I have completely lost my ability to play in the heat

SouthernCourts

Semi-Pro
Just got done playing in 90-degree weather with a heat index around 97 in NC, and after a too-long warm-up (30 minutes), I made it to 4-3 in the first set before my body just completely shut down on me. Like, this is past the point of being able to gut it out, it's at the point where every step is arduous, and it's just unthinkable to keep playing.

A bit about me—two years ago I had a bad episode of heat exhaustion after playing five matches (8-game supersets) in a tournament on a near 100-degree day. It was a stupid format, I was stupid for not quitting earlier, and I drank so much water that I actually think I had hypernaetremia...I was up all night peeing, and I lost 13 pounds overnight. Probably should have gone to the hospital, but whatever, I recovered. Since then, the heat has given me a lot of trouble. Once it hits about 88, or particularly if it's very humid, like clockwork at the hour to hour-fifteen mark I just hit a wall. Before that, it feels like just a normal hot day, not exactly fun but just the usual strain. Once I hit the wall, it goes beyond that.

I'm a little overweight, but that's because of diet. I ride a peloton bike for exercise, and I actually think I'm in some of the best shape of my recent life (I'm mid-30s). I work the heart hard on the bike, and always just feel good after. On a cool day, or even a "normal" day (low 80s), I pride myself on being able to run forever on the tennis court. It's not that I don't tire out gradually, because I do, but it's nowhere near what happens in the heat. Also worth noting that I'm a super heavy sweater, always have been.

Have tried pre-hydrating, always drink a ton of water, have tried salt pills, gatorade, etc. Before the heat exhaustion episode, I would often go practice or play on 100-degree days in the summer without feeling too many ill effects. Now, I'm useless.

Just curious if anybody's had this happen to them, if there's any way around it, or if I'm just screwed. If nothing else, I'm going to go on a serious diet to see if it helps, because I guess even though I used to be just fine in the heat at my same weight, I might be able to get some heat fitness back if I drop some pounds.

All in all, it's super discouraging. I love tennis, and there are about four months where I live where the heat is reliably brutal. Obviously that's just going to get worse as I get older and the planet gets hotter. I don't want to think I'm going to be sidelined for the summer months in perpetuity, but I'm definitely struggling.
 
Without knowing your actual stats its actually hard to give you true recommendations. I could give you better suggestions if you provide said information:

1. What is your height/weight?
2. What is your percent body fat? Or if you don't know, what is your 1RM for Bench, Squat, Deadlift?
3. How fast can you run a 5k or if you have never run a 5K what about 1 mile?

To give you generic advice... there are two things that is probably causing the issue
1. Poor hydration/nutrition before and during exercise performance
2. Poor heat acclimation

1. How much water are you drinking before said match? During said match? How much "sugar/energy" are you consuming before and during? From your description, you follow the stereotypical example of some one getting overly dehydrated/bonking/hitting the wall and therefore you cannot maintain energy/exercise. Try drinking 500ml of water ~30minutes before start of exercise, then 150-250ml every 15-20minutes during exercise irregardless of thirst. You can add a small amount of glucose/energy 30mins-1hour during exercise as well. Eg: a banana or something of the sort. If you are having trouble retaining the water, you might need some salt involved but at 1 hour of exercise, its most likely unnecessary.

Sports nutrition is also a very trial by fire concept. There are good guidelines out there, BUT you need to test it out on your own body as everyone responds differently. It could also be psychologically, after that incident, you "mentally refuse" to let yourself go past a certain point anymore in a subconscious "fear" mentally. You say you have tried all that, but without "seeing" what you are actually doing and your responses it is hard to say. Its no different than someone saying "i tried diet and exercise, but I'm not losing weight. What am I doing wrong?" Who knows... there could be a million things but I can't tell over an internet screen.

2. You need to "train" or exercise or play more tennis in the heat. Over time your body will become more efficient self regulating the heat.

I could go on forever since this is my area, but don't want to ramble or bore you.
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
"Also worth noting that I'm a super heavy sweater, always have been."

As an ex-singles tournament warrior in the heat ... a question:

When you look down on changeovers ... is there a puddle under you? ;) I was a heavy sweater ... but at a threshold that served it's purpose without too much dehydration. I had heat exhaustion once or twice, but never a heat stroke. I had other friends at the dangerous level of sweating where they just couldn't keep up ... hydrating day before, etc. Sweat puddle on changeover, etc. One good friend became famous for sweating so much he squirted sweat out the eyelets in his tennis shoe when he ran. No joking matter though ... a couple of players had to go get IVs way too often.

