Staying Cool On Court: Strategies to Avoid Overheating for Squash Players

16th May 2024

More so than in many other sports, squash players are required to regularly train and compete in very warm conditions. The squash court can be an extremely hot and sweaty place, which leads to overheating, discomfort, and ultimately performance decrement.

There are strategies you can use to help counter this however, and in this article, we’ll explore the science and art behind staying cool during competition.

Understanding the Body’s Cooling Mechanisms

Before looking at our suggested cooling strategies, it’s interesting to first take a look at how the body naturally attempts to regulate temperature during strenuous physical activity – primarily through sweating, and increasing blood flow to the skin surface.

Sweating is perhaps the body’s most recognizable cooling mechanism. When you engage in physical activity, your muscles generate heat. To prevent your core temperature from skyrocketing, sweat glands in your skin produce sweat, which is mostly composed of water and electrolytes. As this sweat evaporates from the surface of your skin, it absorbs excess heat, effectively cooling you down. Interestingly, sweat doesn’t just respond to rising temperature – it also reacts to emotional stress and anxiety, which can explain why you might break a sweat in the heat of competition even before physical exertion begins.

Another crucial aspect of thermoregulation during exercise involves the redistribution of blood flow. When you start working out, your body diverts more blood to your muscles to supply them with oxygen and nutrients. However, as your body temperature rises, it also redirects more blood to your skin’s surface. This increased blood flow to the skin serves two primary purposes. First, it helps dissipate heat from your core to your skin, where it can be released into the environment. Second, it allows for improved sweat production, enhancing the efficiency of the body’s cooling process.

Breathing also plays an indirect, but significant role in temperature regulation during exercise. As your body heats up, your respiration rate increases. This accelerated breathing allows you to exhale hot, moist air, helping to release heat and cool-down your internal temperature. Additionally, your body may even induce dog-like ‘panting’, especially in high-intensity activities, to enhance the cooling effect. Panting expels hot air more rapidly, providing relief from overheating.

Once you go beyond a certain point however, the body’s cooling systems become overwhelmed – this is where your additional cooling strategies come into play, to help aid and support your natural mechanisms.



One of the fundamental aspects of maintaining optimal performance in any sport or exercise, is staying well-hydrated. Dehydration not only impairs physical performance, but also hinders your body’s ability to cool itself through sweat. To tackle this, squash players should begin their matches or training well-hydrated, and maintain proper hydration throughout the event.

For longer-duration matches or training sessions, consider consuming sports drinks containing electrolytes to replenish what’s lost through sweat. These beverages help maintain fluid balance and prevent cramps. However, striking the right balance is essential—extreme over-hydration can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which can be as detrimental as dehydration. Finding the optimal hydration strategy for your sport and conditions is crucial, to keep the body cool and performing optimally.


Cooling Apparel

In the realm of modern sports, clothing technology has come a long way. Lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics, strategically placed ventilation, and even cooling vests have been designed to help regulate body temperature. Investing in sportswear engineered for hot conditions can positively impact performance by allowing the body to stay cooler.

Cooling vests, for instance, are designed to be pre-cooled and worn before or between events. They effectively lower the core body temperature, extending endurance and reducing heat-induced fatigue.


Ice and Cold Water Immersion

When the competition becomes unbearably hot, athletes can turn to more aggressive cooling techniques. Applying ice packs to areas like the armpits, groin, and the back of the neck is a smart strategy that can rapidly reduce body temperature, and can be effective during your breaks between games or during rest periods in strenuous workouts. These regions have a high concentration of blood vessels close to the skin’s surface, making them efficient cooling points.

Ice baths and cold water showers are both useful options for post-match, when you’re in the midst of a tournament where you’re playing multiple matches in a day – these methods involve immersing the body in cold water, and will very quickly bring the temperature down. 

From a training perspective however, these aren’t the best choices. While ice water immersion/cryotherapy has been shown to have tangible effects on reducing muscle inflammation and soreness, the inflammation process is actually a big part of the ‘training effect’, and is actually integral to the repair and recovery of your muscles – a little bit of soreness in the muscle the day after a workout is actually a good thing, it’s a sign of the rebuilding taking place. The perceived wisdom now then, is that ice baths are useful in a competition environment where immediate performance is the only goal and you’re not trying to ‘get fitter’, but if used too regularly as part of a daily training plan they can actually stunt progress.


Mental Coolness

In the world of competitive sports, staying cool goes beyond just physical strategies; it extends to the mental realm as well. The pressure and intensity of competition can raise an athlete’s stress levels, which, in turn, can elevate their body temperature. Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine is crucial. Controlled breathing, visualization exercises, and meditation can help maintain a calm state of mind under pressure. Remember, a calm mind often leads to a cooler body.


In conclusion, staying cool isn’t just about comfort; it’s a performance-enhancing strategy that can be the difference-maker between victory and defeat. Whether you’re playing or training, integrating some cooling strategies into your regimen can give you the competitive edge you’ve been searching for. As you prepare for your next match or competition, strive to keep your cool for better performance. 


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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