Summer running is essential for fall races, but can be tough when the heat and humidity come into play. Have you ever found yourself working a lot harder at a pace that is usually pretty easy for you? Does your heart rate increase outside of your comfort zone? Do you find that your performance suffers in the heat? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might not be hydrating enough before, during, and after your runs.
One of the most common mistakes runners make is not hydrating enough during their run. Even experienced runners can fall victim to improper hydration. In fact, sometimes they are the worst culprits! Everyone has their own personal, seemingly arbitrary limit of how long their run needs to be in order for them to carry water. They might think, “I am just going for an hour, I don’t need water.” They might be used to doing 90 minute or 2 hour runs without a problem. Add in some heat and humidity, and now the need for water increases.
The effects of dehydration can not only be annoying in that your performance is going to suffer and you are not going to feel great on your run, they can also be dangerous. The function of water in our body is extremely important in helping our muscles, brains, and internal organs work properly. Water also makes up a good portion of our blood. When we sweat out too much water, it decreases blood volume, which can be detrimental to our body’s natural method of cooling itself (sweat & evaporation). The less blood volume we have, the harder the heart has to work (increased heart rate) to enable the body to perform at a level that is usually comfortable.
Dehydration is cumulative, meaning that if you don’t properly rehydrate after your run on Monday, you will begin Tuesday’s run already dehydrated. The more you sweat during that Tuesday run, the more dehydrated you become, setting you up for more problems on Wednesday, and so on.
If you have ever felt some of the following symptoms before or after your run, it’s time to start drinking more:
- Dizziness / lightheadedness
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Little to no urine output after a run
- Very dark urine
Many runners will say they don’t like carrying things during their run, so they don’t carry water. The good news is that hydration belts, packs, and hand held water bottles have come a long way! The vests and belts are now really lightweight and comfortable, so much that you might forget you even have one on. The new hand held water bottles are ergonomically shaped and fit comfortably into your hand.
How much you drink depends on a few factors. Take into consideration, temperature, humidity, and your own personal sweat rate. Generally, drinking about 6 – 8 oz of fluid every 20 minutes is recommended. Weigh yourself before and after your run. For every pound lost, drink 20 ounces of fluid to rehydrate so you don’t start your next run already dehydrated! The more humid it is, the less efficiently your sweat will evaporate and the harder time your body will have cooling itself, so drink extra if it’s humid!
Water is essential for hydration, but don’t forget about electrolyte replacement! If you don’t put back the electrolytes you sweat out, you can become more susceptible to cramping and decreased performance. Products like Nuun and Skratch can help replenish important electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, mangnesium) while adding taste to your water. Don’t let the heat and humidity make your summer running miserable! It’s really pretty simple, pack some water and drink it along the way. It doesn’t make you less you cool or less strong! It can actually help keep you running stronger for longer!