Tips for staying hydrated during marathon training in the heat

With temperatures soaring, now is as good a time as any to be reminded of smart ways to stay hydrated while training for your next race.

If you are training for a fall marathon, like Chicago or Philadelphia, you probably started training last weekend or this weekend. If you are like me, training to run a December marathon (Dallas or Sacramento), you’ll start training in late July.

Whatever the case, if you live in Texas or any of the southern states, its gonna be hot during every run.

Here are a few things I do to keep hydrated:

Monitor what I eat.

I try to stay away from heavy meals 10 to 12 hours before a long run. For example, if I have a 6 a.m. long run Saturday, I try not to eat anything to heavy after 6 p.m. Friday night. Why? According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small instestine; itll take even more time for digestion if you are having steak and potatoes or pasta and a heavy cream sauce for your Friday night meal. Of course, I didn’t need a study to know that I feel miserable during a run of any distance if I’ve gorged myself the night before, and even worse – way worse – during a run of any distance when its hot outside.

Monitor my alcohol consumption.

This is a hard one. The night before my marathon PR, I had two glasses of wine. But it was in December. And the temps at the start were in the high 40s. I could probably get away with an extra glass of wine the night before a run lasting less than an hour in the heat, but anything longer than that and I’m in trouble. I not only start the run severely hydrated, but no amount of water during the run can undo the damage done by the adult beverages from the night before. And, I’ve noticed its not just about limiting my alcohol the day before a long run, but I can’t go crazy two nights before either. At least not when its hot outside. For a Saturday run, I’ve basically got to “dry out” by Wednesday night to make sure that my kidneys are ready for Saturday.

Hydrate during the week.

I keep a 32-ounce water bottle at my desk and try to at least drink the entire bottle each day. I even have some Cliff Shot electrolyte powder I use to spice it up. At night, I promise myself that for every glass of wine I’ll also have a glass of water. Needless to say, I’m failing on both ends of this. First, I get bloated just thinking about drinking 32 ounces of water and two cups of coffee and the glass of tea/powerade I may have with lunch. Second, the fun of drinking wine at night is you get a decent little buzz. Water dilutes that buzz. Ok, ok. I know. Running is that important to me. I need to do better in this area.

Monitor what I drink during a run.

I’m trying to drink to thirst. Now, I know everyone says that during a run you need to drink drink and drink some more. And when its hot, thats kind of what I do. But sometimes, you can over do it. Sometimes, when I drink too much water during a run in hot temps, I get fuzzy headed. I mean, I’m feeling good then I stop for water, then I feel terrible. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, according to this blog I read, The Science of Sport, drinking when you are thirsty and not by some pre-set measurement is not a bad idea afterall. I’ve noted here before that I probably need to add some salt to my water. When I do that, I’m usually fine.

Monitor when I run.

Hmmm. The temps are in the mid to upper 70s in the mornings and in the mid to upper 90s in the afternoons/evenings. I think this is a no-brainer, though it is more humid in the mornings. Still, I like getting my run out of the way first thing. When I get off of work, I am not in the mood to do anything, much less run around with temps hovering around 100 degrees.

Run slow.

This is probably the most important thing you can do in the heat. If you can do your long runs at 7:30 pace when its 50 degrees outside, don’t be ashamed to knock a minute or more off your long run pace during the dog days of summer. No matter how much water you drink, running too fast is the surest way to overheat.

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10 thoughts on “Tips for staying hydrated during marathon training in the heat”

  1. Thanks for the reminder on pace. I’ve been frustrated that my easy-ish running pace has dropped from 7:50′s to 8:30′s, but I have to remember that it is mostly due to heat and humidity. I’m pretty bad w/ hydrating during the day as well, if I make a concerted effort I do a bit better, but it is tough to do that everyday. And I do love my wine 😀 I’ve been drinking vodka w/ ice water lately though: hydration and buzz all in one 🙂

  2. My opinions based on reading, talking my sports dietician, my sports doctor, and personal experience….
    – Coffee and Tea don’t count towards hydration strategy.
    – 32 oz is way too low in Austin’s humidity for the mileage weekly mileage run.
    – One person once told me, take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2 and that’s the amount of H2O/Electrolyte oz you should target to drink every day. (i.e. 160lb man should drink 80 oz per day) It’s not the perfect plan, but I tend to try and stick to that rule and it’s done wonders for my cramping.
    – To take that even further, my sports dietician firmly believes that the water you take during a run, and immediately after do not count towards your daily hydration stategy. (I’ve never ever seen her cramp in a race, and or training run and she loves hot weather running. yes she’s had a bad run like we all do, but never seen her cramp.)
    – Another “trick” i was once told by an MD was, your thumb. Push down on the pudgy thick part of your thumb. The longer it takes to bounce back to normal “poofiness” the more dehydrated you are. Again, not scientific, and kinda silly, but interesting to look out throughout day.

  3. For me, in the hot humid mid-west, I have to stash some water or gatorade halfway through my long runs, in addition to wearing a hydration belt. Having adequate liquids during my runs has been the single greatest factor for me when it comes to quality of runs.

  4. I would usually retreat indoors until October this time of year but marathon training has forced me out (for now). I have no issues drinking water all day at work. I probably get an easy 80oz. I suck on the weekends though when I am not stuck in one place. Unfortunately, this is the time I need to hydrate the most since I’m doing two long runs.

    Even at 5:30AM it is 70 degrees and muggy here. I go through all the fluid in my 22oz handheld on even a short 4 miler. This is coming from someone who would not even drink during a fall/winter 10K effort! I’m playing around with using Nuun on my runs – even the short ones. I am plotting a December ultramarathon and I will need to get used to hydrating – before I feel the need. Everything I do now is practice.

  5. Great post Sarah, I’m always concerned about my hydration during summer because here (in Japan) we have summers between 95 and 100F with insane humidity of 80 to 90 percent. I have to read up about electrolytes and salt consumption for this summer. Haven’t you written something about that before?? I think I remember reading something about salt solution in one of your posts. Anyway, let’s stay hydrated and cool as much as we can.

  6. Late to the water cooler but very good post; I’m trying the thumb bounce-back thing but my skin is a bit too wrinkled (advancing years, wtf!). Of course running your long runs too fast will not only dehydrate you in this heat, it will screw up your entire training program by making you too tired and/or sore to do your speed work/hills/tempo at the right pace/effort.

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