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How to survive fighting in the heat

Howdy folks! Your friendly neighborhood HEMA medic here, offering some (DISCLAIMER: NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! only educational) advice on how to protect yourself from the summer's heat!

As easy and beautiful as your SPES jacket is, it is NOT breezy. All of the protection HEMA offers has the free side effect of being SUPER HOT already. Add some temps that cactuses enjoy, direct sunlight, adrenaline from cheering spectators and drums, and the distraction of fun fights and you have a recipe for overheating. Let's prevent some of that!

Acknowledge if you are a heat casualty ahead of time.

Did you know that people with heat injuries tend to be more prone to them in future instances? It's true! The military even identifies soldiers with dog tags specifying if they have these injuries so they can be extra precautious. Help protect yourself by letting event staff and leadership in your pools know you are prone to heat injuries. The onus is on YOU to protect yourself. If you have been severely overheated in the past, it is best to err on the side of caution and quit BEFORE you start to feel any signs of dehydration. It can help to keep a log of how many fights it took before you started to feel signs of dehydration so you can stop one fight or so prior.

Eat a proper meal, rest well, and drink water the night before AND the day of the event.

Dehydration is more than just not drinking water. Your body needs vitamins, minerals, and ways to dissolve those things. The best way to provide your body with the fuel it needs to drink water AND hold onto that hydration as long as possible is to have a decent meal the night before AND breakfast the day of a fight. Getting good sleep helps the body better handle smaller stressful situations (such as a sword being swung at your face) and generally help the body perform better. I promise you, if you think you are one of those people that 'can't eat before a fight' you WILL adjust and get used to that eventually. Everyone needs to eat before they exert mad calories.

Drink water and electrolytes between matches.

Be a hydro homie. Bring a resuable water bottle, fill her up, and get to swiggin'. Drink water the way Captain Jack Sparrow drinks rum on an abandoned island. I always recommend those additive packets of electrolytes to dissolve into your water every 2-3 bottles to balance out the salts you are losing. Gatorade, smart water, liquid IV, there are a ton of products out there and they all do the same thing--adds a bit more of that good good mineral so you properly absorb your water.

Get yourself out of your gear as much as possible when not fighting.

Take off your helmet and gloves between matches. Take off your jacket if you are waiting a slightly longer stretch. Unzip it at the very least if it is going to be a couple fights until your turn. The longer you wear that jacket and helmet, the more you'll retain that heat and the harder your body has to work to cool yourself off. Give yourself relief whenever you can and your body will thank you.

Engage in lighter sparring.

If you seriously feel it is too hot to fight in full gear--downgrade! A heat injury is Not worth any amount of prizes, paid admissions, or inability to participate in things for the rest of the day because you feel like garbage. Be okay with lowering the intensity and doing lighter drills and light sparring with mask/gloves. At many of our events we are doing 'pick up fights' which means this can be anything you want it to be! Feel free to do some grappling, dussack, or dagger fights instead of always reaching for the heavy equipment.

Get yourself some cooling equipment.

We live in an age of technology. While the free options of dousing yourself in cold water between fights is always a teriffic option, some things you might want to consider: A personal fan, cooling wipes for the face and body, and reusable ice gel packs kept in a cooler. A simple empty spray bottle with water in it kept in a cooler can provide a ton of instant relief too. If AC is available in the building near you, take advantage of that! Stand near it and get that turbo-refrigerator wind to help your body cool off.

What's that, you say, a personal fan is too expensive? Well, then you might want to gear up for our new Ladder tournament coming up! The top 2 fighters will receive personal cooling kits, donated by Krys.

Don't be afraid to stop BEFORE you are overheated.

Oftentimes, fighting comes with that lovely rush of adrenaline. This masks a lot of things--including how yucky you can start feeling from being overheated. Even if you 'feel fine' you might not be as fine as you think you are. Take your breaks fully and completely, and prioritize more as you need them. No HEMA school will make you fight more than you are prepared to do, but no one can be a mind reader either. You are the one in your body, and you know it better than anyone else can. If you notice you're getting winded, not using higher guards due to fatigue, or slowing down during your match that is an excellent time to stop. That feeling of your legs feeling heavier than they typically do is an excellent indicator to take it easy for a few rounds.

So, take this information and go forth warriors into the thralls of the summer heat! Stay hydrated, stay cool, and stay safe so you can keep having a blast murdering each other over and over.

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