Staying well hydrated is one of the most important aspects to long distance running, really to sport of any sort. It’s constantly stressed to runners how their performance or, worse, their health can be hugely impacted by dehydration or overhydration. But, in spite of how common a topic it is, there are still plenty of elementary mistakes made, even by experienced athletes.
Here are a few of the most common hydration errors made by long distance runners.
1. Starting Your Preparation Too Late
The day before a big race is a very important time. The nerves might be setting in, you probably have every nutrient intake and hour of sleep planned out to perfection. But in truth, if you’re leaving careful planning to the direct build up to the race you’ve left it too late.
Monitoring your intake of fluids should happen well before the night before the race. It’s important to intake fluids in a way which reflects the volume you feel you will need come race time, meaning constant intake of small amounts rather than binging when you feel intense thirst.
2. Carrying Your Drinks
Fluids are heavy and it goes without saying that reducing your total weight in a race is a net benefit to your overall speed. Yes, it’s convenient; you can grab a drink whenever you want. “But in the world of competitive endurance sport these small margins can make a big difference by the end.
Get your drinks along the way, as you run, from the drink stations or from friends alongside the route,” explains Lawrence Lappin, a Health writer.
3. Ignoring Your Body
In long distance running you are normally competing. Whether that be with your own previous time or running alongside other athletes. In competitive environments you are more likely to let your standards for self-preservation slip.
Dehydration can, even in the context of a race, be disastrous for your health. Learning about how to stay hydrated in a race also means learning what it looks and feels like to be dehydrated. If you notice any of those symptoms you need to act immediately, even if that is at the cost of your best time yet, or a gold medal.
4. Taking Risks On New products
When a big race is coming up you might be tempted to throw in some extra boost to your routine of supplements: you try a caffeine hit or a flashy new sports drink that someone recommended. When your body is working at full capacity there are likely to be plenty of side effects.
Most side effects you plan for (i.e. you sweat when you run so you plan to rehydrate). But if you’ve thrown some new substance into your regime that you haven’t tried before it can do things to your body which will throw you off just when you need to be on your best form.
And watch out particularly for new energy drinks: even if you have a strong stomach normally you could find yourself in desperate situations if you haven’t tried and tested ahead of time.
5. Cutting Out Salt
Salty foods are on the naughty list along with sugary snacks and deep-fried carbs for most health and nutrition minded people. But for runners, sodium is actually crucial. It’s still not healthy to have too much salt but the amount of salty sweat that comes out of you in a long run is enough that your bodies favourite fluid monitor might not be able to do its job correctly.
“If you add small amounts of salt to your non-salty food or add some pretzels to your carb load you’ll be better positioned to withstand the inevitable sodium hit your body will take during a run,” says Glenda Paylor, a Sports writer.
Don’t Ignore Hydration
Hydration being important when doing long distance running is pretty intuitive and if you can’t figure it out through logic then your body will downright scream it at you. But, the ins and outs of really thorough hydration practices are a fair bit more complicated than ‘drink plenty of water’.
Hopefully this short list has given you some good insights into how to go about hydrating for long distance running, and a place to start your research on how to get the most out of your body.