Coach Tip Tuesday: Hydration Isn't Just a Summertime Thing
It’s Christmas Day, and it’s also still Coach Tip Tuesday!
I figured I could take today, a day when hydration is a little more on the -- shall we say….libatious -- side of things, to talk about how hydration is a year-round thing, not just a summertime thing.
As any athlete who has worked with me knows, I harp on hydration. Why? Because it is generally the easiest thing to “fix” that yields the most significant gains. With zero exceptions thus far, every single athlete who I have worked with over the years was under-hydrating before hiring me to coach them. Every.single.one.of.them. As I like to say, this is “low-hanging fruit” for me as a coach, and therefore, it’s one of the things I seek to work on first when I’m working with athletes.
Hydration is an easier thing to think about in the summertime because we can feel fluid loss more profoundly since we are sweating more. Since we’re sweating more, we actually get thirsty. And as we all know, when we’re thirsty, we (usually ;) ) drink.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t let ourselves get thirsty when we’re working out. As you’ve probably heard, if you let yourself get thirsty when you’re in the middle of a workout, it’s too late to become rehydrated within that same workout. So, it stands to reason that we should hydration alllllll year long, not just when we feel thirsty in the summertime.
It’s true that how much fluid we need does change with the seasons, but that number never gets down to zero. And yes, hydration can be tricky in northern climates (since our hydration vessels can freeze), but here’s the trick: if you are constantly hydrating throughout your workout, then your hydration vessel will not freeze since fluid is flowing through it frequently.
Along with workout hydration, it’s important to note that daily hydration is still just as important this time of year as it is when it’s warmer. Maintaining good hydration throughout the day sets you up for good workouts, but it also helps your body function well for daily activities and keeps your immune system stronger during a time of year when colds and bugs run rampant.
So many critical systems in the body require fluids (read: adequate hydration) to function properly. Performance decreases by 5% with just a 2% dehydration rate, and it decreases exponentially from there. When we’re dehydrated, the liquid volume of our blood is decreased, so we can’t cool ourselves as efficiently. Your heart has to work harder to pump this thicker blood, so your fatigue levels rise faster than normal. Since the blood isn’t able to transport nutrients (think oxygen) as efficiently, then our other organs and body systems don’t function as well as they do when we’re properly hydrated.
The circulatory system isn't the only system that needs adequate hydration. Everything from how much bile your digestive system can produce to help you digest food to the joint fluid in your joints draws from water within your body to function.
Like so many things to do with the human body, we can cheat the system and get it to function even when it’s not “optimal.” But just because can doesn’t mean we should. Seek to hydrate yourselves well allllll year long, my friends! You’ll perform better AND feel better. It’s a win-win. :) Enjoy the holiday today and aim to balance any diuretic (alcohol) consumption with beverages that rehydrate you well.
Merry Christmas, my friends!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.