature. It works like a charm and you can play 90 minutes in the hottest part of the day. 
Just remember that your body does not realize innately that a sport is a recreation and the process of becoming overheated is a threat to the amygdala which is the gland in the midbrain that protects us involuntarily from harm.  When you become overheated the natural bodily response is to shut down or stop what you are doing to prevent further harm to the body which affects the mental state of an athlete. 
This is one of the reasons why some athletes quit when the pressure and real "HEAT” is on. Just knowing that your survival instincts want you to quit to prevent harm can help an athlete become mentally tougher and have the courage to push through uncomfortable competitive situations.  
For more information, contact Mike May a mmay@houstonian.com.