Home / Run Happy Blog
Running Tips

Thirst is the worst

Illustration of a man wearing mittens and a beanie hat who has gotten his tongue stuck to a pole in cold weather.

Keep your hydration in check during cold weather runs this Christmas season.

Healthy winter running

For wintertime runners, chilly temps, cold rain, and snow can be extra roadblocks (or trail blocks, if running in the wild is your thing). If you’re lacing up in cold weather, be sure to dress well for your runs. Wear layers, choose sweat-wicking gear, and consider hand warmers or gloves. Be thoughtful about your layers — just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should throw on a parka. Heavy gear might make you sweat more, and all that extra water on your body could make your core temperature drop in a hurry.

All of these preparations can keep you warm and comfortable, but one of the best things you can do to keep healthy on your winter runs is to stay hydrated. Good hydration is always essential, but even well-trained athletes can forget about this essential step when running in cold weather.

Illustration of a man looking satisfied as he squirts a bottle of water into his mouth.

Hydration: it’s for everyone all the time

Proper hydration isn’t just for new runners — even world-class athletes need to be reminded to pay attention to their fluid intake. Danny Mackey, coach of the Brooks Beasts pro running team, shared how poor hydration led to a disappointing race.

“One of the Beasts cramped up in the middle of the US Cross Country championships in February 2019 in Florida. He was very fit, very prepared — he tends to be a strong cross-country runner who was averaging around 110 miles a week with great workouts going into the race.

When we got to Florida it was overcast and cool but humid. We can see similar things in the winter here in Seattle. We sweat a lot because of the layers but do not necessarily notice it like we do in traditionally hot and sunny weather. This runner did not adjust his hydration to the weather leading into the competition. During the race, he went from being in the lead pack to finishing around two minutes behind the winner. The cramps started in his calves, and then by the last two miles he was having stomach cramps. There was nothing he could do. The simple miscue in hydration derailed his big race.”

What is dehydration?

When you use or lose more fluid than you take in, your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to function normally. If you don't replace lost fluids, you become dehydrated. Symptoms can include extreme thirst, cramping, fatigue and dizziness. Those symptoms are troubling enough, but you should also know dehydration can lead to dangerous complications like urinary and kidney issues, seizures, and more.

Illustration of a man chasing after a human-sized pear and apple with legs.

Tips for staying hydrated during cold weather

Consuming adequate fluids not only prevents dehydration, but can regulate body temperature and boost metabolism, too. Here are some of our favourite tips to keep you hydrated this winter.

Just say no to cold

Avoid slurping iced water or other cold liquids before a run. Room temp or warm liquids are better choices for keeping an optimal body temperature.

Snack smart

Grab a piece of fruit the next time you need a snack. Apples, oranges, pears, and other winter fruits contain plenty of water. Bonus: these fruits are full of vitamin C, which can boost your immune system.

Cancel caffeine, avoid alcohol

OK, let’s not get too extreme here — you don’t have to go cold turkey with caffeine or alcohol during winter. But because both are diuretics, which are substances that promote increased urination, be thoughtful about your consumption. To stave off dehydration, it’s best to drink your cup of coffee or mimosa post-run.

Illustration of a man holding a big, hot bowl of soup.

Sodium is a saviour

Salty foods can help you retain water and avoid muscle cramps. A diet too low in sodium leaves you at risk of dehydration. Rehydrate your body with meals like soups and salty snacks like pretzels or nuts after your run.

Practice makes perfect

Incorporate proper hydration into your training. Most experts agree that about eight glasses (1.7 ml) of water a day is an ideal amount, but it’s going to be different for everyone. Test what works for you and make any necessary adjustments.