Don’t Let Nature Interrupt Your Run

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Advanced Hydration Lessons – Avoiding the Bathroom

By Coach Matt Conigliaro, Tampa Bay Fit Head Coach

We’ve all been there. You head out on a long run and soon realize you need to use the restroom. It’s not fun, and hopefully it’s not by design. Sure, there are emergencies where something goes wrong and you need a bathroom, but proper planning does not involve planning to use a restroom during a run. Especially in a race. Long training runs should be no different. Rather, they should be training for how you will handle races, including bathroom use.

Hydration is tricky. Your body should be well hydrated before you start, and on a long run, especially in Florida’s heat and humidity, you must hydrate along the way. If you get the amount or timing wrong, then you’re destined for a pit stop.

When you drink before your run, your body will require a certain amount of time (roughly a couple of hours) to flush out excess fluid. That’s normal, and it’s important to have a restroom to visit shortly before your run starts, whether at home or at the start location. With practice and attention, you will figure out your body’s patterns.

There is a critical window of time in which you should try not to drink because any excess fluid consumption will leave you headed for a restroom during your run. The window starts after the latest point when you can drink and still have time to flush out any excess, assuming you drink enough to have any excess. (If you recently woke, then a small drink topping off your fluid levels may produce no excess because your body utilized water while you slept.) The window closes some time after you start running, when your body heats up, sweat produces a drop in blood volume, and your body releases an anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) that tells your kidneys to stop sending fluids to your bladder.

Have you seen a crowd of people downing water or sports drinks at the start line of a race? Unless they did a serious warm-up, those fluids are going right through them, and they’ll need a break for the restroom soon. Expect the same with the person who stops to buy coffee (a diuretic!) on the way to a training run. If you wait to drink until ADH kicks in, you should not have to go. But don’t drink too much. Follow the guidelines previously discussed. Drinking too much is just as dangerous as drinking too little, and in Florida drinking too much is probably the more likely problem.

Part of finishing a race or long run happy is to avoid discomfort of all types, including the mental and physical agony of knowing you can’t ignore nature’s call. You’ll learn what works for you from practice. Use those training runs, talk to your coaches, and plan for a great run.