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This week's tip:

"Marathon Coolers"

'Marathon Coolers'

Drink Up! - Fluids for Workouts and Races

By Westy Bell

If you're an athlete, sweating is something you need to do. It not only helps keep you cool but eliminates toxins from your body. In fact, if you notice that you are not sweating during a workout, you are probably already dehydrated, in which case you should start drinking fluids immediately.

Dehydration is only life-threatening in severe cases, but even in mild ones it can significantly hurt performance. Studies show that the loss of as little as 2 percent of your total fluids can significantly degrade performance and increase fatigue.

Early and Often

To stay properly hydrated, start drinking water about an hour before workouts and races. By starting early, you give your body a chance to slowly hydrate. This beats last-minute guzzling, which is likely to cause cramping.

Starting early also provides another advantage. It allows you to check your hydration using the "pee test." Don't worry. No one has to watch. Just check the color and odor of your urine. If it is virtually colorless and odorless (no this won't work if you just swallowed a B vitamin), you are properly hydrated.

Arriving at the start line properly hydrated is great. But it's not the end of the story. To avoid dehydration, you must continue to drink water or other fluids during and after your training sessions and races.

Water or Sports Drinks?

If your race or workout will last less than an hour, water is all you need. In fact, water is best. But if you are doing something longer than an hour — or if you are participating in a multiple-race event that will last several hours — you may do better with something designed to balance your electrolytes. Sports drinks like Gatorade do the trick. My favorite is Cytomax, which seems to help keep my legs from locking up with lactic acid.

But don't overdue it. I have found that drinking too much Cytomax has a paradoxical effect, causing my legs to turn to jelly. Every body's different. So experiment and find out what works best for you.

Another good way to monitor hydration is to weigh yourself before and after workouts. You should weigh the same before and after. If you weigh less, you are most likely not drinking enough.

The bottom line is that you can almost never go wrong with water. I say "almost" because excessive amounts can be a problem. Drinking too much water can dilute your body salts, leading to a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia.

But hyponatremia is rare while dehydration is common. So drink up. Just don't drown yourself. And remember: by the time you feel thirst, you are already dehydrated.
(April 13, 2007)

westybell1Westy Bell is an ACE certified personal trainer, speed skater, weightlifter and mom. A native of central Pennsylvania and former Air Force meteorologist, she came late to skating, starting at age 27. But she learned fast and became a national champion in 2002 when she and teammate Jane Carey won the classic (over 30) two woman relay at Indoor Nationals. She is a resident of Asheville, NC.

Westy's Facebook page

Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive.
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing.
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating


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