4 tips for training in the heat

Summer training heat is, of course, relative to the part of the country you live in, but since there is a huge football population in the southern states– from the Big 12, SEC, ACC, and many other football conferences– heat is an issue. Not many schools below D1 have an indoor training facility to take the edge off the heat. And you certainly won’t see a school go north for training camp like the pros do. I am going to give some observations and suggestions about how to safely navigate the summer workouts. Heat is a thief. I have now said that twice but what does it mean? It means that as much as you try to acclimate, prepare and prevent repercussions from heat, it will always win in the end. Nobody is immune. And heat is robbing you of fluid, energy, and performance. It’s hot for everyone, but who is the smartest about it? I’m asking about sports across the board, but you football players are wearing 15-20 lbs. of heavily insulated gear on your body and head– with no cooling fans either– what trick helps you stay cooled off as much as any other sport?

1 - Strategize when your team gets on the field for practice.

“Touch” the heat, as we like to say, means to feel the weather before immersing your team into it. More specifically, this means that rather than going out at 3:30 p.m. every afternoon, choose to go out at 2:00 p.m., 3 times a week for only an hour tops. Keep this “touch” in mind for morning practices too. Some of you may have noticed the morning phenomenon when the weather gets almost as hot at 10:30 a.m. as it does at 3:30 p.m.. Summer training times must be scheduled around the coolest times of the day to keep your players on their feet.

2 - Modify your warm-ups.

Because of the heat, walking outside and onto the field can be as much as a warm-up as doing a full warm-up in the winter. We do our warm-ups differently in January than in July for example. The warm-ups in the summer months should be shorter and to the point, because when you start sweating, your body is showing that it is hot and fully warmed up. Then get a good stretch and you’re good to go. As proof, for many summers, at my indoor training facility, we only went outside once a week and that was for the Saturday long speed. Many of those athletes had soccer, baseball, tennis or 7-on-7 practices, so we had to protect their health and support their practice in the best way we could; their athletic development was done in a controlled environment for maximum gains. Because of this preventative measure, everybody was ready for training camp and crushed their conditioning test.

3 - Drink lots and lots of fluids.

Anybody in the heat for hours on end should be continuously drinking water and electrolyte drinks morning-noon-night. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink, that’s when dangerous heat exhaustion happens. Eating vs. drinking: this is a balance too. Don’t overfill with water before a meal, it will curb your appetite and you need to eat. Carbohydrates contain water, which hydrates you during meals, but limits how much and how fast you drink water until after your meal. The reason being, not to fill up on too much liquid that can keep you from eating as much as you need to.

4 - Cover-up.

This has been hard for some to understand. If you are out in the sun, but not working out, it is still important to wear a hat and long sleeves, because of sunburn or heat exhaustion. If you are a player, try training in long sleeves. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t wear it, but try. As a coach, for years I wore long sleeves during workouts and practices. Guys would ask, “aren’t you hot?” My answer was always the same, “not any hotter than you– and tonight I won’t be either (my skin I mean). Even if you follow each of these steps, you still could get sunburned, which has loads of disadvantages, including making you tired later. Leave the Aloe Vera behind and cover-up.

Remember: Shade is the enemy of the heat. Train aggressively… train intelligently. - Coach King


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