Proper hydration is key for any running. How much you need to drink depends on the temperature, length of your workout and how much you sweat. And while you want to be hydrated enough, drinking too much water can flush essential electrolytes and salts from your body. Ultimately, proper hydration will come down to some personal trial-and-error. Here’s where to start.
Hydrate before and after you run.
Make sure you’ve had around 8oz of water at some point before your run. If you’re a seasoned runner planning to run for under an hour, you may not need to drink water immediately before you head out (unless it’s especially hot or humid). If you’re running away from home, always bring water or an electrolyte drink so it’s ready when you finish.
On those sticky hot days or when runs go longer, there are a few options for hydration. First, make sure you’re well-hydrated in general—that means making good water-drinking habits! Next, consider how you’ll get fluids intermittently throughout your run. Many running routes and bike paths have reliable water fountains available for public access. Some runners leave bottles in certain secure spots in advance, use friends’ driveways or mailboxes as “stations,” or run through a park for a water break at a fountain. The other popular option is using a fuel belt to carry small bottles of water with you. This allows you to sip on water slowly throughout your run whenever thirst strikes or at certain time intervals. In all these scenarios, safety pinning or carrying a gel on you is another smart step so that you can account for those lost electrolytes. Even when it’s freezing cold, your body will still sweat near your base layers and you risk depleting yourself of sodium if you’re sticking with pure water.
Race day logistics.
Most road races have fluid stations set up along the course, offering water and electrolyte beverages. When you grab a cup, either stop and walk while you sip or pinch the top to funnel it faster. If temperatures are moderate and you’re feeling good, you can take from every other station or skip some toward the end. Listen to your body! Other runners skip the stations and carry bottles themselves, or have friends supply them with drinks along the way. Remember, for a long race like a marathon, you should aim to drink 4-6oz of fluids for every 20 minutes you run.