Monday, July 19, 2010

Extreme Sport/Extreme Heat

These days you hear bits of advice everywhere about staying hydrated and exercising in this hot and humid environment. So here is a bit of advice I solicited from my son, Justin Merolla, who completed the New York City Triathlon yesterday.

For those who don't know, a triathlon means the athletes complete a 1,500-meter swim(in the Hudson River), a 40-kilometer bicycle ride and a 10-kilometer run, ending in Central Park, all executed as quickly as possible, moving from one event to the next in a seamless, organized way.

The photo at the left is Justin running in the New York City triathlon exactly one year ago when it was 97 degrees at 11 am! Yesterday was barely different. So from someone who knows and has trained extensively and intensively are some words of advice on hydration. This advice holds especially for endurance athletes but any tennis, football, soccer or field hockey player who is training now (or later in August when this weather is even more common) should listen up:

  • there IS such a thing as drinking too much water-hyponatremia (or a low concentration of sodium in the blood can be potentially lethal).
  • hydrating properly does not only mean 'drinking water' - it also means replacing salt lost through sweat (sodium and potassium). One way to tell if you sweat a lot of salt is simply to compare the taste of your sweat to the taste of tears. Hmmm (hard to do).
  • cold drinks are better - most of the calories burned during exercise go towards body temp regulation, especially in July!!! Drinking cold drinks will bring down the core temperature faster and preserve internal body fluids which otherwise would be lost in sweat, the body's cooling mechanism.
  • hydrate to prevent dehydration - which is self explanatory, but by the time you feel thirsty, you're already in trouble
  • you sweat more than you think - you can lose up to 1 liter of sweat per hour during exercise.

Any coach, trainer, player or parent who thinks it's ok to overdress (eg in football gear) and decrease the ability to cool by sweating should be advised of his or her error. When sweating profusely an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade is the way to go.

The human body can adapt to incredibly harsh conditions. But there is no substitute for training, nutrition, focus and willpower. And then those shoes from JackRabbit in New York!

Please send up three cheers for Justin's accomplishment!


  1. well done to your son for taking part and finishing. my sister is training for one xxxx

  2. It helps if you're as buff as Justin!