Posted by: rundadrun | February 13, 2010

Don’t forget to hydrate in the cold.

In the summertime, I never have any problem remembering to hydrate. I drink a HUGE amount of water and other fluids throughout the day and usually do not have any issues related to dehydration.  It pretty easy to see that I have been sweating when I come in from a run and it is above 70 degrees outside.

So, imagine my surprise when I started having cramps in my calf muscles while helping get dinner on the table last night.  I had been having little twitches throughout the afternoon after my 5 mile run in 25 degree F weather, and because I can be an idiot at times, I never put 2 and 2 together.  Luckily, I was able to hit the Gatorade and water and added a little extra salt to my dinner (notice I said a little), and all was back to normal.

After all the years  I studied Sports Medicine in college, you would think I would have been a little quicker on the uptake.  But most of us don’t think about dehydration in the winter. One of the reasons for this is we don’t always see the volume of sweat we lose in the colder months. This does not mean we are not sweating. In fact, we may be sweating more if we overdress for the cold.  But sweat evaporates quickly in the cold, dry air and we don’t realize it is happening.  Another reason we under-hydrate is because we just don’t feel as thirsty when it is cold.  I know it is hard for me to run by a garden hose in the summer without trying to sneak a drink, but I never think about it in February.  This can be dangerous since we are losing our water at a pretty good clip in the cold air. Just our respiration is causing water loss as we breath.

The best way to avoid the problems I went through is to drink plenty during the day. Don’t just worry about drinking during a run, start your run hydrated.  If it isn’t too long a run, rehydrate when you get back. I usually don’t worry about drinking on runs less than 1 hour, but if you get thirsty quicker, or will be out for longer than that, have water available, either carried or stashed.  For serious long runs, I make sure I drink  8-10 ounces at 20 minute intervals throughout the run, which usually means a fuel belt.  In runs that will last longer than an hour, you also need some electrolyte replacement, so add in some sports drink.

Hydration needs can be different for everyone, so experiment with your options so you don’t end up with cramps and  a headache like I did…or worse. One great way to find out how much you need is to determine how much you sweat.  To do this, weigh yourself naked before your run. Then run for 1 hour, and weigh again (yes, naked).  If you drank anything on the run,  subtract that from your weight.  Now, just make sure you drink that much per hour during your runs and you should be close to perfect. 🙂 Once you come in from a run, make sure to drink  up.  I have a Gatorade handy and drink it right away.

With some prep work, most problems can be avoided. I just wish I had listened to myself yesterday. Be aware and enjoy your winter running

Happy running,




  1. Do I get to wear clothes during the actual run?

    • Please do Tom! 🙂 I have seen you shirtless, and nobody needs that! 🙂

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