Ask an Expert: Sports science insights for athletes

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It can be difficult for athletes, coaches and parents to sort out fact, fiction and fads in the evolving field of sports science.

The Sanford Sports Science Institute is here to help. Through its role as the official research partner of the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation, SSSI experts are going to your questions in this ongoing segment: Ask an Expert.

If you have a question you’d like to be answered here, send an email to sanfordsportsci@sanfordhealth.org.

Question: For events such as the hammer throw or shot put, is technique or strength more important to throw longer distances?

Answer: The simple answer is both strength and technique play a big role in throwing events. Undersized throwers such as Erin Gilreath (former hammer throw world record holder) have benefited from working with a diverse team of coaches helping her in the weight room for strength gains and from a technical perspective on her form. For sport-specific strength gains throwers should spend time in the weight room, especially in the offseason, training powerful lifts such as Olympic lifts. Distance can also be gained by power generation from the ground and efficiently transferring it through the body while also releasing the hammer or shot put at an ideal launch angle. This is achieved by proper technique which throwing coaches and biomechanists can help to provide. In short, both strength and technique working together, not one or the other, is the best way to get the most out of your throws.

Aaron Trunt, Sr. Biomechanical Engineer
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Questions: I am a soccer player and train endurance running several days a week. Recently I have started lifting more weights and training strength. Is this detrimental to my endurance and agility? How many days a week should I limit weight training to optimize soccer performance while still gaining muscle in the gym?

Answer: Strength training is not detrimental to an athlete’s endurance & agility. This is a common misconception, that is sometimes thought amongst endurance athletes and/or their coaches. Strength training will help improve an athlete’s agility (ability to change directions) and the athlete’s response to a stimulus (an opposing player’s movements).  A properly implemented strength program, with scheduled recovery days between sessions, will improve athletic performance and reduce injury risk. Ideally, it is recommended to incorporate two to three days/week of strength training into an athlete’s program.

Rony Sieperda, CSCS
Sanford POWER

Question: ​I am an endurance athlete, should I be training with explosive exercises or doing heavy strength training?

Answer: Yes, training of this kind is known as “Concurrent Training” and it has been shown to have a very positive impact on endurance performance, particularly running economy. Both explosive and heavy resistance training can improve running economy and using both training methods may result in even greater improvements. Some studies have shown improvements in just a few weeks, however, using this training method for a longer period of time is more likely to yield positive results.

Dan Poel, MS, CSCS
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: Can lack of sleep affect my athletic performance or training?

Answer: Yes. Acute sleep deprivation of more than three days can reduce athletic performance by increasing the perception of effort (the event, competition and/or training feels more difficult). Furthermore, there may be an increased risk of getting sick, increased risk of injury and your metabolism (the breakdown of food in your body) may be altered.

One hour prior to your normal bedtime you should refrain from using electronic devices (smart phones, watching TV) or at the very least shift your devices to night mode to reduce the effects of blue light stimulation. Blue light can affect your body’s internal clock and may not allow the release of melatonin, the sleep regulating hormone. It is recommended that you receive at least eight hours of sleep each night but an individual’s personal requirement may be different from athlete to athlete.

Jason Dorman, MS, CSCS
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: I’m training for a marathon (non competitively, just running it to say I have) and I was wondering about the science behind popular sports gels and GUs. Are they good for you? Is it more of a placebo effect? Should I just properly carload instead?​

Answer: This is a great question to address for all first time marathon runners! Nutrition is one commonly overlooked part of training and racing for many first time marathon runners, and taking in those carbohydrates can help prevent you from “hitting the wall” or running out of energy on race day as well as training runs. The idea behind the carbohydrate products has good scientific backing; your body has limited stores of energy from carbohydrates, your muscles’ main fuel source. Research indicates that taking in carbohydrates, such as GU gels and other popular carbohydrate products, during a long run or on race day, has a positive effect on your running performance. The recommendation is to ingest 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during exercise over 90 minutes to provide your muscles with addition fuel and delay fatigue by sparing stored carbohydrates (glycogen) and preventing your blood sugar from dropping.

