Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The following article is by Noah Hoffman, an elite Nordic skier from right here in Colorado. He was not only an elite skier, but also a fantastic XC runner as well as track star. He graduated a few years ago, and the advice he gives is important not only in the summer, but also now as the weather gets colder.

I acquired bad hydration habits for two reasons.

The first was my philosophy on training – I believed that the harder a workout was to do, the faster it would make me ski. I thought workouts that were difficult to endure, such as going on a seven hour bike ride drinking only the two water bottles on your bike or running for four hours with no water at all, would somehow make me faster.
The second reason I didn’t hydrate well was that I had no idea why I needed to stay hydrated.

A couple of really tough experiences in high school should have clued me in to what I was doing to myself. The first occurred during my freshman year. I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember doing a long tough workout in really hot conditions in the morning. In the afternoon I was sitting on the couch with a splitting headache. Everything noise, sound and touch caused pain. My uncle was in town visiting. He touched my arm at one point and I puked from the pain.

I remember the second experience more clearly. I attended a Rocky Mountain Select Team camp in Steamboat during my senior year of high school. I hate to drive, so I decided it would be good to shorten the drive to Steamboat by bicycling part of the way. I started at my home in Aspen and would ride the route my coach would drive to the camp. I asked him to pick me up when he reached me five or six hours later. Although it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the summer, I refused to refill my two 16oz bottles. I ran out of water at about 80 miles, but kept plowing along. At around 100 miles I was really suffering. I figured there wasn’t much difference between riding slowly down the road or stopping, so I kept going. I made it to 106 miles before I could barely make it up the hills. I pulled over. About 15 minutes later a motorcycling couple stopped for a break in the same pullout I was sitting in. They generously refilled my bottles, and as I was finishing what they had given me my coach showed up. In the car I plowed through almost another entire Nalgene. Twenty miles down the road I was puking it all back up. I wasn’t able to hold down any liquid for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and I had to skip the workout that afternoon and the running time trial the next day. It was a bad way to start a camp.

This summer I improved my hydration habits. I now know the importance of hydration, and making it second nature has become a huge priority for me. One method we’ve used to make me aware of how much I need to drink is to have me weigh myself and my water bottles before and after long, hard workouts. This has been a real eye opener for me. My worst hydration performance this summer happened on a road bike ride on August 10. During the workout I only drank 1.8lbs of water, I ate .4lbs of food, but I still lost 6.6lbs during the five-hour workout. Becoming more aware of how much fluid I can lose on a workout has has helped me drink more.
My coaches encourage me to drink more by requiring that I always have a water bottle when I work out. I now understand that I need to stay hydrated all day long, not just during a workout. I carry water bottles with me on every workout, no matter how short, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day.

According to USST physiologist Randy Hill, our bodies can absorb 250ml (8oz) of liquid every 20-30min. If you drink any more or any faster than that the kidneys just remove the liquid and you pee it out. Because of the delay in the intake of water, I now set my alarm on long sessions to beep every 20 minutes. As soon as the alarm beeps I take a couple big gulps of water. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a downhill or am striding up a steep incline. If I don’t stop right away to drink I will keep putting it off.

Randy has also helped me understand the physiology of hydration. The human body is at best 25% efficient. All the excess energy produces large amounts of heat. The body then produces sweat to cool itself back down. The majority of liquid is lost to sweat, but some is exhaled. This is more the case in drier, higher altitudes.

The better hydrated you are, the more blood volume you have. For the most part, the human body works more efficiently with greater blood volume. The less efficient your body is the harder your heart has to work. That’s why you get cardiovascular drift when you get dehydrated (your heart rate will drift up during a long workout.) Higher blood volume is more efficient because of something called Laminar Flow. Laminar flow has to do with the fact that the blood closest to the cellular wall encounters the most resistance. More blood volume means more blood is located in the middle of the vessel and further from the cellular wall. More blood in the middle of the vessel means less resistance on average.

Blood volume

It’s like adding lanes to an interstate. The more lanes you add, the faster traffic can move.

The last thing Randy emphasized is the need to drink before you’re thirsty. Once the thirst mechanism kicks in, it’s too late. You are already 2% or lower off of your normal body mass when the thirst mechanism kicks it. I am working hard to make hydration something that is a non-issue for me. When drinking before I get thirsty becomes second nature, I won’t have to worry about it, and it won’t hinder my training or performance.

The original form of this article can be found here, at FasterSkier.com

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