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Summer Running Tips: The Whys & Hows of Hydration, & A Review of Various Hydration Systems

Posted Jul 19 2009 10:17pm
Hydration is really crucial, even for the shorter runs. Did you know that not hydrating properly for your runs -- even as little as 2% dehydration -- can adversely affect your running performance?

I've heard people say, "Well, I seem to be fine running without water. And so what if I get a little thirsty on my runs! I usually can make it through OK."

Well, first of all, if you're just starting to feel thirsty on your run, chances are you're already dehydrated. And secondly, hydration is an activity which is not done simply because one is starting to "feel thirsty." Hydration should be done continuously throughout the day, not just to provide you with adequate hydration for your runs, but for general health reasons as well.

Need more convincing? Click here to see specific reasons why it's so important to stay hydrated.

Proper hydration & fueling will also help you avoid fatigue & cramping on your runs.

With respect to your training, it's not just important to hydrate while you are running, but also before & after your runs.

Here's my strategy: In addition to hydrating throughout the day, I make sure to drink about 1 to 2 10 oz bottles at least 1.5-2 hours before I run. (I use the same time frame for fueling.) That allows for proper hydration in preparation for the run, & also gives enough time for it to work through my system before I actually hit the trails. :)

Of course, the exact amount I drink before a run can vary depending on various factors, but generally speaking, 1-2 bottles does the trick for me.

As for hydrating during & after a run, I use a hydration belt for the former & am sure to rehydrate immediately afterwards in the latter instance. Again, the specific amounts are determined by several factors -- the distance of the run, body weight, outside temperature, etc.

Here are some excellent articles about hydration from RW:
"Know Thy Sweat Rate"
Revisionist Drinking
Drink This

The first article will help you determine how much water to take with you on runs, the second one provides an interesting discussion of how much water is enough, & the third one discusses the 8 rules of fluid replacement & how they'll benefit your running.

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I always take water with me on runs, even if it's just a short 3-5 mile run. And especially when it's hot. I just like the security of knowing that I've got water on me should I need it. :)

Hydration systems have improved immeasurably in recent years, so it's fairly easy to comfortably "suit up" with one. And with all the deals to be found on the web & in specialty running stores these days, it shouldn't leave a major hole in your wallet either. :)

If you're looking for a hydration system, I highly recommend the Nathan brand. I really like Nathan hydration systems a great deal & honestly think they're one of the best systems currently on the market. And believe me, I've checked out almost all of the different brands/kinds too!

Here are some brief comparisons to other brands:

--I've found that they are much more comfortable to wear than the Camelbak system. I have three words to say about the Camelbak system: Bounce, bounce, bounce. ;) Basically, wearing this unit for prolonged periods of time can lead to a different kind of "road rash," one in which you don't actually need to make contact with the road in order to acquire. :) Can we say uncomfortable/irritating/painful?! And when I say irritating, I mean the sensation of being literally "irritating," & not just in the emotional sense of the word, although you could probably add that connotation to the list as well. ;) Think about it: Would that feel good, especially when you're running long distances?! Er, I think not. :) This system might be OK for hiking, but I definitely wouldn't use it for running.

--I like the water bottle holsters of my Nathan MUCH better than the FuelBelt system. The molded holsters of Nathan's Race/Speed series is of far superior construction, & this feature make it a LOT easier to access water bottles! This is especially important on those longer runs, when you & your hands start feeling tired on the road. In contrast, the FuelBelt system uses only elastic for its holsters, which is a far less structured material. That means more fiddling to get the bottles back into their holsters. :)

--I haven't tested or used the Amphipod system yet, but have heard mixed things about it. Some people don't like the clip detachment mechanism for securing/releasing water bottles, while other people seem to love it. Personally, my initial reaction is that I'd rather not fiddle with clips while I'm running, but who knows, it might actually be better than what I'm currently using. I'd be willing to give it a whirl.


As for specific Nathan models that I currently use & recommend, I've got the the Nathan Speed 4 Energy Belt, which I absolutely LOVE. My only suggestion to improve this particular model would be to get rid of the velcro attachment, which isn't adjustable, & instead switch to an adjustable belt-buckle like the ones in the Race/Elite series. I haven't found the system to stretch out that much, but there are times when I'm wearing different amounts of clothing underneath, depending on the season. :)

I typically use this system for runs 8 miles and under. If I hydrate properly beforehand & it's not too hot outside, I can sometimes use this system for up to 10-14 miles. I've also got a few 10 oz clip-on flasks which I can add onto the belt to help extend the amount of distance I can cover with this particular model by a few miles. One of the reasons I like this particular model so much is because it evenly distributes the weight of the water across the belt; in other words, no lower-back pain. :) There are also 2 different size pockets, which are perfect for accomodating gel packs, a mobile phone, an ID, a few dollars, & a house/car key.

Anything over that, & I've got various larger capacity Nathan hydration systems from the Race/Elite series which I use, depending on the amount of mileage I run & a host of other factors.

OK, well I hope you found this post useful. Good luck with your training this summer & feel free to share your thoughts on any of the above. Also, I'm open to hearing suggestions for new brands/types of hydration systems, so if you have a system that you particularly like or enjoy, it'd be great if you could share it with all of us. Thanks!
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