  • Practice during your training runs by eating 3060 grams of carbohydrate per hour (120-240 calories/hour) after that first hour of running.
  • For most carbohydrate energy products (Gu’s, gels, chomps, etc.), this is about 2-3 packages per hour.
  • Different products contain different types of sugars, so it is important to practice with many different types of carbohydrate fuels during training to experiment with how your body will respond to the different fuels.
  • Always take in carbohydrates with plain water, not sports drinks.

Nutrition on the run is just one part of the puzzle. What you eat before your run, timing of nutrition and hydration on the run, and post-run recovery, can also impact your training runs and race day performance. Work with the sports dietitian to develop a solid nutrition plan to run stronger on race day.

Lizzie Kasparek, MS, RD, CSSD, LN
Sports Dietitian
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: What are the benefits of foam rolling for performance and recovery?

Answer: There are many benefits that have been suggested to improve performance and recovery, however the exact reason why it is beneficial is still unclear. Foam rolling can be beneficial before and or after exercises. Foam rolling before exercise can be a great compliment to a dynamic warm-up.  It helps warm up the tissues, encourage blood flow, and promote flexibility within the muscles. Some studies have also found a slight increase in sprint performance following foam rolling. Foam rolling after exercise can also be a very beneficial way to improve recovery. Some of the benefits include, decreased sensation of pain and tightness, improved flexibility, and stimulates a nervous system response to promote healing.

Jenny Dalland, MS, ATC, Sanford Sports Science Institute

Wiewelhove T, Döweling A, Schneider C, Hottenrott L, Meyer T, Kellmann M, Pfeiffer M and Ferrauti A (2019) A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery. Front. Physiol. 10:376. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00376

Question: How do I know if I am ready to safely return to training after an injury?

Answer: Timing when to start practicing and competing after an injury depends on many things including the severity and location of the injury and where you are at in the healing process. Before returning to training after an injury, it is important to talk to physician to determine the rehabilitation or physical therapy objectives criteria are met.  Even though the joint or injury site can be pain-free, but have full range of motion and strength is critical for preventing the injury reoccur or second injury.  Most importantly, being mentally prepared to participate in sports is as important as being physically prepared.

Alex Chong, MS, Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how do you determine when to seek medical attention?

Answer: Heat Exhaustion is a heat related illness when people work or play in a hot and humid environment and body fluids are lost through sweating which causes the body to become overhead and become dehydrated. The body temperature may be elevated but not exceed 104°.  Warning signs of heat exhaustion are pale cool clammy skin, Headache, profuse sweating, core body temperature may be elevated but not above 104°, and dizziness or lightheadedness.

Heat Stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually develops because of untreated heat exhaustion.  Heat stroke occurs when the body’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point where brain damage or damage to the internal organs may occur.  The signs of heat stroke are: body core temperature 105° or higher, flushed hot dry skin, fainting, confusion, coma, blood pressure changes, and rapid breathing.

If you suspect someone may be suffering from heat stroke seek medical attention immediately.  If you suspect someone may be suffering from heat exhaustion get the person out of the sun and offer cool fluids, remove any layers of tight clothing, fans, or cool towels will also help bring the body temperature down.  If the person is unable to keep down fluids, the body temperature exceeds 104 or symptoms continue to deteriorate after 15 minutes of intervention seek medical attention immediately.

Jennifer Dalland, MS, ATC, Sanford Sports Science Specialist

Question: How can overuse injuries be prevented in young throwing athletes?

Answer: Here are some things that you can focus on:

      1. Focus on proper throwing mechanics: Before throwing in competition or even throwing an implement of any kind, athletes should seek the help of seasoned throwers and coaches to teach them proper throwing techniques, particularly when throwing large or heavy objects such as track implements which often require techniques no common in other throwing sports.
  1. Less is more, particularly for young athletes: When practicing/training try to keep your maximal effort throws to a minimum, and instead focus on using proper technique.  It is possible to grain technical expertise without ever touching an implement.
  2. Stop training when you reach a point where your technique begins to falter. Discontinue training when:
  • Throws become inaccurate
  • Throwing distance begins to decrease
  • Technique begins to suffer

Note: All of these will likely occur before physical fatigue.

  1. Don’t specialize too early:

There are many different throwing sports, all of which exercise an athlete’s throwing arm in different ways.

