It’s 90 degrees outside, you are soaked with sweat, and you have only been on the tennis court for 15 minutes. Instead of concentrating on defeating your opponent, all you can think is “How am I going to survive playing tennis in the heat for another hour and a half ?!” Here’s some hints for playing at the top of your level when the temperature rises.
1. Get Acclimated Before Playing Tennis in the Heat
Trying to go straight from the couch in your air-conditioned living room to playing tennis in the heat probably isn’t going to do much for your game. Getting used to any kind of exercising in the heat requires a little time and effort. It takes a week or two before your body will be ready to go all out on a hot day. You can prepare yourself by exercising everyday in the heat of the day. Start with long walks and gradually build up to more strenuous exercise. You should be ready for playing tennis in the heat in 7 to 10 days.
2. Don’t Party the Night Before Your Tennis Match
Alcohol and heat don’t mix, unless you are enjoying hot toddies. Save your favorite adult beverage for after the match, if at all. You will feel and perform better during the match. Even ONE drink will affect your performance. I know, I didn’t want to believe this, either. Compare your performance playing tennis in the heat both after a night of drinking and after a non-alcoholic night. Research shows sans-alcohol will make playing tennis in the heat much more enjoyable. Consider consulting AA if alcohol is more important than winning your tennis match. Nothing should be more important than winning your tennis match.
3. Keep Your Cool(er) While Playing Tennis in the Heat
Carrying a small cooler full of ice can be useful in many ways. Keep a wet towel or bandana on ice and use it between change overs to wipe off sweat or to wrap around your neck or head. Using ice cubes to rub on your neck and wrists can help cool you down, too. I like to pop a small ice-cube in my mouth as I head back on the court. After having to force a smile and praise my opponent’s little drop, it’s nice to have something hard to bite down on.
4. Prevent Wardrobe Malfunctions
Change your sweaty clothes as often as necessary, no matter who’s looking or how much time it takes. If you are an “over-sweater” when playing tennis in the heat, don’t be ashamed! There’s nothing worse to play in (or look at) than a sweat-soaked outfit. If you need to go to the restroom between sets to change, go quickly and just do it. Short restroom breaks between sets are allowed. Other small wardrobe changes can help, too. Fresh wristbands, headbands, hats and visors all feel better when they are dry. My feet get extremely hot and sweaty, so I usually change socks between sets. Always downwind, of course.
5. Avocado Before, Coconut Water During, Sweet Potato After
Eating before a match is tricky, especially on a hot day. You need some nutrition, but not a full stomach. I find an avocado does the trick for me. With salt liberally applied, I get not only potassium but plenty of sodium without a heavy feeling in my tummy. When you sweat, you lose a little potassium, a fair amount of sodium, and lots of water. That’s where coconut water comes in handy. It is the closest and most natural replacement for the fluids you lose when you sweat. Sweet potatoes provide quick, quality carbs to help refuel your body for the next match.
6. Don’t Slather on the Sunscreen
Heavy sunscreen creams will block your pores and make you a slimy mess. Plus, your hands, and thus your grip, will be slippery. You can use a spray, but make sure not to breathe in the fumes – you don’t want all those nasty chemicals in your (or your opponent’s) lungs! I prefer to use natural, light sunscreen applied at home followed by a good hand washing with hot water (no slippery grip for me). I also take the supplement astaxanthin to help prevent sunburn. Sunscreen powder is also great way to keep dry and protected at the same time.
Whether you try all six of these hints or just one or two, your ability to beat the heat AND your opponent will be enhanced. Let me know if any of these tips work for you. Please feel free to add any of your “playing tennis in the heat” strategies in the comment section below.