The human body can withstand weeks without food and can be trained to survive almost any physical endeavor and yet we can't survive more than three days without water. Even when resting, our organs will begin to shut down after a couple of days without water. The importance of hydrating the body can't be understated, as every year, marathon race organizers incorporate medical tents with professional volunteers to administer iv drips to those runners who needed help because of poor hydration or heat exhaustion.
As a seasoned runner I should have known better but I experienced the nauseating effects of heat exhaustion due to inadequate hydration back in 2001. I'd recently moved to South Korea and was unprepared for the heat and humidity at 9:00 a.m. I learned the hard way the importance of drinking enough water.
Most medical professionals will advise us to drink eight cups of water on a daily basis or more, depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise. Workouts lasting longer than one hour should also include an energy drink -- otherwise old-fashioned water will do the job and may be the most satisfying thirst-quencher.
So, when do you know as a runner if you are drinking enough H2O? If you're running a marathon and you wait until you are thirsty to drink, it could already be too late. A marathon runner should begin hydrating three days in advance of the race -- and then drink another litre of water before lacing up the racing flats.
I recently interviewed Crystal Higgins, a registered dietitian from Vancouver, B.C.. She shared some tips on the importance of drinking water all year around.
"Dehydration can have a negative impact on both performance and recovery," says Higgins. "More specifically, it can lead to headaches, cramping, fatigue, loss of coordination and in warm weather, heat-stroke. Water and hydration is important for joint lubrication, maintaining body temperature and delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells."
She continues, "Thirst is often an unreliable indicator for hydration, especially in cold weather. On a daily basis the general rule of thumb is drinking six to eight cups of water daily, but this may not be enough for some long-distance runners or 'heavy sweaters.' Ideally runners and athletes should have at least two cups (16 oz) of water two hours before running and one cup of water within a half hour of running. For long runs, (over 45 minutes) it is important to hydrate every 15-20 minutes with about 1/2 cup of water. If your run is less than 90 minutes, water is the best choice -- sport drinks, gels, recovery drinks etc. are unnecessary for short workouts and can often lead to excess calories in your day."
If you are a runner trying to maintain or lose weight she suggested, "Watch out for those liquid calories and stick to water! For half marathons, or 90-minute-plus runs and workouts, a sport drink or a sport gel with water can be beneficial to balance out electrolyte levels."
In a February 11, 2013 article published in Outside Magazine, proper hydration is discussed. Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute, urges runners to drink up.
"If you're a recreational exerciser, say you're running 30 or 45 minutes at a time, you don't need to be carrying around water and drinking constantly," he says, "unless you start out severely hydrated, or you're wearing so many layers and so much wind protection that you're sweating profusely."
The most important message here is you need to keep hydrated all year round, winter included. Drink water before, during and after your workout for better performance and a more invigorated you.
Any runner will tell you that nothing gets the heart pumping like a long run on a trail or treadmill. But new research suggests that all that heart-friendly exercise may actually cause temporary damage to the right ventricle. In a study of 40 elite athletes who were training for endurance running events, researchers found signs of damage immediately following the races — the heart was enlarged, and function of the right ventricle had decreased. Don’t let this send you running away from your workout and to the doctor, though: Scientists say they found no evidence that running isn’t healthy, and that amazingly, the athletes’ hearts were able to completely heal themselves from the damage in about a week.
New Jersey cosmetic surgeon Brian S. Glatt, MD, recently made waves when he said in a press release that some runners quite literally run their faces off, creating a “Skeletor”-esque appearance. The condition he coined “runner’s face” often affects men and women age 40 and older who burn off too much fat beneath their facial skin. “The marked loss of fatty tissue results in a loss of volume, which leads to a prominent appearance of the bones, accelerated development of skin laxity, and deepening of wrinkles,” Dr. Glatt said in his press release. “Though you may look like a 20-year-old from the neck down — your face will easily give away your age.” Ouch! But others disagree. Calling the problem runner’s face is a misnomer, says Kevin Burns, licensed fitness instructor and American Council on Exercise spokesperson. He says that the loss of facial fatty tissue is just as likely to be caused by a strict diet or a different form of rigorous exercise. He acknowledges that this can lead to a more angular appearance in older runners, but that’s no reason to stop working out. “Comments like Glatt’s aren’t doing very good things for the running community or for physical activity at large,” according to Burns.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, is one of the sport’s most common body wreckers. Watch out for pain around or just behind your kneecap, especially after long periods of sitting with bent knees, running, squatting, or climbing or descending stairs. Wondering what you did to your knee to provoke those angry clicking noises? Consider the knee joint’s delicate location: It serves as the connector between your thigh bone and shin bone. If your kneecap doesn’t move properly at this junction or if you increase your mileage too fast, you can develop runner’s knee as you extend your leg. Don’t rush to alter your running style, though. Burns says that many runners actually injure themselves further by trying to “fix” their stride. The best treatment is to take a short vacation from running, and then ease back in steadily with plenty of warm-up exercise and supplemental training, such as straight leg raises and stretches, to strengthen your knee joint.
