Coach Myles: Hydration in Hot Weather
Honing Your Hydration in Hot and Humid Habitats There may be no more simultaneously disgusting and rewarding feeling in the world than finishing up a run when the heat index is in the triple digits. The feeling of my running shorts drowning in perspiration post run is even worse than the mental distress I have jaunting down the street as my girlfriend’s ponytail flings sweat into my face. While the first thing on my mind is to hop into a river or a shower or whatever comes first, the interior of my body is yearning for more attention than my skin. Getting fluids (and the right fluids) into the body at the right time is the most important part of not only surviving, but thriving in the summer heat. There are two major portions of this: Recovery and Preparation. The first takes care of everything following the workout, while the first allows us to get through it without feeling like running into a brick wall too early.
In any weather conditions, one of the byproducts of exerting effort is perspiration. As the temperature and humidity indexes climb (especially in the summer months), our ability to sweat appears to be much more apparent (no pun intended). Sweat is the human body’s natural way of cooling itself (hence more sweat in warmer weather). When we sweat, we lose much more than just water; we’re also losing electrolytes that are critical to muscle function and body movement. The longer or harder that we work, the more we lose, as our body’s limited supply of Sodium, Potassium, and other minerals begins to run dry. And as this is happening it gets more and more challenging for our muscles to function in the way we want them to. So how do we stymie the negative effects or perspiration?
Preparation: Water is the key and most easily accessible ingredient to our hydration. Hydration is most effective when it is spaced out periodically, rather than in one or two big droughts throughout the day. If there is a big workout planned for later in the day (especially in a hot period), try intaking some sort of electrolyte concoction (typical sports drink or a blend) that is more than just water 2-3 hours prior to beginning activity. This will help to prolong the debilitating effects of dehydration mid-workout. If it’s a hot day (especially if it is humid too) and you notice that you are not sweating or have massive amounts of salt caked on your shirt or skin, this calls for immediate hydration as the body has already lost a lot of water and minerals.
Recovery: After we finish that killer run, our job is done, right? Unfortunately the answer is no (not if we want to feel better later that is). But this crucial part of getting to the next run is one of the easiest and shortest, but also one of the most overlooked. Because we lose much more than just H2O when we sweat, we should put more than just water back into our overheating bodies. The minerals we sweat out we need to put back in, and this is generally easiest to do in the form of an electrolyte-filled liquid. There is a bevy of electrolytes available, from all standard sports drinks (Gatorade and Powerade) to all-natural options (Coconut water) to electrolyte replenishment tablets and mixes (Nuun, Gen UCAN, Vitalyte, and SOS are some good ones). And here’s the big part: this should be put into the body as soon as it can stomach it. Olympic silver medalist in the marathon Meb Keflezighi does not even sign autographs or do interviews until after he has jump-started the recovery process.
Water definitely has its place in running and hydration (and a very big place that is), but is not the only essential liquid that should be utilized to keep the body up and running. Everyone’s body reacts differently to different electrolyte solutions, so find what works for you and enjoy quicker recovery, and less prolonged fatigue! But unfortunately this will not help to stave off the internal fountain of sweat as we run.