Running and walking generally require you to drink more water than you would if you were sedentary most of the day. Our body may not feel the need to hydrate, so it’s up to us to remember to be well-hydrated during any activity we engage in.
When participating in a 5K, whether it’s running or walking, it’s important to drink water. Sports drinks may also be helpful on difficult runs and on hot days. Hydration is important before, during, and after any vigorous activity.
While many people will be able to run a 5K in around 30 minutes and feel fine even if they don’t drink water, it’s not recommended. Our bodies need water to function well, and that is doubly important during exercise.
Why is Adequate Hydration Important?
All the cells in your body, as far as I’m aware, need water. They can’t function properly or at their full potential without it. “Water is an essential constituent of the protoplasm of living cells because it is directly involved in countless biochemical reactions…” (socratic.org)
I like to think of it in terms of water pressure and plumbing lines. If you have enough water pressure, you can take a shower and wash your hands easily, but not so well with a low supply of water.
Similarly, with enough water flowing through our body, cells can easily access it to use for many of their daily functions, including helping us get the vitamins and minerals our body needs.
Using plumbing as an example again. the right amounts of water are needed to flush the toilet to get rid of waste. Low water means waste can’t effectively be discarded.
If you’ve ever had a massage (article link) from a massage therapist, they may have to ask you to drink water afterward. They want to ensure that you are helping remove lactic acid buildup in the muscles. But without water, the acid would be eliminated more slowly.
Each cell uses water to dispose of waste products. Water helps remove dead cells and toxins from the body.
Hydrating (article link) during your running or walking of a 5K will help you make the most of your effort and recovery.
Hydrating Before a 5K Walk or Run
Before you run or walk in a 5K, you may want to prepare your body for the event. To do this you want to get into the habit of drinking water on a regular basis.
If you’re like me, your body doesn’t always let you know when it needs water. If you tend to ignore your thirst on a regular basis each day, it’s likely that the mechanism that alerts you of thirst may stop signaling you when your body is under-hydrated.
This can occur in people who are more sedentary because the body reacts to movement. I think it is mostly because “Over time, the signal stops, and our bodies believe we are in an area where water is scarce.” (huffpost.com)
A couple of weeks before you do your 5K (article link) is a great time to start getting your body into the habit of being hydrated. It may not feel like you need to get into a habit of hydrate, but that’s the best way to begin.
While getting your body hydrated before the 5K, you can also get prepared physically. This will help you effectively prepare your body, so you are in good shape before the race.
This chart is a guide that some runners may want to reference and see how to schedule their time to prepare.
You’ll get used to what kinds of water intake are required during exercise. After consistent water intake and training, you will be able to effectively monitor your hydration levels better.
The body likes balance. If you love sugar in your food, as I do, your body may start to crave it because of regular intervals of sugar use. Over time your body will try to balance what it needs and what is being provided. Generally, the less sugar I use, the fewer cravings occur over time.
The level of water your body holds on to works in a similar way. Generally, your body will not hold onto water the first couple of times you start to increase the amount of water you intake.
You need to develop a habit of consistently drinking more water over time to signal that body that more water is now available on a consistent basis, so it can start to hold on to more.
Most people don’t like the frequent bathroom breaks they need to take as they increase their water intake over time, but after about 2-3 weeks, you will not need to go to the bathroom more frequently anymore.
Your body will have adapted to its new water levels, and now you have much more water for your body to use on a regular basis.
Hydrating During a 5K Walk or Run
It can be very helpful to drink water during your run. Conditions for each race will be different. Whether it’s cold or hot, your body can use water to maintain proper temperature.
When running, your body temperature shouldn’t get too hot (article link), and water helps prevent sudden changes in temperature. (sciencing.com)
Some runner likes to carry a water bottle in their hand, while other like to use a small water backpack.
Hydrating and preparing physically will greatly improve your ability to have a good experience while participating in a 5K.
During the race, you may also have access to roadside volunteers who will hand out water.
If you’re running the race, drink about a couple of ounces at a time. Drinking about 16oz or 500ml is about where you want to aim for during the first 30 minutes of the run. (runnersworld.com)
Now, depending on how fast you run, 30 minutes may be all you need to finish the race. So, one 160z water bottle is likely all you need during the race.
Alternatively, if 16oz seems too much for you, you might want to look at the guide that REI offers. It suggests pre-hydrating and that people drink “about 5–10 fl. oz. (or a few good long drinks) of water every 15–20 minutes while running.” (rei.com)
Hydrating After a 5K Walk or Run
Now that you’re done with the race, it’s a great time to continue to hydrate. You’ll want to drink enough to replenish the fluids you have lost during the race.
This depends on how hard you pushed yourself, how hot it was, and how humid it was. You may also want to drink something to replenish your electrolytes, especially if you are sweating a lot.
Besides water, your body needs salts to function properly. A sports drink can help give back some of the salts lost; just try to use low-sugar electrolyte drinks to rehydrate.
Recovery somewhat depends on how well you have prepared before you have run a 5K and the running conditions.
If you lose weight during the run, it will mostly be water loss. You’ll need to slowly regain that water loss by hydrating. Consider drinking 2 cups of water for each pound you lost, to regain the weight you lost.
If you have gained water weight, then take hydration very slowly. You may be over-hydrated and should check your urine to see how dark it is. Dark urine usually indicates dehydration, while clear urine may indicate a well-hydrated individual.
Final Thoughts about 5K Water Hydration
When I go on a run, I can tell if I’ve forgotten to hydrate. I may feel fine before the run, but I really feel the effects of insufficient water on a hotter, more difficult run.
When I am well-hydrated and have rested well the night before, I feel like I can run longer and endure tough climbs. I seem to feel like my run is less of a struggle, and I enjoy my time much better.
Getting into the habit of daily hydration can help you prepare for your 5K run or walk. Your body will likely have a better capacity to run and walk throughout the duration of the race. As you prepare before, hydrate during, and after your run, you likely have had a very good experience during your 5K.
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