Week four in our 5K Beginner’s Guide brings us to another very important concept: Hydration!

I had debated whether or not to hit this point earlier in the process because it is so important and often overlooked. But the idea remains, an athlete really does need to stay hydrated, and not just during exercise but all day, if they are going to perform their best.

Here are two reasons you need to stay hydrated:

  1. Even a slight drop in hydration affects performance.

Your body is mostly made up of water. There is water in every cell and decreasing the amount of water in your body negatively affects your ability to function. Most people today run around slightly dehydrated all day every day. Throw a workout into the mix and they will be severely dehydrated even if they drink while working out.

The place this shows up the most is in the bloodstream. You blood volume is mostly water like the rest of your body. When the blood is not a fluid as it should be due to dehydration, you body can’t cool itself as much as it should and it can’t remove waste from your muscles as they work as fast as it should, among other things. Add this all up and you won’t be running as fast or as far as you really can.

  1. Dehydration limits your ability to recover.

Recovery time is just as important as workout time. Most people think that it is the workout that makes them stronger/faster. Really, it is the time between workouts where our body is rebuilding itself that gains are made. allowing yourself to get dehydrated hijacks this process.

As I mentioned before, your body is made up of mostly water. The process of removing the waste your body produces through the bloodstream is also important in recovery. Another point is that for your body to create new cells in the muscle fibers, it needs the raw materials to do that; namely, Protein and fluids (obviously this is an oversimplified explanation… no need to critique the finer points of cell regeneration).

So you know you need to stay hydrated, here’s how you do that.

  1. Drink water.

Duh. I know. But seriously, drink water throughout the day. I keep a bottle on my desk all day, and when I am at home I keep a few glasses scattered throughout the house so I remember to drink a little at a time. This is a big point because you body can only absorb so much water at once. Drinking 4 cups all at once will not help you “catch up.” You end up passing most of that right on out into the toilet. Drink a little at a time.

  1. Drink during your workout.

Another “duh” moment, but there’s a bit more to this here. You need to make sure you are placing what you are loosing in your sweat. This means just water will not cut it for anything over an hour of workout. (Side note, don’t try to replace EVERYTHING you sweat out… you’d be drinking way too much to make that happen.) I hate to use the term “electrolytes” since it’s such a buzz word, but the minerals like sodium and potassium are important for your body to function and they help absorb that water too. Check out my article at Trisports University for more about that topic.

  1. Drink after your workout

Once you are done and start cooling down, grab some water. I usually finish what’s in my bottles and then switch back to water. I’ll also grab some chocolate milk to start the recovery process (more on that next week). Milk can also help hydrate you. Any fluid can, but water is still the best!

So go out there and perform at your best, stay hydrated! What are some ways you remember to keep on top of your hydration? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!