I had one of our high school volleyball players complain to me last week that she wasn’t in shape for their upcoming tournaments. She could tell because she sweats more than she has in the past. I explained that this increase in perspiration actually means she is in better shape.
We have to picture our body like a machine, in fact it’s the best machine ever invented due to the unparalleled ability to adapt. As you become more highly trained, you become more efficient in cooling your body through sweating. Beth Stover Mooradian, a senior scientist with Gatorade, goes on to explain that, “As you get more in shape, you’ll sweat more in your extremities, so your arms and legs get sweaty, helping to dissipate that heat much quicker.”
The Australian Institute of Sport, one of the world’s foremost authorities in sports science, studied over 30 sports and found that the rate of sweat loss increases with higher intensity exercise. So sports, such as volleyball, that involve explosive movements interspersed with rest, will cause significantly more sweating than jogging.
While more elite athletes sweat more, due to operating a more efficient machine, there are other factors involved in this cooling process. Genetics play a huge role, as they do in almost every human trait. High temperatures, humidity, and decreased airflow (wind), all can increase sweat losses. However, Dr. Mooradian found that “among elite athletes, we see similar sweating rates between men and women.”
The misplaced concern over excessive sweating generally leads to a desire to train more often during the week, and for longer durations, in an attempt to “get in better shape”. Athletes begin to pursue less sports-specific methods of training, such as Crossfit (see SpartaPoint 10/13/09), because of the perception that breathing harder and sweating more will improve their sports’ performance. Unfortunately, increasing your fitness rarely leads to any sports’ performance gains, and fatiguing methods of cross training actually cause a decrease in vertical jump, sprinting speed, and lateral quickness (see Sparta Point 1/13/10).
But if you’re competing against our athletes, please continue to train more if you notice excessive sweating, as this cooling mechanism is just a ridiculous sign that you’re a great athlete.