I was back east in Maryland and Washington DC last week visiting my in-laws and, holy cow, it’s humid back there. On the morning of July 5th, I set out about 10:30 a.m., which wasn’t ideal, as it was pushing 90 degrees with 75% humidity. But I enjoyed running from one national monument to another—from Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial figures and Wall of Remembrance, I ran, walked, took photos, and learned. And sweated buckets.
As I ran up the short hill to the base of the Washington Monument, a smart vendor with a portable cooler was selling cold bottles of water and Gatorade and imploring, “Don’t let dehydration ruin your vacation!”
And for the rest of my very-hot run, I had that phrase running through my head, the wise warning that it was. It rang louder as I learned the hot dog vendor a mile-and-a-half later didn’t take Apple Pay and I couldn’t buy my own bottle of water. I was cooked. I started to get cold, which I knew was a bad sign. I made it back to my hotel and chugged cold water immediately, then refilled my water bottle in the hotel gym (a good travel tip, if you don’t know it already), and plopped a Nuun hydration tab in the bottle and chugged that. I was saved. There are all sorts of scientific reasons why we should stay hydrated on a run. Strip out the technicalities and it’s pretty simple: You feel like crap when you’re dehydrated. You can’t run/run-walk your best. Your muscles can start cramping. And your state could escalate to heat exhaustion. It’s hard to recover.
I know better than to head out without carrying water in such heat and humidity, and not knowing if and where drinking fountains existed on my route, or without carrying cash or a credit card. I survived, but my outing was a good reminder about why hydration is so important and how to stay hydrated on a run.
Here are a few tips for staying hydrated, especially during your summer runs:
1) Be hydrated all the time.
Stay ahead of the game by hydrating all the time. Carry a water bottle with you. Don’t let yourself get thirsty. If water isn’t your favorite, consider adding flavoring like vitamin mixes.
Before your runs in hot weather, drink extra water. Make sure your water intake the night before a morning run and take small sips the morning of. You don’t want to chug a ton of water right before a run as that may cause side aches and having to make pit stops, but topping yourself off ahead of a run can help.
3) Carry liquids.
There are a whole host of ways to carry liquids comfortably on a run, from handheld soft flasks for short runs to hydration vests with soft flasks on the chest straps or hydration bladders with a hose.
4) Plan your route.
For road runs, consider planning your routes to pass by working water fountains (with “working” being the key word).
5) Carry money/credit card.
If you don’t mind an extended stop on your run, you can carry money or a credit card and plan to pop into a convenience store to buy a water or electrolyte drink. Buying a cold Gatorade at a gas station can serve as a good carrot on a run. You just need to sip it or carry it with you for a while before dumping the bottle in a recycling bin. (Chugging it all at once isn’t advised.)
Once you’re done with your run, re-hydrating will help you feel recovered quicker than not rehydrating. And since you’re done jostling your belly up and down for the day, go ahead and chug those rehydrating liquids.
7) Add electrolytes.
Hydrating and rehydrating with electrolyte mixes, tabs, or pre-mixed drinks can also help you feel better both on the run and afterward. Finding the right mix that works for you and your gut requires a little trial and error, but if you’re a heavy sweater, or run somewhere with high humidity that makes you sweat a lot, replacing those electrolytes are extra important.
Happy summer running!