Coach Tip Tuesday: The Annual Midsummer Hydration Plea
It’s already time for Coach Tip Tuesday!
In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice has just graced us with its presence this past weekend, and now it is officially summer. When we hear that word - “summer” - we immediately think of warmth and sunshine.
My entire immediate family resides in the state of South Carolina. That is a place that people often think of as being hot, hot, hot. However, this past week, it has been hotter every single day here in Upstate New York than it has been in South Carolina. Yes, even those of us who live in areas that experience 10+ feet of annual snowfall experience hot, hot, hot conditions!
This time of year, we can’t keep enough hydration products on the shelves at Fleet Feet Syracuse. When the temperatures go up, so many of our customers come in looking for ways to beat the heat and help make their summertime runs and workouts more enjoyable.
This time of year is also the time of year when I see a lot of the following notes in workouts:
“I had a massive headache by the end of this workout, but I don’t know why.”
“I was really thirsty 20 minutes into this run.”
“I felt dizzy and needed to walk a lot in the middle of my workout.”
“I was seeking out every patch of shade I could find to beat the heat.”
“I felt more sore and tight than normal after this.”
“I felt more fatigued than normal during this.”
My response to any comment that resembles those listed above is always: “What did you take with you for hydration on this workout? How much did you consume, and what exactly did you consume? What has your daily hydration been like over the last few days?”
More often than not (as in MUCH more often than not - anecdotally, I’d say at least 70% of the time), the athlete responds with something along the lines of: “I didn’t feel like I needed to take hydration with me on this” or “I had XXXX for hydration, but maybe it wasn’t enough.”
I’ve written about this MANY times before, but it’s such a common issue that it is worth repeating: Your body ALWAYS needs to be hydrated. ALWAYS. (Repeat after me: ALWAYS.) Humans CANNOT function without water. In fact, deprive us of it, food, and sleep simultaneously, and it’s the lack of water that would kill us first (usually within 3-6 days).
The human body is exceptionally adaptable and it CAN survive on less-than-optimal amounts of water. But, as I often say (much to the chagrin of the athletes who I work with ;) ): Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Performance decreases by 5% with just a 2% dehydration rate, and it decreases exponentially from there. When we are 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. (Visualize water flowing through a pipe, and then mud flowing through that same pipe; when you are dehydrated, you basically have mud flowing through your “pipes” (your arteries and veins)). 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.
If your body is focusing on managing your essential systems due to the fact that you didn't hydrate well, then you are not able to get any benefit from the workout physiologically. An unhydrated or under-hydrated workout is a less-than-great workout on so many levels. In some cases, it’s actually worse to complete a workout without hydration than it would be to SKIP the workout. Think about that. Do you want your completed workout to generate a situation that is worse than if you had SKIPPED the workout entirely? Give yourself the best chance to have a GREAT workout that you can derive ALL of the benefits from. You deserve that. You put in the hard work; make sure that you do everything you can to have that hard work count for you in the short AND long-term!
So here it is: My Annual Midsummer Hydration Plea to all of you. PLEASE realize that you are NOT the exception to the “all humans need hydration” rule. Do yourselves a solid and set yourselves up for success by hydrating ALL of your workouts (yes, even those “short” ones) during this summer season so you can feel great both during the workout and after it in your recovery. :)
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.