Drinking on the go
Learning how to hydrate is an important part of
If running is as simple as putting one foot in
front of the other, why is training for a marathon
so complicated? First there's the shoes: the average
pair of sneakers won't do. Marathoners need
specialty running shoes, with the correct amount of
pronation control. Clothing is specialized too:
technical fabrics wick moisture from the body to
Eating takes on a whole new meaning, and a whole
new language too. One doesn't simply eat, one "refuels"
with carbohydrate concoctions that promise to make
the body stronger, leaner, and faster.
Drinking should be simple enough, but it's not.
Sedentary people drink: runners hydrate. When and
how to hydrate is an art unto itself. Common logic
suggests that we should drink when we're thirsty.
But common logic doesn't apply to marathon training,
with long runs lasting two-to-three hours.
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Living in the desert, most people understand the
importance of drinking water, especially during our
hot summers. What many people don't realize is that
it's just as easy to become dehydrated in the
winter, when running out of doors feels comfortable.
Even when the weather is cool, our bodies need
water to produce sweat. Sweat promotes cooling of
the muscles and skin by releasing heat created
during exercise into the ambient air.
How often should runners drink? The answer
depends upon a person's age and fitness. The more
fit a person is, the more he sweats: sweating makes
the body a more efficient machine. Some younger,
more resilient runners can take in little water
during the run, and make up for the deficit by
increasing their fluid intake the rest of the day.
Others need to hydrate frequently during the
workout, in addition to drinking more during their
recovery. A good rule of thumb is to drink every
twenty minutes: more often on a warm day.
It's just as important to start drinking early in
the run, before there are any symptoms of thirst. It
takes about twenty minutes for water to be absorbed
into the body. The trick is to drink enough fluids
to prevent decreases in blood volume. When that
happens, muscles have to work harder, and the risk
of injury increases significantly.
Water versus sports drinks
Water is the best way to hydrate on runs lasting
under an hour. Assuming the runner is eating a good
diet, he'll have enough carbohydrates in the tank to
fuel the body during a relatively short run.
For runs over an hour, it's better to consume
sports drinks, that replace sugar and electrolytes
along with fluid. For people with sensitive
stomachs, finding a sport drink they can tolerate
may present a challenge. One option is to dilute the
drink with water, making it easier for the stomach
Some runners find it's easier to think, and
drink, outside the box. I know runners who drink
Pedialyte, an electrolyte replacement for children,
because their stomachs are too sensitive for
Another option is to drink water and take
electrolyte tablets which contain no sugar. Runners
with extremely sensitive stomachs may do better
eating natural foods such as unsweetened banana
chips in place of sports drinks or energy gels.
Too much of a good thing
Hypotremia, otherwise known as water
intoxication, is a potentially fatal condition that
can affect endurance athletes. It often happens
during long races, where there's a water station at
each mile marker.
While experienced runners tend to know how much
water they need, new runners who drink only water at
the aid stations may create an imbalance of
electrolytes in the body. The symptoms of hypotremia
are dizziness and muscle cramps. In severe cases,
the runner may faint or go into a coma.
The best way to prevent hypotremia is to ingest
adequate electrolytes in the form of sports drinks,
electrolyte tablets or energy gels. Runners need to
learn the early signs of hypotremia just as they
understand dehydration, and seek immediate medical
assistance if they find themselves in distress.
The perfect balance
Training for a marathon is more than logging
miles; it's a dress rehearsal for race day. Learning
how to hydrate on the run is just as important as
deciding which shoes will ward off injury and what
socks will prevent blisters.
For more information on marathon training, log
onto our web site:
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