It's a hot one out there ...
In college, I would be plugging away at a track workout with my team and finally turn to my friend to complain about how tired I was.
"Well, how much have you had to drink today?" she would ask.
I'd think about it for a minute. "A cup of coffee at breakfast." Breakfast was at 7 a.m., and track workouts usually started around 4 p.m. My friend would roll her eyes at my carelessness and then we'd take our next lap around the track. This happened more often than I care to admit.
I am terrible at hydration. I'm not sure why. I'm just programmed to forget to grab a glass of water with lunch or a snack or whenever normal people remember to intake fluids. But the effects of dehydration are huge. It can slow the transfer of energy to your cells, cause muscle cramps, and lead to increased body temperature, which is basically the formula for having a bad workout. And, if it gets bad enough, a dangerous workout.
So if you're hydration-challenged like me, how do you wrap your head around it? How do you know how much water to drink?
A good rule of thumb: Have about 8 oz. of water (your average glass) 15-30 minutes before you go out on your running trek. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be hydrating in the hours beforehand. Have at least 16+ oz. a few hours before. So basically, starting filling your cup around breakfast time, and keep it flowing for 2-3 glasses each hour. But your work is only just beginning because you gotta keep it up once the workout is over. You need to restore 16-24 oz. PER POUND LOST during the workout. So I guess get your scale out, too.
This all sounds a little too scientific. Are we really all going to hop on our scales before and after every workout, measure the exact number of ounces we're drinking, calculate how many more ounces we have to go, all while taking an increased amount of bathroom breaks? No. Well, at least, it's definitely not realistic for me. Just being honest, I'm not going to do all that work. Perhaps professional and Olympic athletes do (and power to them), but the average Joe who just wants to feel good about their personal fitness levels is probably not going to want to stress about all that.
So here are a couple shortcuts to knowing whether or not you're hydrated:
1. Pay attention to the toilet.
It's kinda gross, but the color of your urine is very telling. Dark yellow means not-so-hydrated. Light yellow means pretty hydrated. Clear means probably a little too hydrated. If your urine is light in color on a pretty regular basis, you're probably doing well in the hydration department. If not, work on drinking a bit more fluids. Not everyone is going to require the same amount. Some need more, some need less. But everyone needs to drink water slowly. If you drink it too fast, you risk flooding your kidneys and going to the bathroom more often than you need to.
2. Sweat shouldn't always be salty.
You don't need to taste your sweat to know if it's got a high salt content. If you've got white streaks down your face or arms from your sweat, that's salt. If it gets into your eyes and stings, also salt. But guess what? That probably means you haven't had enough salt in your diet. Yes, that is correct, and it makes no sense. Salt helps us keep water in our bodies, so find yourself some Pedialyte and a baggy of pretzels and get to work. Your sweat should be pretty much like water: flavorless, odorless, and not leaving salt crystals behind on your skin.
3. The most obvious: Are you thirsty?
If you're thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated. If you're not thirsty, you're probably all set, but don't slack off now. Keep sipping water. Even increasing the number of fruits and veggies you eat helps with hydration. You'd be surprised how much water those foods can contain!
As always, pay attention to your body and how you feel. Your body will rarely trick you!
How do you stay hydrated in the summer? Share your tips in the comments.
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.