“There’s been a lot of hype lately about running being a literal ‘pain in the butt’,” Burns says. Pain in the butt, or “dead butt syndrome,” refers to the formally named condition gluteus medius tendinosis, which is an inflammation of the tendons in your rear. This pain doesn’t strike only runners — any rigorous activity can trigger it — but distance runners are among the athletes most likely to experience it. Burns says that overuse can be a factor, which is a sign from your body that you should slow down or take a break altogether. Pulled muscles, muscle strains, and hip and pelvis misalignment are other culprits. The pain most commonly starts in the glutes and shoots down the back of the leg, and it can worsen over time if you don’t stop to take care of it. Burns advises taking the same measures with your achy bum as you would with a bum knee. Don’t drastically change your running style or stride in hopes of deflecting pain, just give your body some good old-fashioned rest and TLC, a pain reliever like ibuprofen, and ice. Dead butt shouldn’t sideline you for too long, but talk to your doctor if the pain doesn’t subside after about a week.
Are you going through a Goth phase, or is that not black nail polish on your big toe? If you find yourself with an unintentional (one-toed) pedicure after a hard run, you’re not alone. Many runners suffer from black toenails, which are caused by bleeding underneath the nail. Improperly fitted or too-small footwear is usually the culprit. “Two of the most important pieces of equipment I own are my shoes,” Burns says. “The correct shoe can make all the difference.” An ill-fitting shoe can rub harshly on your feet, eventually causing enough friction to bruise or bloody the toes. Remedy the problem by buying your running shoes a size larger, or talking to experienced runners or personal trainers at your local gym for shoe recommendations.
The sporting goods industry has been kind to women’s chests, producing sports bras in every shape imaginable. But because men don’t have the protection of a sports bra, their sensitive nipples can chafe easily during long-distance training. Burns says he has seen many male runners sporting bruised or bloody chests after a marathon, and he advises them to use petroleum jelly or bandages to protect their nipples during long runs. Female runners commonly chafe along the bikini line — especially if they wear thong underwear. The ropelike fabric can rub and irritate that sensitive area, and excess sweat makes the problem worse. To protect your nether regions, choose comfort over fashion while working out. Look for undergarments made of fabrics with natural wicking properties, like nylon or mesh.
When you go running, does your nose follow suit? A 2006 study in the Journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that 56 per cent of people got the sniffles while running outdoors. This condition is called exercise-induced rhinitis, and it’s probably caused by the increased air flow that you inhale as your breathing rate quickens, which sends your nose into mucus-producing overdrive. Also, the weather has a serious impact: Both cool air and dry air have been found to increase nasal mucus production. Don’t let your running nose interfere with your running schedule. Consider taking an antihistamine to dry out nasal passages prior to your workout, tucking tissues into the pockets of your shorts, or switching to indoor training.
Found yourself with the “gotta-go” feeling only a couple miles in — though you went right before you started your run? This could be due to a couple of factors. Increased blood flow from the cardiovascular workout can speed up other body systems as well, including your kidneys’ production of urine. Also, the urge to pee may not be what it seems, Burns says. If you’re dehydrated, your body may hold on to this concentrated reserve of urine, creating a sensation similar to the one you get when you have to urinate. If this is a problem, don’t stop hydrating, as water is essential to a healthy workout. Instead, plan ahead to scope out pit stops along your route, and talk to your doctor if it becomes a consistent issue.
As devotees will tell you, running isn’t all aches and pains. Perhaps one of the greatest side effects of a runner’s lifestyle — besides the lean physique and cardiovascular health — is the natural “runner’s high” that you get from pounding the pavement. “The psychological benefits of running are enormous — runner’s euphoria is a real, proven benefit,” Burns says. According to a study in the journal Cerebral Cortex, running really does produce feel-good endorphins in the areas of the brain associated with emotion. The study found that the time and intensity of running required to achieve runner’s high differs from person to person, as does the intensity of the high. But in general, researchers found most people to be happier and more relaxed during and after runs. The same endorphins that produce runner’s high also relieve stress and boost mood.
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