After many years of running I think I have finally got a good understanding of what my body needs in terms of hydration. I still get it wrong some times but generally I know what I need and when. Its a difficult one this as everyone is different and will have varied requirements and the only way to get this right is to practice alternative techniques and try different methods when you are training.
Generally my strategy is if I’m running for more than an hour I may need to consider taking some water. This may be in the form of a water bottle on a belt or my preferred method in a bladder on my back in a rucksack. I hate having things in my hands when I run as I find it makes me tense up more and then I can end up with shoulder tightness if I’m not careful. I try and keep my hands relaxed all the time particularly on longer distance runs as I feel they can have some influence on how well I run. Hands are often over looked in running! Care also needs to be taken though with the bladders. Historically I always had a bladder that sat down my back in a bag but often found this made my back ache quite a bit so now I use one that sits across my hips. It is a bit more awkward to fill up the way it all attaches which means on ultras its not necessarily ideal when you need to refill but the lack of back ache after makes it all worth while. What I do in these longer events is carry a ‘squigdy’ hand held bottle that I can store quite easily in my bag and then fill it up at appropriate locations as and when I need. Some running bags have little pockets on the front straps specifically for these bottles.
Water is all that I think is needed usually for runs lasting up to a couple of hours as long as a rehydration drink is had after. Anything much longer I now add electrolyte tablets too and depending on what your body is like, depends on how many you may use. I like to use Nuuns and I usually use 2 Nuuns tablets per 2L of water and that usually sees me through. Nuun tablets:
turn water into a refreshing sports hydration drink without sugar
Nuun make all sorts of flavours too….my favourite is lemon and lime!! In the past I have also used the H2prohydrate. These come in various strengths depending on how much you sweat which is worked out by a short questionnaire online. They are good too I just prefer the flavour of the nuuns. Its all personal preference and you will find that different types will work best for you. Its hard these days as there are so many out there to try but I think what I would suggest is try and gets as many free samples as you can. You can often find samples at running events or in goodie bags at the end of an event. If you are still finding it difficult I would ask a running friend who may give you some to try.
After electrolytes I also now always carry salt tablets on me. This year I completed a race in the lake district called the Duddon long and I got my hydration completely wrong. I underestimated how long it would take me and subsequently didn’t have enough fluid on me or enough electrolyte and spent about 5 miles fighting off what was the worst cramp I think I have ever had. I was saved 3 miles from the end by a fellow runner who offered me a salt tablet and this kept the cramp at bay until about 10 metres from the finish line when both my calves cramped up, I threw myself in to the air and lay on the floor desperately trying to stretch them. I felt like a complete idiot lay there trying to stretch them with all the spectators watching and the thought did cross my mind that I could maybe just crawl to the end!! It didn’t help that my boyfriend was also running this race and I had been slowly catching him up and was ready to take him on the finish line… little bit competitive perhaps ha ha and some may say the cramp serves me right!! It must have been quite comical for the spectators! Anyway a lesson I learnt that day… always carry salt tablets on events that may be tough and long!!
“10 metres from the finish line both my calves cramped up, I threw myself in to the air and lay on the floor desperately trying to stretch them.”
Following a run it is also equally important to hydrate on some sort of recovery fuel. I used to always have this banana shake but one day I just couldn’t drink it anymore. The smell made me want to be sick and from then on really struggled with the shake type recovery drinks. I now swear by Amino load. Its just like fruit juice but has everything in it I could need post run whether that’s training or racing. I feel a massive difference the day after from having it. I can train on consecutive days much more effectively.
My advice to anyone is always try different products as much as you can and when you find one that works for you stick with it. Its also important to note that your needs may change as you train harder or run further so be prepared to change strategy to adequately fulfil your bodies needs.