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August 8, 2020

Gotta’ Run: A real-life hydration issue

There is always something good about living in an area where we can experience all four seasons. I used to joke that each month was my favorite month and that’s not far from the truth. One thing that I remember from past summers is the occasional morning run that ends with sloshy shoes, a coupling of warmer than average overnight temperatures and high humidity. There is sweating throughout and plenty of it, resulting in wet socks and shoes. 

Just this past Friday, I had the occasion to participate in the Red Hot Mamas’ relay fundraiser. A 7 p.m. run over 6.14 miles just after a rain shower matched high humidity and an 84-degree temperature. While the pace wasn’t particularly stressful, the conditions made for heavy and lingering sweating post-run. Sweating occurs to help cool the body’s engine and proper hydration starts the process. 

Back at home, I didn’t think much about hydration and didn’t especially prepare for an early morning run near home on Saturday morning. I did drink water but in retrospect, not nearly enough. What followed was the scariest moment I have had recently on a run. 

Most runners and walkers know their body weight and check it daily. What most don’t do is monitor how hydration affects that weight. On just a few occasions over almost 90,000 running miles have I experienced any real concern about my own health. Saturday morning was one of those, mirroring a similar day about 20 years ago. 

Always a fan of running very early, I pushed out the door about 5:20 a.m., still way ahead of sunrise. Speaking of pushing, I do that nearly every day, pushing my body to run as fast as possible most of the time. I celebrate seconds per mile saved and get excited for an average pace or mile ran faster than usual. 

I started out at a fast clip for a grizzled veteran body, a term that signifies getting older. At a mile, I was OK but at mile 2, I was getting into trouble. No longer could I run quickly, and my form and breathing were both off. With no bounce in my step, I began to slow more and realized that I was dizzy, alarmingly so. I stopped in the road just past mile 3, so addled that I thought I was going to pass out right there. With great effort, I hobbled/walked on to mile 4 and decided to walk home from there. Still dizzy, I couldn’t even walk fast but did make it home successfully. Almost immediately, I weighed and found myself down more than seven pounds. 

I felt bad generally all over and realized quickly that the culprits were hydration and my own lack of recognition. With a couple of events later that morning, I struggled to get myself together. I started drinking water on the way to a good breakfast with my daughter at Hendrick’s. I still felt sluggish and kept drinking and eating throughout the afternoon. 

It was around noon when I finally had the need to pee, but the color was brown, a huge red flag. Novant registered dietician Michelle Henrickson always tells my beginning runners classes to keep that pee clear for proper hydration, particularly ahead of any workout. 

By Sunday morning, I regained my proper weight ahead of another warm and humid run. I weighed just before and immediately after, dropping 3 new pounds. The process started again. 

Realizing how quickly poor hydration affects the human body is an important and, in this case, a dramatic lesson. The average adult body is at least 55% water. In my case, on Saturday morning, I lost about 6% of my body weight, all in precious water and was in trouble briefly. 

Bottom line, know how improper hydration affects the body. Some big ways that stand out are the shrinking of the brain causing reduced function, poor blood flow, less energy and general overall wellness. Nothing’s better than water but some other fluids are good too. Keep the color of your urine clear or light yellow, and you’ll be OK. I will too!

The Shiloh Missions 5K is on for June 27. Look for it and other upcoming races and the next beginning runners class at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org. 

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