It is important to develop proper movement skills before focusing all of one’s time and energy on training for one specific sport.  One of the best ways for young athletes to develop these movement skills is to be physically active and participate in as many different sports/activities as possible, all of which will train the body in different and important ways.

Dan Poel, MS, CSCS
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: ​I have heard from friends that athletes have higher protein needs and need to drink a protein shake post-workout in order to gain muscle. Is this true?

Answer: Good question! While it is true that athletes have higher protein needs than the average person to help build and repair muscle, large amounts of protein doesn’t necessarily equate to more muscle and most athletes can meet their protein needs through food. Eat high-quality protein, such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy, or soy in addition to carbohydrates and healthy fats at each meal to optimize performance gains and muscle recovery.​

Lizzie Kasparek, MS, RD, CSSD, LN
Sports Dietitian
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: How do plyometrics transfer in sprinting and middle-distance races?

Answer: Plyometric exercise involves an eccentric, or lengthening, muscle contraction followed by a forceful concentric, or shortening, muscle contraction. Research has shown that strength training and plyometric training to improve running economy and performance. To run faster, a runner needs to be able to put added force into the ground to create a powerful contraction to propel themselves forward. Plyometric training has been found to improve the stretch shortening cycle by improving musculoskeletal stiffness and increasing the ability to store and release energy. Other benefits of plyometric training include increased recruitment of muscle fibers, improved neuromuscular coordination, and improved fatigue resistance. Plyometric training can benefit both sprinters and middle-distance runners. This type of training will help make a runner more explosive at the start of the race and added muscle fiber recruitment will also increase their stamina to the finish line. If you are including plyometric training to the strengthening program be sure to include it at the beginning of the session and it should be performed at maximum effort and velocity.

Jennifer Dalland, MS, ATC, Sanford Sports Science Specialist
Jessie Haines, CSCS, Lead Strength and Conditioning Specialist

References:

Spurrs, R.W. et al (2003). “The effect of plyometric training on distance running performance” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 89(1), 1-7

Turner, A.M. et.al (2003). “Improvement in Running Economy after 6 weeks of plyometric training” Journal of National Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(1), 60-67.

Question: How can I monitor my hydration status throughout training and before competition?

Answer: A simple way for athletes to monitor hydration is by looking at the color of their urine.  If an athlete’s urine is dark yellow, that is a sign of dehydration and means the athlete should drink some fluids (water or a sports drink are often the best options). Dehydration usually happens over an extended period of time, so it may take several hours for an athlete to fully rehydrate. Moderate and consistent fluid intake is the best strategy for preventing dehydration and rehydrating after activity. If an athlete’s urine is light yellow it means he/she has probably been doing a good job of staying hydrated. Well-hydrated athletes should continue regular consumption of fluids to maintain a proper hydration status.

Dan Poel, MS, CSCS Sports Science Institute

Question: What sort of diet should a 100-meter sprinter follow?

Answer: Good nutrition can help sprinters get the most out of their training to build muscle, become stronger and faster, and gain the energy they need to perform at a high level. During training, the majority of a sprinter’s calories (at least 55 percent) should be coming from carbohydrates in the form of bread, pasta, rice, cereal, fruits, vegetables, dairy and legumes/beans. Although the sprint race itself is short and will not necessarily require carbohydrate loading, adequate carbohydrate intake during training is essential for providing the muscles with energy and for recovery after training sessions/practice. Another key nutrient is protein – sprint athletes have high protein needs (at least 1.2 grams per kg body weight) to promote muscle recovery and growth. Having a serving of protein-rich foods, including meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and fish at all meals, snacks, and post-workout helps athletes meet their protein needs to build muscle and aid in recovery. In addition to meals, drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated is essential for performance, especially for longer or intense workouts or exercise in a hot/humid environment.

