August’s Tennis Challenge: Hydration

(In talking to a friend the other day, I realized I had given short shrift to my August hydration challenge. Here’s a longer post about this month’s goal…)

You know how every problem in your life is your mother’s fault? Well, here’s another one I’m adding to my list: Ignoring my thirst.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to play outside after school–remember those days? We’d ride bikes, play Wiffle ball, climb trees, all the good stuff. We’d run around the neighborhood in the waning light until my mom called us in for dinner.

The kitchen table would be all set, including a tall glass of cold milk at each plate. Spotting the milk, I’d suddenly realize how thirsty I was. I’d plop into my chair and greedily drain the entire glass before any food had been served. And then I’d ask for more so I’d have something to drink with my dinner.

My mom used to get mad about this. (I know: Your kid drank her milk and wants more–what’s the problem? I can’t explain her reaction other than to say that parents are a hard-used lot, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of yelling at my own daughter over infractions every bit as minor as excessive dairy consumption.)

I was kind of a sensitive kid, and maybe a little lazy, too. So instead of just getting myself a glass of water, I trained myself not to touch the milk until I finished my meal. I knew if I took even one sip of the milk, I’d want to guzzle the whole thing. I learned to ignore my thirst.

Fast forward to today. I rarely drink anything. I love water on the tennis court, when my thirst is unmistakeable, but off the court I’m a camel. My mouth is dry, but I don’t notice it. I’ve reprogrammed my brain to interpret a dry mouth not as a symptom but as a normal state of affairs.

I even wake up with dehydration-related migraines. These usually aren’t debilitating anymore, but the symptoms are the same. Headache. Visual disturbances. Nausea.

Doesn’t that sound unpleasant? Wouldn’t a smart person take steps to avoid that? Or at least rehydrate once it happens? Not me. I get up and maybe sip enough water to wash down an Advil, but after that I’m hitting the coffee.

How does all this relate to tennis? I assumed my game would be affected by poor hydration, and, not surprisingly, I’m right. (I won’t bore you with citations–you can google this stuff if you’re feeling extra nerdy today.)

In a nutshell, dehydration will impair your on-court performance in all kinds of ways, including:

–reducing your energy level (so you have less oomph in your shots);
–reducing your alertness (so you can’t stay focused on the ball); and
–increasing the perceived difficulty of tasks (so coming back when you’re down 1-4 in a set seems almost impossible)

Clearly being adequately hydrated when I walk out on the court can only help my game.

For years, health experts have been yammering on about drinking eight 8-ounce servings of water a day–basically, sixty-four ounces–and more if you exercise. Here’s what sixty-four ounces looks like:

No way am I drinking that much water.

The good news is some experts now say I don’t have to, that we can get our water from sources other than straight water. The bad news is that the newer hydration wisdom starts getting complicated.

Some fruits and vegetables will add to your hydration level, but salty foods will deplete it. Some non-water beverages count toward your daily water total, while others, like coffee, only put you further in the hole. What started out as simple math starts to look like an SAT question:

3 glasses of water minus last night’s pizza plus half a cantaloupe minus two cups of coffee = ?

I don’t have time to finely calibrate my hydration, so I’m just going to add two tall glasses of water to my daily routine, one before my morning coffee and one before dinner.

Sounds simple, but I keep forgetting, so I’ve had to leave myself a note…

I’m hoping that over the course of this month I can retrain my brain to start recognizing thirst again. Maybe I’ll end up with more energy and focus on the tennis court. But even if I don’t, I should at least get fewer migraines. And I’m sure I’ll perform better on the court without those.

Any other camels out there? How do you get yourself to drink more water? And what other stuff can we blame our moms for? (Just kidding. My mom was the best. ❤️)

4 thoughts on “August’s Tennis Challenge: Hydration

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  1. Is that why you leave your drink until after the meal? I never knew! (But your mom was awesome. I agree.)

    I’ve researched hydration quite a bit, so I’ll share some more ideas and info:
    By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, according to experts. So your plan of just adding more water is a good one.

    Many older folks — especially women — curtail their beverage intake because of incontinence and not wanting to get up at night to pee. When you first start drinking more, you can end up in the bathroom a lot. Plan to start your hydration when you can get to the bathroom. In a week or less, your body will adjust. So don’t give up for that reason.

    Another suggestion experts use is to put a drinking glass in the bathroom and have a cup when you brush your teeth in the morning. That plan assumes your tap water is good. Your pre-coffee cup is similar. Maybe if you do it after coffee it will help keep your teeth white. But that wouldn’t work for me because I nurse my coffee all morning and wouldn’t get to the water.

    Do you like mint, cucumber or other flavors in water? That can help you drink more. My favorite beverage right now is flavored seltzer — no sugar, no calories. A local company in NY, Polar, makes a Raspberry Rose (as in the wine, not the flower). It tastes like a cocktail, but no alcohol. Also, I recently discovered that I can add a splash of vanilla extract to seltzer and it tastes a bit like cream soda! But that does have a tiny bit of alcohol. Lime juice or lemon juice are good too.

    Hey, at least you don’t drink soda! The latest research even vilifies diet sodas. I guess that’s no surprise.

  2. Yup. That’s why. I was obviously deeply scarred by this experience! 😂

    Thanks for all the tips and info! I don’t like flavors in my water. I wish I did. A slice of lemon or cucumber LOOKS refreshing and elegant, but I don’t care for it.

    What about ice cream? It’s wet. Can it count toward my hydration total? (I guess not, or I’d be super-hydrated by now.)

  3. You can use my system that prevents me from forgetting to pickup Nicolas from daycare or forgetting to take him lunch (assuming I didn’t take it with him to daycare in the morning): set yourself two daily alarms on your phone. For you, probably one at 7am and another at 6pm. Your Post-it note is pretty funny though.

    1. I like the technology solution. I’ll try that for my pre-dinner water. The note is working well for my morning water because it’s physically between me and my coffee. But by evening, the post-it note has become wallpaper. I’ll try the alarm!

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