Drink Up

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This summer, I was fortunate to get to spend some time at California’s Joshua Tree National Park. One morning, I got up early to view the sunrise from atop a boulder in the park. At 4:45 a.m., I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt; by 7:30 a.m., my sweatshirt had been abandoned, I’d donned a wide-brimmed hat, and I felt like my jeans were on fire. What’s more, I needed a long swig of water every fifteen minutes or so.

Luckily, every Joshua Tree brochure or website you read — especially during the height of summer — tells you to carry water with you wherever you go, even if it’s just a few steps from your car. I’d followed the guidelines and was glad I did. Keeping well-hydrated, I was able to hike some of the trails in the park and see incredible rock formations, weird vegetation, and an adorable jackrabbit.

This mini adventure got me thinking about hydration in other contexts, especially at the gym. As a gym owner or manager, how do you know your clients are drinking enough water?

As with most things, the best way is to educate. Many exercisers, even veteran ones, do not realize that it’s dangerous to wait until thirst kicks in to take a drink. Studies have shown that most exercisers underestimate their water needs. One researcher found that 98 percent of the members of one college football team started out daily workouts underhydrated. And many have never heard of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s rule of thumb: Drink 7 to 10 ounces — about one cup or a little more — of water or a sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes during a workout. The Association’s guidelines for post-workout imbibing are even more intense: Weigh yourself nude before and after workouts to discover how much weight you lose from sweat, and then drink fluid equal to 150 percent of the weight loss within two hours of exercising.

The trick is to get the message across to club members. Send e-mails, hang up informational posters, offer lectures. Even just a chalkboard in the cardio room with the word “water” written across it in big letters could make a difference — a friendly reminder about what our bodies need. Or you might want to try hanging up a photo of the desert: Trust me, it will make everyone want to drink up.

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