You’ve made it through the toughest, hottest months of training and racing—congratulations! But don’t toss your water bottle just yet. The fitness you’ve worked so hard to build goes hand-in-hand with hydration for optimal performance. Follow these tips to run strong into the autumn.
Hydration Mistake #1: Not drinking enough
By now, you’ve had it drilled into you, but it really can’t be overstated: Proper hydration will help you perform at your peak in all weather conditions. On a crisp, dry autumn day, you may not sweat as much as you do in July, but water is still vital to prevent cramping when you’re working hard. “I typically take in a full 32-ounce bottle of water before I head out for a long run,” says NYC running coach Gemma Ward. “And for really long runs—an hour or longer—I try to take in the same amount during the workout.”
Hydration Mistake #2: Drinking too much
If some water is good, more water must be better, right? Not necessarily. Some rookie athletes overdo it at water stations and wind up in the medical tent, at risk of hyponatremia—a rare but serious condition that can damage the kidneys. When conditions are optimal (low humidity, temperatures in the 50s or 60s), have a cup of water when you feel thirsty, but don’t feel compelled to stop at every aid station.
Hydration Mistake #3: Neglecting nutrition
Ever come home from a run and find that you’re covered in salt? Or take off your shirt and nearly faint from the smell of ammonia? The liquid you perspire is as important as the liquid you take in during a workout. Super-salty sweat typically means that you need more sodium—both before and during your workout. Try adding some extra salt to your dinner the night before a goal race, or taking a salt tablet during competition. And if your sweat has the unmistakable tang of ammonia, it’s often a sign that you’re low on carbs. Consider taking in an additional energy gel or chew.
Hydration Mistake #4: Draining a cup—into your socks
This may seem basic, but seasoned athletes save valuable seconds at aid stations by making eye contact with a volunteer, then grabbing a cup from her hand and pinching it into a funnel. Water goes in—not on—you, keeping you hydrated and happy on the run. “Sip slowly—no need to slam it,” Ward advises.
Hydration Mistake #5: Heading straight for the beer tent
Let’s be clear: Crossing any finish line is a major accomplishment, and always worthy of celebration. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with raising a cold one to toast your achievement. But do yourself a favor—stop by the water table first. Your body will thank you in the morning.
Daphne Matalene is an NYC-based marathoner and coach who knows the location of every water fountain and bathroom in Central Park.