A sample day of meals for an athlete might look like this:

Breakfast: 2 pieces of whole grain toast with 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter and sliced banana, 2-3 eggs with shredded cheese

Snack: Trail mix made with nuts, raisins or other dried fruit and whole grain cereal

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun with 1-2 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, 1 piece of fruit and 8-16 oz. milk

Pre-Workout Snack – a few options: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a date and nut bar or a granola bar or a piece of fruit

Dinner: 4-6 oz. meat, poultry or fish, 2 cups of cooked vegetables, 2 cups of cooked grains/starches (pasta, rice, quinoa, corn, beans, peas, sweet potato or potato), optional side salad with vinaigrette dressing and 8-16 oz. milk

Optional bedtime snack: 1 cup of Greek yogurt with berries and granola

Nutrition is highly individualized, so although all athletes should be focusing on consistency with nutrition (starting the day off with breakfast, eating every few hours, packing snacks to have pre-practice and making sure post-workout recovery nutrition is occurring within an hour post-workout), nutrition needs vary between individuals. Additionally, there are other considerations such as when and what to eat before a competition, travel nutrition, and individual goals of athletes that may change nutrition recommendations for different athletes, so working with a Sports Dietitian can help you determine what your nutrition plan should look like on workout and competition days.

Lizzie Kasparek, MS, RD, CSSD, LN
Sports Dietitian
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: What causes muscle cramps and how do you treat them?

Answer: Muscle Cramps are sudden, involuntary muscle contractions that can occur during or after exercise. They can be caused by muscle fatigue or from an excessive loss of water and electrolytes due to heavy sweating. Muscle cramps are more likely to occur during intense and/or prolonged exercise in hot, humid conditions.

The best treatment for muscle cramps is prevention! This includes being well-trained and conditioned for a given bout of exercise, and being properly rested, nourished and hydrated before exercise begins. During and after exercise, it is important to replace fluids and electrolytes that are lost. A cool-down can also be beneficial. If muscle cramping does occur, gentle massage and stretching will help relax the muscle and alleviate the pain.

Jennifer Dalland, MS, ATC 
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: I have a goal to reduce the size of my legs.  I do some exercises (more with leg) in the gym and then I run on a treadmill.  I’m scared these workouts will increase the size of my legs. If I do exercises that focus on other parts of the body will my legs get smaller?

Answer:It’s a common misconception that strength training negatively influences runners.  The idea that increasing leg size or muscle mass will slow down a runner is inaccurate. In fact, strength training has many positive factors on improving running performance. Strength training increases running economy by improving the muscle tendon stiffness, increasing the capacity to store energy in the muscles, and by improving muscle contractions. This will help increase speed, power and running endurance. There are also several other factors that influence an increase in muscle mass such as, genetics, age, gender, nutrition, and the type of strengthening program. There are different variations in strengthening that can increase muscle strength without a significant increase in muscle mass.

When we work with our running groups, we focus on heavier lifts in the rep ranges of 2-8.  This helps create neurological connections with type II muscle fibers that are not typically activated in runners.  These type II fibers are the larger and stronger fibers that will help increase speed and power, thus improving running economy and reducing run time. The benefit of this is creating the neurological connections will not add to muscle belly size.  What happens most times when starting to lift heavier sets and reps the muscle belly starts to shrink slightly as fat mass is burned.

Jennifer Dalland MS, ATC
Clinical Biomechanist
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Charley Smook, MS, CSCS
Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
Sanford POWER

Question: What is the best nutrition strategy to follow when recovering from a strenuous workout?

Answer: Right after a strenuous workout (within 30-60 minutes), you should start your nutrition and hydration plan following the “3 R’s of Recovery.”

Re-hydrate with fluid and electrolytes by drinking water or sports drinks to replenish the fluids lost in sweat during your training session. You can weigh yourself before and after a training session, and drink 16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during that workout.

Refuel your muscle energy by eating a carbohydrate-rich snack. Carbohydrates are your muscles’ preferred fuel source and your body likely uses up a significant amount of those carbohydrates during a strenuous and/or prolonged training session. Get ready for your next workout by having carbohydrates in the form of grains and starches, fruit or dairy.

Rebuild your muscles by eating 15-25 grams of protein to promote muscle growth and recovery.

A good example of a post-workout routine would be to drink water or sports drinks, and have a carbohydrate- and protein-rich snack, such as chocolate milk, a turkey sandwich, Greek yogurt and berries with granola, or a smoothie made with milk, Greek yogurt or whey protein, and fruit, within one hour after a workout. Remember to continue to eat “real meals” throughout the day – your next meal should be 1-2 hours after that recovery snack. In general, a diet that has adequate carbohydrates, protein at each meal and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will support recovery during the most strenuous training periods.

