Suddenly, hydration gets confusing

Please Series.

A few weeks ago, I read on Adventure about the new science of satisfying thirst, (Almost Everything We Know About Hydration is Wrong, 9/27/11) which cited a study by Dr. James Winger of Loyola University Medical Center claiming that most of us drink way too much during times of physical exertion.

Days before this year’s Marine Corp Marathon, one of the most heavily attended and popular beginner marathons in the country, The Washington Post goes all hyponatremia on us, also citing Winger’s work, and discussing the threat of death as a result of a drastic reduction of sodium supplies in our blood cells.

So what gives?

Well, hyponatremia is not some new discovery. (It’s a threat to hikers, too.) However, since it’s less severe symptoms can be manifested in nausea and cramps, it can be easily confused with other forms of exercise-induced illness, like heat illnesses and even dehydration. Thus, it’s probably much more common at the finish line than we think. And of course, what’s the first thing someone hands you after a race?

Winger’s study goes against the mantra of “if you wait until you’re thirsty to drink, you’re already dehydrated,” and instead states that the opposite practice is probably the best way to remain sufficiently hydrated, regardless of the severity of your exertion. That is, drink when you’re thirsty.

Probably the most fun fact in Winger’s study is the one that essentially debunks the need for commercial sports drinks. In fact, I can think of no better marketing campaign in need of debunking than that base, downright silly, “three stage” horse shit Gatorade is pitching right now. And why is one of them in a tube?

It was good to see the media address this issue on the eve of such a big event for so many first time marathoners. The advice and resources and strategies for running can get overwhelming in a hurry for newbie disties. Now it looks like how to handle your thirst is yet another thing to worry about.

Like most active and outdoor pursuits, the key is to know your cerebral limits and reconcile them with your physical ones. Stay alert to your body’s needs and in most cases, you’ll cross the line in good shape.


Get up and go

Las Vegas Marathon

My first marathon - the 2002 Las Vegas Marathon (No Video - just a screengrab)

Outside Magazine posted an article in their fitness section about how to properly train for your first marathon. In this case, they’re using the NYC Marathon as a target, considered one of the sports’ best contests.

Despite what most believe, marathons, relatively speaking, are not “that” difficult to train for and complete.

I should qualify that a bit.

To train properly, that is, without injury or serious setback, you have to take it seriously. You need to run in the rain, you need to lace up at 6:00 a.m. in 35 degree overcast apocalyptic gray crud and you need get outside when running is the last thing on earth you want to do that day. If you take it lightly, you won’t be successful.

Now, all that being said, with a rather uncomplicated weekly running plan, you can be finishing training runs well into the teens within a couple of months, sometimes sooner. (Assuming you started from a two-mile-every-other-week-on-the-treadmill regimen.)

Like most who start training for their first marathon, you will very likely surprise yourself.

Some other things to consider: you can’t buy your shoes at the big box sporting good store. Sorry Dick’s, you don’t make the list. Find yourself a running specialty store with guys who eat Clif shots for lunch and weigh under 170. Trust me on this.

Oh, and you can’t run 10 miles in cotton. You’ll also need to start carrying water with you and some even bring food along for runs that will be more than hour. I like to carry some peanuts or almonds.

Lastly, don’t take your first marathon too seriously, either. I don’t think you need to invest hours in some esoteric motivational Zen running book or run in your bare feet for at least one mile for every three. Whatever. Just stay consistent. Stay motivated.

Anyway, give the Outside piece a read.