Hydration

I sweat. A LOT. Like, more than the average bear. You come out of spin class looking like that? I come out of Biology class looking like that in the summertime. It’s true. Ask Tweedy. I can’t help it. I come from a long line of sweaters and am happy to say I am not the only one in my family whose internal A/C goes into overdrive at the mere sight of the sun or a humid day or a flight of stairs. I am my father’s daughter in this way. Mrs. Obi-wan hardly every breaks a sweat. She glooooows.

What does this have to do with hydration?

I’m getting there.

Because I sweat a lot, I lose a lot of sodium as well. Sweat is not just water, people. It is a combination of water and sodium and other trace minerals. You can feel the salt if you let the sweat evaporate on your skin and don’t wash it away. If you reeeeally get your sweat on and it dries a little bit, you can see it on your clothes, too! (Wait, is that just me? Someone tell me it’s happened to them, too!)

Exhibit A The salt all over my face post-marathon:

The salt is everywhere, as is the hair.

So what does this have to do with hydration?

I’m getting there.

Because when you sweat you lose sodium and other minerals as well, you must replace those minerals in order to rehydrate. You’ve heard me say that water just isn’t enough for endurance sports and it isn’t because of this reason. When you lose too much sodium and the sodium-potassium-calcium balance is off in your blood plasma, bad things happen. If there isn’t just the right amount of sodium and the right amount of potassium to work the sodium-potassium pump, bad things like dehydration and over hydration (hyponatremia) happen.

Dehydration gets a lot of media attention, but I want to focus on balance and how not to overdo it on race day.

One of the very helpful things that happens when you’re nervous on race day is dry mouth. You’re at the start line or just barely getting going and you swear your mouth is as dry as the Sahara. Please, please, please read this next line and tell yourself this: You are not thirsty. You have dry mouth. Swirl and spit. It will pass.

If you chug a cup of water or Gatorade every time your mouth goes dry during a race, you are putting yourself at risk of over hydration (hyponatremia) which is just as dangerous as dehydration. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. My first marathon (NYC) was 80-something degrees in November and I panicked throughout the entire run. I drank WAY more than I ever did during my training runs and ended up with a sloshy tummy full of fluid, which I promptly vomited at the finish line and again in the shower, and I experienced some serious disorientation and weakness immediately upon finishing. It wasn’t pretty. Ask Mrs. Obi-wan and Kooshie. I will never forget them taking care of me.

The way to avoid this is to test yourself during your training runs and make a mental note of when you usually drink, how much you drink and what you like to drink. I carry Gatorade with me and drink water at water stations when I want only water. That way, I always have something with a little sugar, carbs, sodium and potassium with me in case I need them. Be wary of the coconut water craze. Not every brand is all it’s cracked up to be. I also always have a Shot Bloks for sustenance, but Rice Krispie treats are yummy, too.

Trust your training and do not detour from it. Don’t like what they’re serving at the hydration stations? Carry your own. Not sure if you’re thirsty or just have dry mouth? Swirl with some water and spit and see how you feel in another quarter mile. Worried because it’s hotter than usual? Hydrate throughout the race by taking small sips, not big gulps. Wondering how your hydration plan is going? Check your forehead to see if you’re still sweating. Sweat? Good! No sweat? No good.

If you fear that you are suffering from dehydration or over hydration, seek medical attention immediately. Dizziness, loss of consciousness (even for a moment), disorientation, loss of coordination, vomiting, and lack of sweat are all bad things and you should get yourself to a medic as soon as possible.

Test your hydration strategies on a day other than race day and you’ll be a hydration rock star during your race! This goes for all sports: cycling, spinning, yoga, swimming, rowing, everything where you’re breaking a sweat for longer than 30 minutes (for me, it means all damn day). I don’t want to hear that any of you passed out because you didn’t hydrate properly, ok? Ok.

Now go out and run!

Food Is Fuel: What To Eat Before You Run

Mmmmm…I love food! As an athlete, I do my best to view the food I eat as fuel for my body. As an athlete with ulcerative colitis, this is not always the easiest road to take. My body rejects all things fiber and healthy goodness when I’m sick which makes eating a challenge for me. Recently, I’ve been finding my stride with the food I CAN eat while also fueling up for my runs.

 

There are a couple of key things to pay attention to when fueling up for a run. And yes, you will have to think ahead if you want to be properly prepared to kick butt during your workouts. Sorry, procrastinators (WHAT? Runners NEVER procrastinate…), you’ll have to make this one a priority.

 

1. When did you eat last?

2. What time are you running?

2. How long are you planning on running?

 

1. What did you eat last?

If it’s been more than three hours since you’ve had anything and you’re planning on hitting the pavement for a run, you should think about having a slice of toast or something. When your blood glucose level is low you might experience dizziness, nausea, low energy and a whole host of other not-so-fun symptoms that are rather counterproductive where running is concerned. You want to make sure you’ve eaten within 1-2 hours of your workout so that your stomach is empty, but your body knows there’s more fuel on the way and your glucose levels are stable.

 

2. What time are you running?

If you are running in an hour or less, you’ll want to stick with straight-up low fiber carbohydrates like crackers, pretzels, toast or the like. Carbs move faster through your system, out of your stomach and into your blood stream to raise glucose levels and help your body access glycogen during your workout. If it’s more than two hours, feel free to eat a regular ‘ol meal with protein or whatever. The reason you want to stay away from the protein right before physical activity is basic physiology: Rest and digest. When you are at rest, your digestive system gets busy breaking down all that food but when you’re diverting blood from your organs to your muscles during activity, digestion stops. Which means, if there’s something in that stomach of yours when you get going during your workout, it’s not moving downward and likely will try and go up. Yuck.

 

Sidebar: I learned this the hard way during cross country season when I was about 11 or 12. My favorite breakfast that Mrs. Obi-wan used to make us (and still is!) is poached eggs and toast. Well, we thought it’d be a good idea for me to have a decent breakfast before a race one morning. Oh boy, was THAT a bad idea. Let’s just say I never ever did that again.

 

3. How long are you planning on running?

If you’re going out for a relatively short, easy run, you may not need anything to get you through it. If it’s a speed workout or a likewise difficult run on your schedule for the day, have a good solid meal 2-3 hours before your run and then rock it out. In a pinch, I’ll grab some Shot Bloks just so that I have something to work with. If it’s a long run that’s in your near future, you’ll want to plan ahead the night before and eat smart for the following day. Easy on the protein (have a little bit so you’re not stuck in the bathroom during your run), eat good carbs (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), and don’t go too bananas with the fruits and veggies at dinner (ha! bananas, get it?) so as to avoid the whole bathroom situation. That morning, stick to easy-to-digest carbs or whatever works for you pre-run.

 

Me? I have a Luna Bar and some toast about an hour before my long run and that works great. I don’t feel hungry during my run and am not relying on my Shot Bloks as much, which allows me to focus on my run, not my stomach.

 

You gotta find out what works for you but if you check in with your body and ask yourself these three questions, you’ll be able to narrow down your options and make good choices to fuel your run. Remember, in the end FOOD IS FUEL for your body. Acknowledge that you are an athlete and treat your body as such. Cookies are a sometimes food now. Even Cookie Monster says so.

Now go out and run!