Beat the Heat at the Australian Open Tennis

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Everybody knows that the Australian Open throws up several different challenges to the tennis player that don’t really exist at the other 3 Grand Slam tournaments, some of which actually have nothing directly to do with the forehand, backhand or tennis really.

The mental and physical challenges of playing tennis at the highest level are always present but the Australian Open chucks in one further challenge that every tennis player must deal with or have NO CHANCE of lifting the trophy – playing in the heat.

Every year at the Australian Open the temperatures soar towards the 40 degree mark and leave the organisers with the problem of maybe suspending the tournament or at least closing the roof on the main court.

So, why do such high temperatures cause a problem to what are some very fit tennis players never mind the average club player and more importantly what can be done to overcome them?

How can you Beat The Heat?

Regulation of your body temperature has a dramatic affect on tennis performance. If it is not properly addressed it can in fact cause death.

Here is the problem.

You use energy to play tennis and three-quarters of that energy is converted to heat. The harder you play, the more energy you use and you produce more heat.

You now have to get rid of the heat and the body does so by moving blood to the skin so that the heat can lost to the air.

The big problem is that long or hard matches place increased demands on your body because it also has to transport oxygen and fuel to the muscles to keep up energy production AND blood flow to the skin must be increased to remove heat.

Your body therefore has 3 choices.

1. Prioritize Oxygen and fuel to the muscles (and overheat – VERY dangerous).

2. Prioritize blood to the skin to aid cooling (and cut blood to the muscles and internal organs – potentially dangerous and can cause muscles to cramp etc).

3. Do a bit of both but neither very well.

The other big problem is that if the air (weather) is too hot then the normal passage of heat from the skin to the outside world is reduced if not stopped.

You should now see how critical this all is.

How To Beat The Heat!

1. If you know you are going to be playing in a hot atmosphere you need to acclimatize to the conditions. That means playing in it for short periods of time and gradually building up so that your body gets a chance to get used to the conditions. This is especially critical for those or you who do not play in the heat for long periods of the year.

2. You will also need to watch your fluids. Players can lose more than 5 litres of sweat during matches and obviously more during longer matches. They must be replaced otherwise drops in physical (and mental) performance occur. In fact you are in trouble with a fluid loss of only 2% of your bodyweight .

3. Fully hydrate before you play, which means drinking lots (water is the best fluid replacement for pure hydration) the night before you play.

4. Also drink regularly throughout the match (and afterwards), NOT just when you are thirsty (In fact if you are thirsty – you are already de-hydrated!!)

Note –

• Drinking reduces your level of dehydration and therefore overheating – cold (NOT freezing) drinks empty from the stomach faster than warm drinks and helps you to re-fuel (if you add in some low concentrated carbohydrate).

• Water can also help your body turn fat into energy which apart from being a rich energy source will spare the carbohydrate you will need for intense bursts of energy.

5. Stay out of the sun when possible i.e. at changeovers. Try and sit in the shade when you can and even in between points if there are shaded areas on the court.