Lizzie Kasparek, MS, RD, CSSD, LN
Sports Dietitian
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: What exactly is the best time to taper for optimal peaks?

Answer: Leading up to an important competition, the challenge is to find the optimal balance between maintaining maximal fitness and strength levels while resting enough to reduce the fatigue from training.
For a track and field athlete, this means identifying a few key races or competitions during the season to taper for. It is not possible to taper for every meet, as you would not have enough time to make gains by training intensely and with enough volume. Tapering does work, and has been shown to improve performance by up to 3 percent. Most research identifies the greatest benefit from tapering between 7-21 days. This is a large window of time to try and identify what works best.
Much of this depends on the event an athlete is competing in along with the duration and intensity level of their training. It makes sense to err on the side of a longer taper as a well-rested athlete will out-perform one that is fatigued. For a power event such the jumps or the javelin, you may want to experiment with a taper in the 7-14 day range.  This would mean that the duration/repetitions in practice are reduced while maintaining a high level of quality and intensity.
Each athlete is unique and will react differently to the duration of taper that delivers the greatest performance benefits. You should try and experiment early in the track season to see what works best so that you have a set routine leading up to the most important competitions later in the season.

Scott Hettenbach, MS, CSCS
Director
Sanford POWER

Question: I am a male athlete who is carrying around few extra pounds. What is the best way for me to lose weight through my diet without losing muscle mass?

Answer: Athletes who want to lose weight or decrease their body fat should be aware that large decreases in calories, eliminating entire food groups, or skipping meals inappropriately can lead to fatigue, decreased focus and mood state, poor performance during training and competitions and could lead to a decrease in hard-earned muscle mass. Ideally, athletes trying to lose weight and/or decrease body fat would continue to eat three meals a day, while decreasing overall portion sizes and intake of fast food/fried foods, convenience, packaged snacks and sugary beverages. To maintain muscle mass while decreasing body fat percentage, there should be an emphasis on loading up the plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits, lean protein sources such as grilled chicken, and decreasing carbohydrate portions (1/3 to 1/4 of the plate instead of 1/2 to 1/3 of the plate) at meals. Overall, these adjustments will result in a lower calorie intake, and a smaller percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates/starchy foods (though this is not a LOW carb diet), so athletes should make these nutritional changes in the off-season to limit any undesirable effects on performance. Working with a dietitian to help you determine your energy needs and a more detailed nutrition plan will help take the guesswork out of meeting your goals.

Lizzie Kasparek, MS, RD, LN
Sports Dietitian
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: Is warming up really that important?

Answer: Yes! A dynamic warm-up is vital, and should be tailored towards the activity you are about to perform. For example, you should do shoulder mobility work before throwing or overhead lifting, or coordination and light plyometrics (jumps, hops) before running- or jumping-based workouts. These types of warm-ups prepare the neuromuscular system (nerves and muscles) for the activity it’s about to undergo, increasing performance and reducing the risk of injury. Before any form of exercise or sport, it’s recommended to perform an appropriate dynamic warm-up.

Zadok Isaacs, MS
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Question: Most endurance athletes are well-rooted in the concept of cooling down (or warming down) after a race or hard-workout – easing the body back to a normal, relaxed level with at least several minutes of very light jogging (or cycling or swimming, say). But what about events that involve explosive power, like jumping, vaulting or throwing field events? Or even something like weight lifting or football. Does the same principle apply, even if the heart rate has not been elevated like in a longer race?

Answer: The primary purpose of cooling down after exercise is to gradually transition the body to a state of rest (i.e., homeostasis) after a period of exertion. Light activity (e.g., walking, jogging) after a difficult workout or competition supports the cardiovascular system’s transition to rest by helping circulate blood throughout the body and reducing the demands on the heart. Cooling down also helps the body dissipate heat over a period of time, so that there is less thermoregulatory strain on the body.

For explosive or power-based activities, the need and usefulness of a cool down depends on the total duration and/or volume of work performed. If an athlete performs a couple of throws or jumps without greatly elevating his or her heart rate or body temperature, the body will return to homeostasis rather quickly without a deliberate cool down – though a warm up would still be recommended beforehand.

