Texas winters don’t typically bring the dangers of snow and ice, but the change in temperature is enough to demand some changes in training for young athletes.
Warming up muscles is particularly important during colder weather. Not only does this help prevent injury, but the increased blood flow from a proper warm-up can also help protect basic body functions.
Children have a lower risk of losing body heat than an adult, however, if body temperature drops significantly, they can have similar problems like frostbite and dehydration. Heat is lost through exposed body surfaces, including the head. Choosing layered clothing is best so that comfort can be maintained during exercise when body temperature rises from the activity.
It is easy to think about hydration as a method of cooling the body in hot training environments. However, water does much more than lower body temperature. For example, staying properly hydrated helps the heart and blood vessels pump oxygen to muscles while training. Therefore, we want athletes of all ages to remember to hydrate, even when not hot.
Here are some key messages for young athletes training and competing in the cold:
• In cooler weather, you may not feel thirsty. This does not mean your body does not need water. Look for creative ways to hydrate on heavy training days. Fruits and broth soups are great ways to add fluids to the menu.
• Make the temperature of the water comfortable; no need for it to be cold. Many prefer cooler drinks to warm drinks, but room temperature may be easier to drink when it’s cold outside.
• Drink water before, during and after training and events. The key here is not to try to “catch up” after the event. Spreading out the volume of fluid at various stages helps the heart, brain and muscles stay oxygenated throughout the competition.
• Sports drinks are recommended for long events lasting more than one hour. The added calories from sweeteners and the additional electrolytes meant to replenish those lost through excessive sweating are generally not recommended for young athletes, unless they are competing at intense levels, in very humid conditions, or in events lasting over an hour. Choose water and look for more natural ways to add flavor with fruit.
Preparing and maintaining our muscular and other body systems for exercise by properly hydrating is very important. Sometimes, when an athlete is not hot he may think he doesn’t need to hydrate, but young athletes need fluids to perform well and stay healthy, particularly during training and competition.
To learn more about proper hydration for young athletes, click here.
Shane M. Miller, M.D. is board certified in pediatrics and sports medicine. He is a sports medicine physician at the Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Dr. Miller is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. He also holds an appointment as Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He sees patients for sports injuries including bone, muscle and ligament injuries as well as sports concussions at our North Campus, now in Plano.