Do you drink water when you run?

I’ve never been much of a fluid drinker. I remember when I was little my Aunt always used to make me drink and I didn’t like it. I think I get it from my grandad as he doesn’t drink much apart from tea and coffee.

I remember when I used to run in the UK I never used to take on fluids unless I was running over 10 miles (16k). I found that I never needed to – I always ensured the night before I ran that I was completely hydrated and drank before the run. If anything drinking during the run always hindered me and I needed a toilet stop as a result! When it was really hot i.e over 80 degrees (very rare in the UK!) then all bets were off and I would take on water and run in the shade.

I have only ever had two bad episodes – one was when running the Newark Half Marathon – it was a boiling hot day and the race didn’t start until 11am and people were being sick and passing out all over the place. I finished but not before taking on board every gel and water stop there was, and the other was in a training run where I had run 18 miles (29k) and it again was a boiling hot day and I collapsed and ended up in hospital with severe dehydration.

One guy that I used to run with would run 20 miles with me and never have one drink come rain or shine. I kind of figured he knew his body and what he was doing though – he was 70 and had run 54 marathons. He taught me a lot and to listen to my body.

Here in Australia it is not too much different apart from the few crazy hot days we have here and to be honest I don’t tend to run those days! If you have been reading my blog you will know I am concentrating on short distances and so todays 10k run was a sticky one but I didn’t need to drink water and I was fine. I drank the night before and in the morning before my run and was fine.

I am writing this post because I had a discussion with one of the people I run with who was incredulous that I hadn’t drunk water and I decided to look at what people in the industry say about water. Please remember I am not a doctor or qualified in giving advice. I am going on printed facts by other people and by my own experience – so don’t take anything on board without doing your own research or speaking to your doctor!

In her book The Complete book of Running Claire Kowalchik talks about the importance of general hydration and how important the pre run fluid intake needs more attention. By making sure you are always well hydrated, you can avoid dehydration during exercise and ensure all your body’s systems including sweating – function properly and efficiently.

She also says that a 5k race for example is short enough that if you are well hydrated beforehand, you don’t have to take on water during the race unless it’s a hot day, but she advises to drink during a 10k race.

In the book Need to know? Running  (2007) – Alison Hamlett advises that 500ml of fluid should be drunk two hours before running and then 150ml just before you head out of the door. Man if I did this I would be in toilet trouble 5 minutes into my run!

In this book they advise that 300ml of fluids per hour should be consumed when exercising and that a good rule of thumb is to drink then you are thirsty…well I was told if you get the point of being thirsty then you’re already dehydrated! Different books have different comments basically, so it’s a case of reading between the lines at times.

In his book Running is Easy (1996) (ha ha if only!), Bruce Tulloh advises that it is a good idea to drink a pint of water just before you start to run, and to run in loops so you can get a drink every 15-20 minutes. He also advises that when racing in hot climates that you should take water at every drinks station even when not feeling thirsty.

These are all great pieces of advice but I think if you have been running a while and know your body then go with what works for you. I’ve been running since 2002 and feel I know my body pretty well now to the point I know when I am not feeling up to pushing, when I do need to take on fluids and when I know I’ve got it in the bag and can push right on through, so take people’s advise but work out what works for you, remember it is just as dangerous to drink too much water as it is not enough so if in doubt try running with water and see how you go, taking on water if you really feel you need to.* If you get hot easily then fluids during training are a good way to go.* Have a chat with a nutritionist or doctor if you are unsure.

It is claimed that just a 2% drop in bodyweight through fluid loss can lead to as much as a 20% drop in your performance. So that’s something for you and I to think about.*

Further info

On the Running for Fitness website there is a great article on water and running that you might be interested in reading.

*Please remember I am not a doctor or qualified in giving advice. I am going on printed facts by other people and by my own experience – so don’t take anything on board without doing your own research or speaking to your doctor!

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