Running with water is not always glamorous. Trying to drink water while running usually results in spills, frustration, and more water on your clothes than in your mouth. However, for most mid and long distance runners, it is a necessity.
Should you run with water?
The answer depends on how far you are planning to run and what the weather is like during training. Most runners benefit from running with water when the weather is hot and humid, even for shorter distances.
In addition, long runs, such as those for half and full marathon training, usually require drinking water while running. Most distance runners carry water at least for their long runs, if not all of them.
Can you drink water while running?
Sure – drinking water while running is certainly possible. Most runners drink water on the run at some point in the summer or during long training seasons. However, in order to have water to drink while running, runners will need to bring it with them.
Carrying water while running is not always enjoyable, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. There are many hands-free options, as well as ways to carry water on a run without even noticing you’re doing it.
5 Ways to Carry Water While Running
Here’s a breakdown of the different ways to carry water while running. Running with water is always worth it during a hot, humid run, or a double digit long run. It might take a bit of experimentation to discover which you like best, but you can’t go wrong with any of these options.
Handheld Running Water Bottles
Many people would assume that holding a water bottle while running would get very annoying, but these handheld bottles make carrying water while running so effortless. Simply slide your hand into the strap and then continue on with your usual running motion.
A big bonus of handheld water bottles: you can easily drink water while running without having to stop or adjust. It might take a few runs to get used to the slight added weight, but most runners claim that it’s not enough to even really notice.
A popular way to carry water while running is in a hydration belt. These belts come with multiple small water bottles that hook on, helping distribute the weight evenly around the hips so you don’t even notice.
When you’re ready for a drink, simply take a water bottle off the belt and take a drink. Sizing and proper fit is crucial when it comes to hydration belts, so be sure to test them out before you buy. Otherwise, you might be stuck dealing with bouncing or sliding throughout your run.
Many runners already run with a belt to store their phone, keys, etc. Some running belts have extra pockets that can fit small, flat water bottles.
Whether you purchase a bottle specifically designed for the belt, or simply find a small enough water bottle that fits, it can be easy to store water in this existing piece of gear. However, remember that you won’t be able to carry much water with you at a time.
When it’s exceptionally hot, humid, or you’re planning a really long run, hydration vests have the ability to store a lot of water. These vests distribute the weight across your chest and back, and have easy access with a straw.
Drinking water while running is probably the easiest and least messy with a hydration vest, as they have a built in straw. However, these vests can get pretty hot and lead to a lot of extra sweat on the back.
If carrying a bigger, handheld water bottle isn’t your thing, small running flasks might do the trick. These flasks are similar to the handheld bottles, but usually smaller in size and less bulky.
Flasks weigh less than a full handheld water bottle, but this means they also can’t store as much water. You’ll definitely want to test out the handheld flask before your race to make sure you can comfortably hold it without adding an extra burden.
Some runners find that no matter what method they try, carrying water while running feels really cumbersome. If this is the case for you, taking the time to plan ahead might help you access water during a run without having to carry it.
Many runners map their route out ahead of time so they are able to plant water bottles along the path. Placing just a few water bottles will help you be able to drink water while running without having to carry it forever.
Another option is to plan your route around stops and business which will allow you to grab a cup of water. These stops will add time to your run, but the free, cold water is always a hit for those who don’t like the idea of carrying it.
How Much Water to Drink While Running
Strategies for running with water vary greatly, in part due to the fact that each runner needs different amounts depending on their distance, pace and climate. In order to decide how you’ll carry water, you’ll need to have an idea of how much to drink while running.
It is estimated that somewhere between 3 – 10 oz per mile is needed to replace the fluid loss in sweat. This amount varies depending on how hard your body is working and what the temperature and humidity are.
For most runs at a moderate intensity level, drinking a little bit of water every 30 minutes will suffice. Make a point to take multiple sips, or stop and really take a drink every half an hour.
If you start to feel thirsty, it is a sign that you are already dehydrated. In order to adequately hydrate, you’ll want to be sure you are drinking water before you begin to feel thirsty. Taking consistent, small sips is usually a better strategy than waiting long periods of time to take in a big gulp.
8 Tips for Running with Water
Running with water takes a surprising amount of skill. In order to get maximum benefit, you’ll need to know exactly how much to drink, when to drink it, and what else is needed to stay hydrated. Here are 8 tips to make running with water a breeze.
Take time to experiment
Carrying water while running is not always enjoyable, but usually necessary. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be dreadful. Taking the time to experiment with different ways to carry water on a run will pay off in the end.
Finding a method that works for you is key to success and consistency over time. If you try a handheld water bottle but really hate carrying it, borrow a friend’s hydration belt. Between water bottles, flasks, belts, vests and all of the other options – there’s bound to be one that works for you.
Hydrate before and after running, too
Running with water is certainly important, but what you drink before and after the run is too. Be careful not to place so much emphasis on drinking while running that you forget to drink water before and after as well.
Your overall hydration during a run is greatly related to how hydrated you are to begin with. Prioritize drinking a bit more water than usual leading up to any long runs, and be sure to re-hydrate for the rest of the day when you return.
Avoid caffeine before long or hot runs
Caffeine is a known diuretic – meaning that it actually dehydrates you. If you choose to consume caffeine before a run, you’ll need to replace the amount you drank with water. Meaning: if you drank 8 ounces of coffee, be sure to drink an additional 8 ounces of water as well.
Don’t forget about electrolytes
Aside from fluid, we also lose electrolytes when we sweat. These electrolytes play a key role in muscle function – meaning that losing too many without replacing them might result in cramps, spasms, or more.
Be sure to replace electrolytes after running, especially with heavy water consumption. Try salt tabs, sports drink, or electrolyte tablets in your drinks.
Add ice to keep water cool
Drinking water while running is nearly always satisfying, but nothing beats an ice cold drink in the middle of a hot run. Unfortunately, the water in water bottles, belts and vests heats up pretty quickly from body heat.
Try adding ice to your water before heading out, or filling the bottles halfway and freezing them on their sides the night before. When you add water the next day, you’ll be able to drink it before the ice melts, and while it melts, it’ll keep the water temperature nice and cold.
Drink before you feel thirsty
An important thing to remember: if you feel thirsty by the time you drink water, you’ve waited too long. Staying hydrated on a run means being on top of your water intake and strategy. Plan to take sips of water after a certain interval of time, and continue to do so throughout the run to avoid getting thirsty.
Know the signs of dehydration & heat stroke
Regardless of how intentional you may be about running with water, conditions can change and sometimes catch us by surprise. It’s important to know the signs of dehydration and heat stroke, and pay attention to your body during long or hot runs.
If you start to experience unusual amounts of fatigue, muscle cramping, nausea, loss of concentration, tunnel vision or red spots on your skin – stop, cool down and rehydrate.
Create a hydration habit
Drinking water while running is certainly important, but when you’re training for a goal or consistently heading out for runs, it’s important to prioritize hydration at all times.
Aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water – up to a full gallon – each day. Staying on top of your hydration during your daily activities will set you up for success on the run.
Running with water is important – and shouldn’t be overlooked. Luckily, carrying water while running is relatively effortless. Being intentional about your water consumption, even on cooler days when you aren’t as thirsty, will help you conquer new goals, achieve new PRs and stay healthy in every training season.