One of the most challenging aspects of running long, especially in the hotter months of the year, is managing your fluid intake. It doesn't matter how fit you are or how smartly you pace yourself—your body simply can't perform to it's potential if it's lacking fluids. Every long run in your training cycle is a chance to practice and refine your hydration plan. Don't just roll the dice on race day.
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Hydration as Lifestyle
Hydrating properly is more than just making sure you have enough bottles in your Fuel Belt before you leave the house. As an athlete completing runs longer than 90 minutes in duration, hydration needs to be part of how you live your day-to-day life. Odds are, you are running five or more times a week. This means that at any given point in time you are likely less than 12 hours away from your next run.
Whether you are recovering from your most recent workout or setting the stage for your next effort, you need to be hydrating. Here are some easy ways to make staying hydrated part of your day-to-day life:
- Carry a water bottle with you and try to drink 60 ounces of water every day.
- Drink a glass of water for every cup of coffee or can of soda you have each day.
- Strive to drink a glass of water with every meal.
- Constantly monitor the color of your urine to see how you are doing. Light yellow is your goal.
- If you drink alcohol, be sure to drink some water.
Three Phases of Hydration
From an athletic perspective, it's helpful to break your hydration activities into distinct phases. This will make it easier to focus a specific activity instead of just trying to achieve general hydration. Here are three key phases to consider; note that the guidance here is for a moderately hot day from 75 to 85 degrees. If your weather situation is more extreme, you will need to experiment with increasing your fluids during training to know what your body can do on race day.
Step 1: Before Your Workout
Your goal is to start hydrating for your next run at a time that is equal to the duration of your planned run. So if you have a 60-minute run, your hydration should be game on at t-minus one hour. If your run is two hours, then you have two hours to focus. Remember that rule.
Before a workout, your goal is to make sure that you have both food and fluids in your system. It's easy to pick the wrong stuff to eat, especially since you have a workout looming. Make sure that you have easy-to-digest, performance-oriented foods in this window. Energy bars are a great option, and you'll want to have something with about 60 minutes to go before your long run. Then with about 15 minutes to go, you'll want to take in a gel with six to eight ounces of sports drink or water.