Almost everyone dreams of becoming a star athlete.
Filling arenas with thousands of fans screaming your name and having millions of admirers are just a couple of the perks.
I do not consider myself a star athlete, but I grew up in a household where someone was always playing soccer, baseball or just going out for a run.
By the age of 7, I had finished in my first 5K race, and by 16 I competed in two state cross-country championships. Being the best athlete I could was never in question; I worked hard and was dedicated, both on and off the track. Then on one summer day in July everything came crashing down.
At the end of a normal 5-mile run, everything in my body suddenly shut down. I could not even stand up. I woke up in the hospital, covered in ice and cold compresses.
The doctor told me that, like many athletes, I had experienced heat exhaustion due to extreme dehydration. I learned that day no matter how hard an athlete works, none of it matters without proper nutrition.
Being the best athlete possible goes beyond performance and talent. To be the best, an athlete needs proper nutrition to push the body to its greatest capabilities.
An increasing problem in sports today is athletes not receiving the proper nutrition required by the body, thus damaging themselves, both physically and mentally.
Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. This can cause the muscles to cramp up, and it can quickly bring an athlete down.
Every time an athlete sweats they are losing more than just water. Sweat contains approximately 60 minerals, and many of these are essential for the body to perform at its peak, including potassium, sodium, and salt.
The human body is what propels us to perform, but poor nutritional habits, including not properly hydrating, can undermine all the hard work undertaken by an athlete. Without proper hydration every practice, each game, and each moment on the court can be lost in a split second.
Dehydration can be easily avoided. Adequately hydrating before and after a competition can greatly decrease the probability of dehydration.
Athletic retailers are constantly coming up with better ways to hydrate athletes. The invention of Gatorade from the University of Florida during the 1960s provided athletes with an energy and salt replenishment.
Today, stores are selling sports drinks that are specially made to provide pre-competition fuel and post-competition recovery. Many of these drinks are now even made healthier with less sugar and more mineral replenishment.
A few weeks after my hospital visit, I was back on track. Dehydration was something I could have avoided, yet it could not keep me from the sport all together.
Being a dedicated athlete means pushing through adversity to achieve success, and what I have learned from my dehydration experience is to always take proper care of my body - even if it means drinking a little extra during the day.
Bowers, a native of Lancaster, is a senior at Penn State Altoona majoring in communications.