Summer Hydration Tips With Dr. Brandon Eck

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When it comes to hydration and hot weather, as French author Voltaire says, "common sense is not so common". Special thanks to Dr. Brandon Eck, sports medicine (non-op) physician at Premier Orthopaedics in Havertown and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvaniafor these excellent tips and helpful reminders (and for reviving my blog)!

Summer is upon us! Here we are counting down to many of this years best races! 5k’s to marathons, even long trail runs during these dog days of summer. 

You pack you clothes and shoes, charge your GPS watch, maybe some sunblock and extra socks (just in case) and you’re about to head out the door… that’s when you realize you almost forgot your water bottle! 

Usually the last thing on our minds, we mindlessly brush off the notion or grab that empty water bottle. Thoughts of, “oh they’ll have water stations”, or “I’ll grab a bottle at the start line.” we oft forget that the best assurance we have to complete a task is preparedness! And nothing can lead you to falter faster than nutrition. Science tells us that even a 2% reduction in body weight, from water loss, can have a noticeable difference in both physical and mental performance (1).

How much do I need to drink?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all volume when it comes to hydration. In general, your fluid intake should depend on your sweat rate, or the amount of fluid you’re losing through sweat while exerting energy. Sweat rates vary depending on body size, exercise intensity, and environmental conditions. For example, a smaller person running 7-minute miles in mild conditions might suffice with a half liter but a larger person who is running 9-minute miles in 80-degree heat might need 2-3 liters of water an hour.

How do I know I am drinking enough?

For starters, your urine color could tell you. Clear to pale yellow color means you are well hydrated, while a darker or concentrated yellow is sign of dehydration. However, our bodies can be foolish; often our feeling of thirst will lag behind our needs and even disappear before we are fully hydrated! 

To be smart, follow these simple tips to help you on those long runs and race days:

Start hydrating 1-2 hours prior to your run. 

Small sips of water over longer periods are better than drinking large amounts in a short period. (Take this into consideration when planning, even carry bottles to sip throughout a race without needing to rely on the aid stations where we tend to want to chug.)

Start sipping before your thirsty on runs longer than 1 hour (30-40 minutes in).

30-60g of carbs is recommended for every hour of running = one 16oz Gatorade® (or alternative of choice!). (2)

Don’t eat or drink anything you didn’t or wouldn’t eat during training on race day!

Food options other than fruit or candy include GU®, Hammer®, Stinger® and Clif® and are all great options.

If you have a sensitive stomach or are a picky eater, try out foods during training runs to ensure you feel good while consuming them. 

If you're peeing clear before a race, limit your intake to jut sips as you near run/race time. Over-hydration can lead to the need to urinate during the race!

Avoid alcoholic beverages in the days prior to the race as they can increase urine output and delay optimal rehydration. 

Check the weather and plan ahead! Extra layers, extra bottles, sun exposure, even cold conditions all affect how much water and nutrition you need to not only stay warm/cool but propel you to the finish!

Happy and Fast Racing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you Dr. Eck for the useful tips and I'll remind everyone that you're an "n=1" which means you'll need to figure out some of this on your own through some trial and error. As Dr. Eck mentions above, there are quite a few variables that come into play. Use these tips as a starting point, adjust based on how you feel, combine with a more conservative mindset, and you'll consistently feel much better in hot conditions.

1 http://www.sportscardiologybc.org/the-effects-of-hydration-on-athletic-performance/

2 https://www.gssiweb.org/docs/CanadaEnglishLibraries/sport-specific-materials/practical-sports-nutrition-maintaining-hydration-and-proper-fueling.pdf?sfvrsn=6

How You Will Crush a Windy Race

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You’ve trained really hard, you’re in great shape with a chance to run your best time or a Boston Qualifier, but there’s a giant wind situation predicted. How do you adjust?

First, throw a pity party, stomp your feet, maybe cry a little. Get it out. Things won’t be “perfect”.  Boo!!!! Womp, womp, womp!

Got it out? Good!

Ready to proceed to crush it anyway? GREAT.

First, forget about your time goal (but don’t toss it completely). Here’s what I want to know: what will a successful race look like to you?

Write that down. Maybe it's:

“The last 4 miles are my strongest of the whole race.” 

or

“I couldn’t have raced any smarter or pushed myself any harder.”

Cool, those are both good. Anything else? No rules here, but try to envision yourself at the finish totally satisfied. How’d you get there?

Next, it’s important to realize that people DO RUN WELL WHEN IT'S WINDY (or rainy or cold or hot). How?

They don’t view it as a negative!

Wind just IS. It’s a variable that you need to account for, but it’s not a negative or something that you need to overcome. And it’s definitely not something that you “fight”. Why? Because it will always win.

Here are 3 things you CAN DO to run well during a windy race: 

EVEN EFFORT

Manage your effort intelligently no matter what the conditions are. In a distance race, especially a marathon, this means running a very even, consistent effort. Your pace may fluctuate, but you’ll be most efficient and have more energy late in the race if you avoid fluctuations in energy expenditure. 

Adopting this strategy means you need to stay alert and react to what’s happening. So, if you turn a corner and smack into a headwind, you need to sense into your steady, consistent effort and simply maintain. A heart rate monitor can confirm your effort remains steady, but ideally this is something you can feel and will have honed through training.

I always remind myself to 'relax into the wind' as the temptation to fight or push into it is often strong.

DRAFTING

Tactically, if at all possible, a great strategy is to tuck in and use other racers to shield yourself from the wind. Known as drafting, be advised that sometimes the ideal position may be to the side of another runner. 

Cyclists know what I'm talking about - this is called an echelon formation.

Cyclists know what I'm talking about - this is called an echelon formation.

The protection you’d get from pack of runners is always more effective - and more ‘fair’ - than a single runner. Bonus feature: running in a group can actually give you energy as you’re all working together towards a common goal.

MINDSET

On a course like Philly that has a lot of turns I still think you can run a good time despite the wind, BUT that is not something you can directly control.

So let's not focus on time. Wind is going to affect your splits - some will be faster, some slower. And wind *may* impact your overall time, but remember that isn't what will make the day a success or not. Right? We talked about this earlier!

What you can control is your mental approach by remaining calm, consistent, and cheering yourself on. Focus on your ability to make good decisions in the moment so you can set yourself up for a strong finish and a satisfying result regardless of time.

Reframe your thoughts around wind. It is what you think it is. 

You think it sucks? You think you’ll run slow because of it? You hate it? You’re right.

Or will you be one of the athletes who crushes it despite the wind? Your call!

PS: For more marathon mindset tips, check out THIS article I wrote for Philly.com!

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Understandably, you’re feeling anxious and nervous that you might not be able to hit the planned splits. Many of us aren’t comfortable with failing and there’s a real possibility this session won’t go well.

Or, at least, that’s one way to approach the session.

What if I were to tell you how you respond to the session is partly determined before you even lace up your racing flats?

That, in fact, how you simply view the session determines what type of hormonal response you’ll get from the session.

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