Winter Hydration


Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to be hydrated. The body’s thirst response is reduced by up to 40% in the winter. When you get cold your blood vessels constrict slowing the blood flow to your extremities which is why your hands and feet typically get cold first.

In the winter we don’t always feel sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. It means your clothing is doing its job. Winters in Utah are very dry, more try than the summers actually, because the water in the air is frozen. I have to put lotion on a few times throughout the day and my hair frizzes nearly every day. This dry frozen air can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated, so don’t neglect this critical aspect of your winter training.

Another contributing factor for winter dehydration is losing water through your lungs. The colder the air the more water vapor is present in your breath. You can see it when you exhale. It freezes and you can’t breath it back in.

The first step in maintaining your hydration is developing the habit of taking sips throughout your runs. Frequent small sips of water is easier on your body and reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. If you wait until you want to guzzle the water, you have waited too long and are now trying to play catch-up, which is never a good place to be in.

Next is your clothing. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature allows you to have more stable water and electrolyte loss. Wear layers you can take off and put back on as needed.

Be aware of how much you are drinking. This is huge because many of us get in our zone and we don’t really pay attention to how much we are sweating or when the last time was we sipped on our water or how frequently we are doing so.

Winter hydrating can be a challenge if you run outside in temperatures below freezing. There are insulated handhelds and hydration packs (snowboarders and skiers use them). You may need to break up your run to keep your water from freezing or get a really nice friend who is willing to bring you water every so often.

If you are using a hydration pack and it’s not insulated make sure and blow the water out of the tube and mouth piece every time you take a sip. If you leave it in the tube, it will freeze leaving you with nothing to drink.



Humidity and Hydration


Hydrating properly is a huge issue for runners. Dehydration and heat stroke are just a couple of problems with being lax about your water intake during a run or other exercise. It’s pretty straight forward that you need more water when your running in the heat, but what about running in humidity. Maybe this is a no brainer for those who live in a humid climate.

For those of us who don’t (me), at first glance, it seems like maybe you don’t need as much since there is so much water in the air already. But, running in humidity actually requires more water than running in dry heat.

Our bodies cool themselves through sweating. In order to sweat we need water and electrolytes. The more we sweat, the more we need. Pretty simple. To complicate matters just a bit, intense exercise causes your body temperature to go up, which then requires more sweating. Remember the last time you had a fever? You didn’t even have to move to sweat.

When you are running (or sweating for any reason) in humidity, the sweat doesn’t evaporate, which is what allows your skin to cool. Because it doesn’t evaporate, it continues to produce more sweat to attempt to cool you down.

Prehydrating is important whenever you are going to run in the heat, but particularly when you combine heat and humidity.

Dehydration progressively decreases your pace by two to three percent for every one percent loss in body weight. Your blood volume decreases when you don’t have enough water. This makes it so your body cannot fuel your muscles properly and thus slows you down. Dehydration also slows recovery  because your body cannot get rid of waste products it produces.

Overhydrating can also be dangerous. Hyponatremia (low sodium) is a serious condition, but it’s easily avoided. If you are exercising for over an hour, make sure you are ingesting some electrolytes. Most of the time, I use salt tablets. They are easy to carry and take during a run. I will also use Heed if I’m struggling to maintain that balance. Cravings for salty things, a decrease in pace, cramps, a foggy mind, and sloshing stomach are good indicators you’re electrolytes are out of balance.

Like with any aspect of running, everyone is different. Runner’s metabolisms process water at different rates. In order to determine how quickly your body loses water make sure you are hydrated before exercise, weigh yourself before you go out, and weigh yourself again when you return. Drink water over the next few hours until your body reaches the weight it was before you exercised. This will give you an idea of how quickly your body metabolizes water.

What does the color of your urine tell you?

urine chart

The color of urine is something that is or should be pretty important to a runner, especially an ultra-runner. So what does it all mean…

No color: you’re drinking too much water. Drinking too much water can be just as dangerous to a runner as not drinking enough. When you have too much water in your body, your cells swell which can cause GI issues, dizziness, and soreness. Even more scary, it can cause hyponatremia, low sodium, which can lead to death in some cases.

Pale straw yellow: you’re normal and well hydrated.

Transparent yellow: you’re normal.

Dark yellow: normal but drink some water soon.

Amber or honey: you need water now.

Syrup or brown ale: you are severely dehydrated or have liver disease. Drink water and see your doctor if it doesn’t go away within 24 hours.

Pink to reddish: Have you eaten beets blueberries or rhubarb recently? If not it could be blood or other things. You should see your doctor soon.

Orange: you are probably not drinking enough water or it could be something you need to see your doctor about. Drink more water, if it doesn’t go away within 24 hours or returns, call your doctor.

Blue or Green: this could be food dye, medication, or a bacteria. If it persists, contact your doctor.

Purple: That’s just ridiculous. No one has purple urine

Foaming or Fizzing: this one is real. It could be harmless, a kidney problem, or indicate you have excess protein in your diet. See a doctor if it happens all the time.


Drink when you are thirsty and watch the color of your urine. If it starts to get darker each time you go, drink more water and make sure you are getting enough electrolytes.

If you are pacing or crewing for an ultra-runner there really is no taboo topic. You need to know how often your runner is using the bathroom and what color their urine is.