First thing's first: hydration
Yes, I know you've heard this over and over again on repeat. "Drink your fluids. You need at least 8 glasses of water a day. Blah, blah, blah." You've heard it, you know it, but do you actually do it? And why does it even really matter that much?
As it turns out, proper hydration is an absolute athletic necessity. Proper fluid balance is responsible for a host of health factors, like improving circulation, nutrient and oxygen absorption, decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, regulating internal temperature, increasing cognitive function, flushing toxins from the body through our innate filtration system, aiding in weight management and so much more.
Hydration is also crucial for tissue health. Fluids are responsible for delivering the necessary nutrients that aid in the tissue repair process. If you become dehydrated, the wear and tear on the tissue continues faster than the body can repair, putting the athlete at substantial risk for cartilage tears. Research shows that just a 1% loss of fluids in the body is enough to increase the risk of injury.
Gymnastics (specifically women's gymnastics) is considered the highest risk for injury sport in collegiate athletics, and doctors perform surgery on more female gymnasts than any other competitive collegiate athlete (reference here). Our sport is incredibly high impact. The tissues that pad our joints must be able to repair and regenerate themselves so we can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
As you saw on The Complete Recovery Checklist you received in the first email from me, it is necessary to drink at least 2/3 of your body weight in ounces of water on training days. On non-training days you can get away with 1/2 of your body weight, but I would play it safe and drink a little more. So go ahead and whip out a calculator and crunch some numbers. How much water do you need? Now, whip out your reusable water bottle (don't have one? I HIGHLY suggest getting one) and figure out how many refills you need each day. Next - this is the tough part - commit to doing it, and do it. As athletes we all know that being successful means doing the things we don't want to do, even when it comes to drinking water.
electrolytes: take your hydration game to the next level
Drinking enough water is the first step to maintaining hydration levels. The next step is making sure that you are also replenishing electrolytes, especially on training days. When we sweat out our fluids, we're also sweating out salt. Have you ever noticed the grime left when sweat dries on your skin? That's salt.
It's so important to have enough electrolytes relative to the amount of fluid in your blood. If we have too much fluid and too few electrolytes we risk entering into a condition called Hyponatremia, which has serious consequences. The chances of this happening are very low, but it demonstrates how important electrolyte balance really is. Electrolytes are responsible for facilitating a lot of critical processes, like muscular contractions.
I suggest adding an electrolyte supplement (like Nuun or Skratch or even just sea salt!) to your water on training days. Be sure to follow the recommended dosages on the label.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR HYDRATION CHEATSHEET.