Drink up

It seems that it wasn’t that long ago that i was leaving the door for runs wearing everything i own.  Well, no more, my friends.  It appears that the heat in Memphis has decided to join us a little early this year.  I’m cool with that though.  I hate being cold and I really do love to sweat.

I know some people who “don’t like to sweat.”  I think they think it’s not girly or maybe they don’t like how it interferes with their bouncy curls and perfect makeup.  I personally think there’s no better look than the red-faced, messy hair, sweaty body look that a runner has after a good run.  It’s proof that you’re tough.  It’s proof that you value your health.  It’s proof that you’re a runner.

With this, though, does come some responsibility.  We happen to live somewhere that the humidity is pretty much always a factor and the temps soar for months on end.  We don’t have the luxury of waiting for it to cool off to go on runs when it’s still 80 at night with 70% humidity (making it feel closer to 95 when you run) so we just have to take it into our own hands and be smart.

Dehydration and overheating can both play dangerous roles in the summer months if you’re not careful.  Dehydration is the process of losing valuable fluids from the body.  As you sweat you lose water and electrolytes and if you don’t replace these, you are putting yourself at risk for becoming dehydrated.  (see this post for my soapbox on this topic:  https://starrunnersmemphis.com/2011/08/12/sweaty-girl/ )  Overheating is the result of inadequate cooling.  When your body cannot keep up with how much you are sweating (how much water and electrolytes you are losing), then you are at risk for overheating.

So, what can we do to prevent these 2 things from happening?  Well, we can make sure we’re replenishing all of the water and electrolytes we’re missing.  We all know, the easiest way to check your hydration level on a regular basis is to pay attention to the color of your urine.  If it’s anything darker than a lemonade color, you’re battling some dehydration.  An easy way to calculate how much water (at minimum) that you should be drinking on a daily basis is to take your body weight, divide it in half, and drink that many ounces of water.  So, if you’re 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of water each day.

Is this enough?  No.  Now you’ve got your body at a good, normal level of hydration  but you go out and sweat for an hour.  Most  people would say that you don’t really need water or sports drink unless you are running for at least an hour.  Sports drink, i would agree (unless it’s super hot, you’re feeling a little dehydrated already, or it’s a lower calorie performance drink).  That’s just going to be a lot of calories when you could really just drink water and make sure to take an electrolyte pill or salt tablet.  Water, no, you don’t necessarily need it for a 4 mile run but it can’t hurt.  A 4 mile run in 80 degrees with no humidity is very different than a 4 mile run in 80 degrees with Memphis humidity so, if you feel like running with water, go for it.  It’s important, if heading out with water, to sip every 15 minutes or so.  This keeps you from taking too much in and feeling like you’re sloshing instead of running but it also is enough to continuously replenish the fluid you’re losing.  This has you getting in about 4-6 oz every 15 minutes or so.

I, personally, am a fan of Salt Sticks which i always take for any sweaty run that is going to last an hour or so.  These have really helped me with muscle cramping due to heat (it’s salt so it helps you to hold on to some of your fluid) and I’ve found that if I take one every hour or so, I have less heat problems.  Keith is a big fan of S-Caps.  These are electrolyte tablets that will also help you to replenish what you are losing through your sweat and, again, he takes one an hour and this will help to combat overheating and dehydration.

After a run, it is crucial that you drink water and, if it was a super hot run that lasted over 60 minutes, I would probably add in some sort of electrolyte drink along with my protein/carb recovery fuel.  Again, you can get the lower calorie/ lower sugar versions of many of these so be on the lookout for these rather than a full bodied drink such as Gatorade.

Bottom line, you have to pay attention to your body.  You have to come to runs hydrated, bring water, sports drink, gels….whatever that that particular run may call for, and rehydrate afterwards.

For more info on running in the heat, here are some articles i really like:  http://knol.google.com/k/running-101-running-in-heat-humidity#  (interesting info on what the heat does to your HR), http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-267-269-11993-0,00.html (interesting discussion of overhydration and dehydration).

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