Staying Hydrated for Warm Weather Running

As the weather gets warmer this summer, it's important to adjust your water intake. There is no exact amount that applies to everyone. The old "8 glasses of water a day" rule of thumb doesn't work, since people have different weight, diets and rates of perspiration among many other factors. Whatever your daily liquid intake is that keeps you from being thirsty, be it 2 cups of coffee and some fruit in the morning and 20 to 26 ounces of water the rest of the day, or a gallon of water, you'll probably need a little extra when you run in warm weather for more than 4 miles or 30 minutes.

If you are running in the morning, it's especially important that you have at least 4-8 oz of water before you go out the door. During your run, try to stop by a water fountain about every 20 minutes if you can and drink 4-6 oz if you're running slower than 8:00 minutes per mile pace, or 6-8 oz if you're running faster. If water fountains are not available and it's particularly warm, you may want to consider carrying a water bottle with you either in your hand or a waist strap.

How much water you need also depends on how acclimated you are to the weather. In much of the Midwest, it was an unusually cold Spring, and we've only just started experiencing temperatures over 80 degrees. It takes a couple weeks of running in warmer temperatures to get used to it. This can present a problem when you've been used to training in temperatures of the 50s, and on race day in early summer the temperature darts up to the 80s. You may need to adjust your goal pace and drink at all the water stations, especially if the race is longer than a 5K.

Electrolyte replacement is not usually an issue until you've been running 90 minutes. Electrolytes are a group of ions that help carry electrical impulses through your body and facilitate muscle contraction and hydration. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hyrdogren carbonate. Muscle contractions (cramping or spasms) are a common sign of low electrolyte balance.

Gatorade is of course a popular drink with electrolytes, but the amount of simple sugars it contains is not ideal for everyone. I usually use a packet of Emergen-c Electro Mix with a liter of water. Many other options can be found at health food stores and the health section of good grocery stores. Be sure to figure out your preferred balance with trial and error in training before tackling a marathon in warmer weather. If you often have issues with cramping and spasming, try carrying a few small packets of salt with you. It should help you to keep running until you get more electrolytes at an aid station or convenience store.

Feel free to share your own strategies for hydration and electrolyte replenishment!

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Running, hydration, water, electrolytes, cramps

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