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Get Healthy and Fit Like a Champion

Get some summertime health and fitness tips from three Olympic medal winners and their coach.

Heat, Humidity, and Safe Summer Fun

While the fun of summer activity is getting to spend your time outdoors, in most parts of the country a single day in the summer heat can go from uncomfortable to scorching before you know it. This is particularly true if you start your day at the beach or park in the early morning and playtime stretches into the hottest part of the afternoon.

For members of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team, who say they sometimes play in tropical locales where the heat is over 100 degrees and the humidity nearly as high, taking some hot weather precautions is essential to their sporting success.

All the team members agree that keeping your body well hydrated in hot weather is key to staying on your feet. But in addition to water they all say that the more demands the sport places on their body, the more they rely on sports drinks and power bars to see them through.

"I have bottled water and Gatorade with me all the time, plus plenty of fresh fruit, which I also snack on constantly," says McPeak.

While she says she rarely gets muscle cramps, even in the hottest weather, the athletes who do, she says, often rely on Pedialite and sometimes sodium tablets to prevent problems.

Youngs says she bypasses the sweeter drinks, like Gatorade, and chooses instead water and Phytomax -- an electrolyte drink that has less sugar and, she says, more power to refresh and replenish her.

"I'm also constantly eating at tournaments -- protein bars, Balance Bars, drinking electrolytes, and keeping my feet up when I'm not playing," says Youngs.

The one thing she avoids drinking is icy cold water, particularly when her body is overheated.

"When I reach for that bottle of water I always look for the one that has been sitting outside the cooler for a little while. It seems to go down easier and I can drink more of it," says Youngs.

For a quick cool down McPeak says nothing is better than a cold towel on the back of the neck.

"Sometimes I skip the towel and just pour the water straight down the back of my neck and head. It's like an instant cool down and it really works," says McPeak.

Finally, if there's one Olympic-size message that all three medal winners subscribe to, it's the liberal use of sunscreen anytime they are outdoors. Indeed, each athlete says she wouldn't dream of spending even five minutes in the sun without sunglasses, a visor or hat, and the protection that sunscreen provides.

"And we all believe it's important to keep reapplying it since heavy perspiration can reduce the effectiveness. And if you go in the water, reapply as well for continued protection," says Youngs.

In addition, all three winners say they cover their body as much as possible when they are outdoors, and, when they aren't on the volleyball court, they stay out of direct sun.


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