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Proper hydration matters, even when you're not working out
Nancy Klinger runs through lava fields during a training trip to Hawaii
July 24th, 2012
12:18 PM ET

Proper hydration matters, even when you're not working out

Editor's note: Nancy Klinger is one of seven CNN viewers training to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta as part of the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.

The Malibu Nautica Triathlon is only 8 weeks away, and as you can imagine, we have all picked up the training. 

Personally, I have been working hard to improve my endurance, while also trying to increase that elusive speed (remember speed is a relative term). I have also been practicing my bike-to-run transition, and brick training - where you go straight to the run after getting off the bike. I am not sure where the term brick comes from, but in my experience the term brick is how my legs feel when I start my run after hopping off the bike. 

In Minnesota, just as in much of the nation, it has been an incredibly hot and humid summer. I can’t remember the last time the high temperature was below 90 degrees and the humidity has been consistently stifling. 

With these conditions, the importance of proper hydration is clear. Whether you are an elite athlete or a novice triathlete you won’t get far without taking in enough water. Your ability to perform athletically will decline dramatically with just a small amount of dehydration. 

We lose water through sweating but we also lose water through our breath. If we do not take in enough water, our body will react negatively. 

This was the case for me recently when my body went on strike! Having gone through the past few months with no significant physical issues, my body just would not go. I experienced pain in every joint of my body. I mean every joint. 

Throughout the day I had mild headaches with dizziness, was lethargic and was unable to get a good night’s sleep. 

When I am not feeling well I work hard to identify what may be the cause. I had been doing a good job of completing my assigned workouts and thought I did a good job of staying hydrated, so a lack of hydration did not really cross my mind. 

From the day of our first Lucky 7 team workout in Atlanta in February we were all educated on the importance of proper hydration.  While in Hawaii, I still had the voices of the CNN coaches in my head, reminding us that if we get thirsty it was already too late.  My local coach also regularly reminds me of the importance of proper hydration.

Since my symptoms were persisting, I finally went to see my doctor. Turns my final diagnosis was directly related to dehydration. 

Once that was identified, I immediately understood what was happening. There has been a lot going on in my life in addition to the triathlon training. I have a full-time job and I have been spending a significant amount of my time on evenings and weekends doing outdoor work. 

The work has been hard, including spending hours pulling weeds and shoveling wood chips. There was one weekend day where I worked four hours straight without taking a break – and without taking in water. Bingo! 

I am probably sweating more and expending many more calories while working outdoors in the high heat and humidity as when I am doing my physical training. 

There are days when my clothes have been completely soaked, yet I did not even think about water intake until I was done with my work. Once I started to think about this further, I also realized that I was not taking in enough water during the work day.  Without enough water I was not lubricating my joints (thus the joint soreness) and my muscles were unable to adequately recover after exercise. 

As of last week, this has all changed.  I no longer reserve proper hydration just for during my workouts, but I am focusing on proper hydration throughout each day, every day. 

My focus is water. But for those days when I am exercising or working outdoors for long periods in extremely hot and humid conditions, those are times when I also need to add some electrolytes via sports drinks. 

Within a few days of my new focus on water intake, I am feeling like a new person - going from feeling lousy to running in the Minneapolis Torchlight 5K race in my best time yet of 31:04. When my body is giving me signals that something is not quite right, I will now do a much better job of listening.

My hope is that sharing my personal experience will remind others of the importance of proper hydration for a healthy body.

You can follow Nancy's progress, along with the rest of the Lucky 7 at CNN.com/FitNation, on Twitter @CNNFitNation or on Facebook.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.