Hydration, hydration, hydration. And salt intake. But mostly hydration.
Hydration is the name of the game during these hot summer months (you know, the months when you get done running and someone asks you why you went swimming with your shoes on). Think of it this way: when you run, you sweat (duh!). And when you sweat, your blood volume decreases…and the more it decreases, the harder your heart has to work to deliver ever-important oxygen to your hard-working muscles. Your muscles like to breathe just as much as your mouth, and when your muscles don’t breathe enough, they cause you to slow down. So if you rehydrate as you run, your muscles get to breathe and you don’t slow down so much; thus, it can be argued that HYDRATING MAKES YOU FASTER! Ok, so how does salt intake play a part in this funky equation? Especially during a hot day or a strenuous workout, we sweat out a lot of salt, and losing that much sodium is bad news, because sodium helps to regulate fluid levels within the body (not to mention cramping, hypothermia, etc.). Not everyone needs to pop a salt tab mid-run (some folks can even get away with downing a handful or two of pretzels—or any other salty snack—both pre and post run), but for those of us that look down at our skin after a run and see rivers of salt…well, we definitely need some help in the sodium arena (and FYI, your dog doesn’t lick you after a run because he suddenly likes you more than usual: he licks you because you taste like a salt lick…which I suppose really does mean that he suddenly likes you more than usual).
If you’re only running a couple of miles, you probably don’t need to lug a bottle of water with you, but if you’re going any further than that, either practice carrying some water (or an electrolyte-based drink) or at least take a few extra minutes to go plant something to drink somewhere along your route (it’s like your own, personal water stop…minus the tiny cups you somehow manage to spill all over yourself EVERY time, obviously). And, especially if you’re a heavy sweater, experiment by eating something salty after a run (when you’re feeling a little “heavy” and “low”), and if you seem to get a bit more pep in your step after, just imagine how you’d feel mid-run if you downed some salt (there are special capsules that you can swallow with a bit of water that are made with exercising in mind).
Get up early, get your miles in, hydrate like crazy, and then get some good rest so that you can keep at it. Because remember: someone just told you that hydrating can make you faster (just don’t quote me on that!).
- Chris Ramsey