Running minimalistic with just a light t-shirt, shorts and your favourite shoes will always be the best thing to do. But unfortunately it is not always feasible to do so. Race organisers are supposed to provide necessary hydration but not all the races have the hydration points located where you want them to be. And for our solo long runs or group runs we have to go self-supported. Hence the question arises how to carry water while running?
The body stores water in the muscles, hard and long duration runs lead to loss of water through sweating and exhaling. And failure to failure to replenish it might lead in cramps, slow recovery, or worst. Pre run hydration and hydration during the run is a necessity.
On short runs you don’t need to carry anything, you can hydrate pre-run and replenish the body water after the run. On casual long-distance road runs too you don’t have to give much of a thought on how to carry water while running as there might be many options like tea shops, petrol pumps etc. on the route where you can have some water. But when you are doing a goal specific training run or timed run, you don’t want to lose your rhythm by stopping at a tea stall to ask for water. Also, if you are training too early in the morning then this option might not be available. In case you are running in mountains or trails you will definitely won’t have the access to any water source in route. That means you need to carry water with you.
Carrying water while running is difficult than other exercises. Cycles have water bottle holders, while hiking you can carry a bag that can hold water bottles. But how to carry water while running? How to carry enough water while running? This necessity has brought in some innovations in this area and now you have hydration belts, backpacks and variety of hydration vests at your disposal.
Best ways to carry water while running
While there are many different ways how to deal with the situation there will be one way better than all others. And it is not necessary that the best possible solution to carry water while running will be same for everyone. The best option for you will depend on our body type, how much you sweat, your training level, the weather, running distance and many other factors that are difficult to put in words. Here is an attempt to put out most of the viable options to choose from. Along-with pros, cons and fittingness to your need.
Some options like hydration backpacks offer you access to water throughout the run while keeping your hands free. While the others like water bottles are available conveniently at low price.
Running with a bottle in hand
Yes, that is one of the options. Many might have dismissed this but it is still a viable option for mid distance runs like half marathons. You can carry a small 250-300ml bottle easily. It can be difficult to grip a bigger bottle hence this option is limited to mid distance runs where you won’t need more than a small bottle to satisfy your water need through the run.
Some runners have this issue that their hands sweat too much that they can’t even grip the small bottle. There is a solution to this issue too. There are handheld straps available in the sports stores that can grip around different sizes of bottles. With this you can hold your water bottle firmly even while keeping your hand open.
Carrying water in waist belt
For years men are carrying fanny packs around their waist. The running waist belt is just a modified version of it customised to the running needs. There are many types of waist belts available for running. Most popular of those are;
- Waist belts with bladder in the centre
- Waist belts with single bottle pocket
- Waist belts that can accommodate two small bottles
The waist belts with bladder to carry water while running have a hose attached to it making it easy and fast access to water. It can hold around 2-3 litres of water. But the bladder makes it a bit tedious and time consuming to refill.
On the other hand the waist belts with bottle pockets can hold one or two bottles that can be easily removed and replenished. You also have a choice of bottles up to certain size; you can use whichever you are comfortable to sip through. The waist belts with single bottle can tend to slip down on one side. The ones with two bottles are well balanced and sit comfortably around your waist.
The waist belt may take some time to get used to though. You have to find the sweet spot to position it around the waist and not the hips. Also you must get comfortable with its presence. With use you can find exactly how much tightly wrapped you need it to be. Just a small tip, wear it above your t-shirt and not underneath.
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If you are not comfortable with a bottle in hand or something hanging around your waist, don’t worry, there’s another way to carry water while running. It’s called hydration backpacks. You can carry around three litres of water or electrolyte in these. These come in different designs, features and capacity to choose from.
The hydration backpacks are more popular in ultra runners and trail runners who go running in far corners of the world. More due to the fact that on the runs they don’t have access to tea stalls, coffee shops etc. to refill their water bottles and the backpacks can hold more water than other options. But also the backpacks look cool on the runners.
While choosing a hydration backpack you must make sure its design is suitable to your body shape. Not all the hydration backpacks are made for you. There are backpacks that come with adjustable straps around your chest and some have adjustable straps on side too. The ones having both chest strap and side strap adjustable are better cause with these you can fix the backpack as tight your second skin, so it doesn’t bounce when you run. To check all these, you should actually wear it, try it before buying. While trying, you must check for tight fitting, check if there are any chaffing points, check there is uneven pressure where the straps wrap your body. Make sure there is no or little movement of the bag while running.
You might feel high capacity is better as it always comes handy. But in this case have to optimise the selection as per your requirement. It makes no sense that you buy a five litre backpack and use it to carry half litre water. It sure gives you the flexibility of carrying anywhere between half litre to five litre, but its dead weight might feel unnecessary burden on mid distance runs. Due to this reason two to three litre hydration backpacks are most popular among the runners.
If you are considering on using a hydration backpack then there must be thirty kilometre or longer runs on your mind. The distances that cannot be covered merely with drinking water. You need something more. You need electrolytes, you need energy bars, protein bars, energy gels etc. You also might want to carry your phone with you. Most hydration backpacks have sleeves to hold your running essentials. Some also come with chained waterproof pockets accommodate some cash, emergency contact information or anything you need to carry.
Hydration vest to carry water
Some might disagree but hydration vests are nothing but improvised edition of hydration backpacks. There is slight difference in design and weight distribution. Both the hydration vest and backpack are worn around back. The vests are more body shaped than backpacks. These can also fit more tightly without exerting more pressure on any particular area. These are so body fit that they come in different designs for men and women. With the vest, weight of the water will be evenly distributed while in backpacks most of the weight is on the back.
Hydration vests also come with sleeves to carry extra water bottles, giving you more flexibility to plan you resources. With weight so evenly distributed you won’t feel weighed down.
Hydration vests come in bladder type, bottle type and combo variations. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. To name a few, bladder type vests give you the advantage of drinking hand free as these come with a hose. This keeps you undistracted from your running gait even while drinking. But at the same time it gives rise to issue of refilling, you have to remove the vest and the bladder every time you need to refill it. Most runners won’t see it as a problem as these vests have about 2-3 litre capacity bladders, which is enough and you don’t even have to refill on most of the occasions.
Bottle type hydration vests come with three bottle sleeves. Along with the advantage of not having to remove your vest for refilling it also provides an option to carry three different beverages. The best among all are the vests that come with two small bottle sleeves in front and the water bladder covering the back and around the body.
Thigh holster for water bottle
Yes, this is also an option to carry water while running. A thigh holster is strapped around your thigh and waist. It has stretch pocket to carry one bottle. If you are looking for multi function solution to carry water in a holster that can also act as leg weight to help you tone those running muscles, this is the product for you.
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While there are many options to carry water while running what to choose among these essentially depends on what suits you. It is also depend on what distance you wish to cover and how much water you need to carry. Every runner is different than other. One will feel different level of comfort with a particular water carrier than the other. Best way to choose is try everything out on small practice runs and choose the best solution for you.
Except comfort there are other factors that may affect your choice of right hydration carrier. The amount of hydration needed would be different for different runners running same distance, depending upon their body type, training and how much they sweat.
Whatever method you choose to carry water or electrolyte while running it must be accompanied with a pre-run hydration plan, especially when you are running any distance further than thirty kilometres. This is also applicable when you are running any distance that is more than what you have ran before.
So, plan your hydration well, choose you gear wisely and keep running.