For an athlete performing a series or throws or jumps, or going through an entire weightlifting workout, it’s likely that his/her heart rate, body temperature and neuroendocrine system would be up-regulated in response to the workload, and therefore a cool down would be warranted. Even if there are periods of recovery in between attempts or sets of high intensity activity, the cumulative workload will create disturbances in one’s physiology that are best reversed with a cool down period rather than abruptly stopping the activity.

Thayne Munce, PhD, FACSM; Manager, Exercise Physiology
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Q:  What is the best brand or type of running shoes to train in to reduce injury risk? 

A: Sports medicine professionals, athletic coaches, and retailers frequently advertise or recommend certain brands or models of running shoes as the “best” or editor’s choice, with the aim of preventing running related injuries or improving performance. With the numerous features of today’s running shoes, such as motion control or stability devices, the heel-toe offset, and degree of cushioning, it can be difficult for the consumer to identify what features they might need in a pair of running shoes.

What might be best for one runner’s muscle strength, range of motion, running technique, and even previous injuries, may not be the best for another runner’s. Contrary to popular belief, clear evidence to support an all-encompassing prescription of certain styles of running shoe just isn’t there.  In fact, prescribing someone running shoes most likely starts with the running shoes they are currently wearing. For example, if a runner is accustomed to wearing a pair of shoes with a 10-mm heel-toe offset with a moderate about of cushioning and pronation control, their next pair of shoes shouldn’t be too much different. Switching from one style of running shoe to a completely new style may not allow this runner’s body enough time to adapt, possibly leading to pain or injury similar to what they might experience if they increase their training intensity or volume too rapidly.

If this runner eventually wants to transition to a more minimal shoe with a 0-mm heel-toe offset, their next pair could pair could possibly have an 8-mm heel-toe offset while keeping the other characteristics similar.  While running shoes may slightly alter running technique, no runner should expect a new pair of running shoes to completely resolve a nagging injury.  After all, the majority of running related injuries can be traced back to training error, inadequate muscle strength or joint range of motion, or running technique faults.

Colin Bond, MS
Sanford Sports Science Institute 

Q: I tend to sweat a lot when I train, is that normal?

A: An individual athlete’s sweat rate is unique to them. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself, via evaporation of sweat on the skin’s surface. Your sweat rate is dependent on environmental conditions (temperature and humidity), intensity of the training session and current fitness level. As you become acclimatized to a hot environment you tend to start to sweat sooner as your body recognizes the environment you are training in. You will also tend to hold onto key electrolytes (eg. sodium) more efficiently.

Jason Dorman, MS, CSCS
Sanford Sports Science Institute

Q: How can I stay safe when training in the heat?

A: Training in hot, humid conditions can be challenging for any athlete. Heat illness is more likely to occur and performance can often be limited, particularly in sports and events that take place over a long period of time. It is important to allow your body a chance to adapt to the heat and humidity by slowly increasing the length and intensity of your workouts in these conditions.

This adjustment (acclimatization) period normally takes one or two weeks, and should also include a gradual introduction of protective gear in sports that require it (e.g., football).

During your practices/workouts, you should take longer rest periods and adjust the length and/or intensity of your sessions based on the temperature and humidity. If possible, work out during cooler times of the day (early morning or late evening) and wear lightweight, light-colored, breathable clothing. Begin every session well-rested, well-nourished and well-hydrated. Start drinking fluids (water, sports drink) well before your training session begins, drink regularly throughout your workouts and remember to drink extra fluids afterwards to replace what you lost from sweating. Rehydrating after a training session will make your body more prepared for subsequent workouts in the heat.

Finally, be aware of the symptoms of mild and severe heat illness. Symptoms of mild heat illness include fatigue, weakness, and feeling overheated. More severe heat illness may cause you to experience headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or confusion. Recognize these symptoms early and take action to prevent your condition from becoming more severe.

If you suspect that you may be getting ill, stop your workout, go to a cool place, lie down and elevate your feet, drink fluids and notify someone who can help you. If you train SMART, you can perform safely in the heat and may even get an edge on your competition.

S – Seek shade

M – Modify activity

A – Adjust gradually to conditions

R – Rest frequently

T – Take in fluids

Thayne Munce, PhD, FACSM; Manager, Exercise Physiology
Sanford Sports Science Institute