4 Tips to Avoid Running Dry

Hot weather is back. Yay! No more layering on sixteen articles of clothing on the upper body and six on the legs to fight off winter. To celebrate, I went our on the North Asotin Creek trail in just shorts and a singlet, plus a two bottle hydration pack, and picked up a nice bit of tan on the shoulders. Since we're finally hitting the warm weather, I planned out my water needs. You should, too, even if going for a short run. I know, I know, you don't need to 'hydrate' for a short run, all the articles say so. Humor me.

You plan for water (and electrolytes) for all your runs - and your other activities. I've seen more than a few runners head out to suffer through a fifteen miler because they did a three miler the night before - with the Hash House Harriers, where beer-drinking replaces water intake.

So, four tips.

1. Make sure you start out hydrated. Drink appropriately  before your run - indeed, throughout your day. That way when you hit the roads or trails, you're tanked up and ready. Before you head out for the run, drink 8-10 ounces of water. Also start with your electrolytes charged up. Include high potassium and magnesium foods in your diet.

2. Carry water with you or have planned water stops. Since I trail run a lot, I have a Nathan hydration pack with a pair of 20 oz. bottles, plus some handhelds, plus a Camelbak. When I run on pavement, I plan out the spots where I can get water - I don't have to stop but it's important to have that dialed in ahead of time.

3. Drink frequently. Provide your body with a steady source of water in small doses so it has time to process. Sloshing while you run is unpleasant. Also, drinking too much water is potentially dangerous as you can severely dilute your electrolyte balance. There is a great article at active.com that covers this (and caffeine use, as well).

4. Self-monitor. You can do everything apparently right and still end up in a bind. That's what happened to me on the trail run up the creek. At the ten-mile point, I was down to a few ounces of water - and I had stopped sweating. No bueno. I generally need about 4oz per mile. Took 40oz with me after drinking at the start, began drinking at mile 2 - and ran out because my intake was higher than planned by 25 percent. Because I was paying attention to the signals my body sent me, I knew that I was in potential trouble and took the (for me) appropriate action.

That's when I started walking. Could I have finished the run? Yeah, probably. Could I have finished without hitting heat exhaustion? Maybe. But the next several days of training could have been disrupted. Better to take it slow and give my body time to adapt to the heat.

And the advice not to hydrate for short runs? Drink sensibly (applies to water as well!) to make sure that you are not consistently dehydrated. In 100 degree heat, I lose 6 ounces of water per mile. If I don't replace that water, even for a series of short runs, I'll soon be perpetually dehydrated.

So, hydrate - not until you are bloat but enough that you don't often feel thirsty.