Hydration Hacks for Runners

It doesn’t take long for new runners to find out that guzzling water right before a run makes for a rather uncomfortable workout. Side cramps and the feeling of water sloshing around in their stomachs are two common reasons why runners may also refuse to drink water during a long run—even to the point of dehydration.

However, it can be tricky to find the right balance of water intake for runners at all levels. It may take some trial and error before you discover a system that works best for your needs and running habits. That being said, there are a few basic hydration tips that any individual could benefit from. According to experts, these are some of the best strategies for avoiding dehydration and overhydration to help you perform at your best:

Focus On Everyday Water Intake

Sports nutritionist Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, reports that nearly 50% of regular exercisers begin their workouts in the early stages of dehydration. “Your priority should be staying on top of daily hydration," Ryan recommends. “If you hydrate properly, you won't need to worry as much about becoming dehydrated during a typical moderate run." This means that you need to be drinking adequate amounts of water everyday; not just days you work out. The old guideline of “8 glasses of water per day” is a good rule of thumb.

Take a “Sweat Test”

If you want to ensure you’re taking in enough water during a long run, USAT Level I Triathlon coach Chrissy Carroll, R.D. says that you can simply weigh yourself before and after a workout. “If you've only lost 1-2% of your body weight, you’re in the hydration sweet spot,” Carroll says. “If you've lost more than 2-3% of your body weight, try hydrating a little more during your long runs.” A good standard practice is to drink 0.4 to 0.8 liters of water in the first hour of a run. This equates to a few sips of water every 15-20 minutes. 

Carry Water—Or Get Creative With Your Route

REI Outdoor School Instructors Julia Zuniga and Cory Rand are all too familiar with common concerns and complaints when it comes to staying hydrated. They both recommend that runners should wear a waist belt or hydration vest during strenuous workouts, and that people should set a timer to go off every 20 minutes so they remember to drink. 

However, they also acknowledge that carrying water can weigh people down when they’re trying to improve their speed. Their solution? “Plan a route that will take you by a water fountain where you can drink or refill a bottle,” Zuniga and Rand respond. They also suggest that you can use your car as an “aid station” by planning your run in loops around the vehicle. You can stop at your car to drink water, grab a quick snack, or whatever else you need to keep going.

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