I actually learned what I ate the night before mattered just like drinking water the day before. I always ate spaghetti and meatballs ... which worked pretty good. Then I learned a steak and baked potato was even better. If I was stuck playing two singles matches in a day, it was always a steak and baked potato the night before.

Good luck ... maybe this summer is just paricularly bad. I had one day a month ago where I hit the wall just hitting for 30 minutes. One of those days where your sunglasses fogged up just stepping out of the car.
 

Power Player

Bionic Poster
One thing that helps is a neck wrap. Your core temp is simply getting too high. Since you are in good shape, if you can just keep your temp lower, you will be fine. The chilled neck wraps you just wet down to get cold will keep you 7-10 degrees cooler.

I am also a hearty sweater and the wraps really helped me. I have to use electrolyte pills a lot more than most people and it can easily be puddles of sweat. Sometimes my shoes get soaked during the summer months as well.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Do you spend time in hot and humid weather or spend more time indoors? I used to run outside in the summer and that was great conditioning for tennis. It's a lot easier to workout and play indoors when it really tough out though. So maybe conditioning.
 

Harry_Wild

G.O.A.T.
Spending time in hot, humid conditions will help you adjust to the condition. Also, the hotter temperatures may require one to be in better shape to better handle a tennis match since it requires more stamina.
 
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Did you gain some weight? It is normal as we get older but weight is huge in dealing with heat. You don't need to get back to your age 20 weight but losing 10-15 pounds already can make a big difference.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I also play in brutal heat ... have played at over 110 ... but very low humidity. So a bit different as I really think the humidity can suck energy right out of you.

Everyone is different so trial and error to find what works for you. Obviously what you are currently doing isn't working well for you.

It is curious that some people have no huge problems with heat and others really suffer and can't do it. Seems to be irregardless of weight, age, fitness, etc. Some people just can't handle the heat, just as others are really cold sensitive.

For me, during a match, I use 1/2 cut sports drink with water and because of our dry air, sometimes you don't realize how much you are sweating as it evaporates leaving a salt crust on your skin. (it can actually be crunchy and you can see the salt crystals!), so I am certain to replace electolytes/salt during a match.

I also like using the Cliff Bloks or a GU chew. On bad days, I use the ones that have a little added caffeine and salt, on good days, without. I use 1 on changeovers.

I use an towel dipped in my ice chest ... apply to neck on changeover ... I do not play with it on. Seems to help drop my personal temperature.

Lastly, as what you are describing seems to be a little more extreme than "the heat bothers me" you may wish to see your doctor and have an endocrine panel run ... you may have issues with your hypothalamus that could be just checked out. Can't hurt to have it crossed off the list.
 

TennisBro

Professional
A bit about me—two years ago I had a bad episode of heat exhaustion after playing five matches (8-game supersets) in a tournament on a near 100-degree day. It was a stupid format, I was stupid for not quitting earlier, and I drank so much water that I actually think I had hypernaetremia...I was up all night peeing, and I lost 13 pounds overnight. Probably should have gone to the hospital, but whatever, I recovered. Since then, the heat has given me a lot of trouble. Once it hits about 88, or particularly if it's very humid, like clockwork at the hour to hour-fifteen mark I just hit a wall. Before that, it feels like just a normal hot day, not exactly fun but just the usual strain. Once I hit the wall, it goes beyond that.
Hard to tell and I sure am not a doc but I think you may lack oxygen to your brain. This is what I have experienced in past 5-6 years or so. Well, I found out just about 2-3 years ago that I was short of O2 and was told not to carry heavy a tennis bag on my shoulders or even play tennis. I got some ridiculous herbal remedies that assisted me well enough. I didn't trust the dust looking herbal stuff that cost me arm and a leg but it's helped. Oh, I am sorry I'd have to ask the herbal doc what the hell that woodoo substance was.
 

2good4U

Professional
Your diet will have a major effect on how well you can handle the heat.

Some nutrients actually make you sweat more, Iodine being one.

Try eating nothing but fruit beforehand and see how you do.
 

Demented

Semi-Pro
I'm not sure that you ever really acclimate to playing in extreme humidity. I played a match yesterday @83 degrees and 75-80% humidity. I weighed myself before I left and I was 5 lbs lighter when I got home and I drank ~36 ounces of recovery drink on court. My muscles pretty much gave up on me during the last game of the second set and started twitching(I call it micro cramping). I've played nearly every day in these conditions for the last 3 months(83-95 degrees 60-90% humidity) and my tolerance hasn't gone up at all. I'm currently struggling with how to replace the salt loss. I have salty sweat and I'm losing nearly 1.5 liters an hour which is probably something like 2000 mg+. I'd have to take like 10 salt pills an hour....
 
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