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I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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Estimating your sweat rate can be a useful exercise when you’re trying to figure out how much and what you need to drink (in terms of fluids and electrolytes) during training and events. But sweat rate varies considerably from person to person, and it can also vary quite a lot for any given individual: Things like how hard you’re working; the ambient temperature and humidity; your clothing choices; genetics and heat acclimation status all play a role in determining how fast and how much your body perspires.

Sweat rate measurement is something that should ideally be done on a number of occasions and in a range of conditions if you want the results to help you in specific contexts, like planning your hydration needs for an upcoming race. Here’s a guide for collecting the data you need to get a reasonably accurate idea of your sweat rate. And then some ideas for what to do with the data once you have it.

Equipment you’ll need to calculate your sweat rate

An accurate set of weighing scales
A dry towel
Possibly a small, accurate kitchen scale to weigh your water bottles (if you’re planning to drink during the sessions while you’re measuring your sweat rate).

How to calculate your sweat rate

Adapted from Asker Jeukendrup’s excellent mysportscience

1. Go for a pee and then record your body weight, ideally with no clothes on (that’s A).

2. Perform your session (or event) and record exactly how much you drank. This is easy if you drink from a single bottle or two; simply weigh your bottles before you ride (that’s X) and after (that’s Y) and record the difference (that’s Z). 1 gram = 1 millilitre.*

*Make sure all units are in kg or liters

3. After exercise, towel yourself dry and then record your weight (that’s B). Again no clothes on is best, as your clothes will hold some sweat.

4. Now subtract your post-exercise weight (B) from your pre-exercise weight (A) to get the weight you lost during the session.

Weight lost (C) = A-B

5. Also subtract the weight of the bottle(s) before (X) and after (Y) to obtain the amount you consumed (Z).

Volume consumed (Z) = X-Y

6. You can now calculate your sweat rate…

(C+Z) / time.

Note: It’s best to try not to pee during these sessions, as this can skew the results. However if you do have to go, it’s not a bad estimate to assume a fluid loss of ~0.3l (300ml) per bathroom stop. You then just need to subtract 300ml (0.3kg) from your estimated sweat rate at the end.

I’d generally recommend trying to limit data collection to sessions lasting ~45 minutes to 2 hours. This is because anything shorter than that can be prone to errors in the equation, and anything longer can start to be skewed by things like fuel utilization (you inevitably burn glycogen during exercise, and this can affect your body weight results).

To make analysis really easy, you can collect all of the data into this spreadsheet along with some relevant notes about your session (mode of exercise, duration in minutes rough intensity and temperature, whether it was outside or inside etc). The sheet will then spit out a % bodyweight loss figure for that workout and also an estimate of your sweat rate expressed in liters per hour. You can record numerous sessions in the sheet to help you to get a handle on what kind of sweat losses you see for different sports, in different weather conditions and at different intensities.

If you test enough, you’ll become very good at ‘guesstimating’ your sweat rate in the future; a dinner party trick of dubious value, if nothing else! Plus, if you’ve also had a sweat test (to find out your sweat sodium concentration—i.e. how much sodium you lose in your sweat— you can add that data in and it will estimate your hourly and total sodium loss numbers too.

Is my sweat rate normal?

What constitutes a low, moderate or high sweat rate can be tricky, as there are a lot of variables involved. One recent study helpfully looked at a range of sweat rate data collected in a variety of sports. The graph below shows something of a trend in the data from ~500 athletes:

The range of sweat rates in the data was about 0.5 liters per hour to just over 2.5L/hr (save for a few major outliers up at 4-6L/hr!); very similar to the numbers we’ve seen at Precision Hydration in the testing we’ve done with athletes over the years. Another study done at the 2003 Hawaii Ironman in Kona also came up with a very similar range of sweat rates.

Based on this data and experience, as a rule of thumb I’d be inclined to say that anything around 1-1.5L/hr is a ‘normal’/moderate sweat rate (for a healthy adult) during prolonged exercise of a reasonable intensity. Anything much less than 1L/hr would be on the low side and anything above 2L/hr should be considered high. If you’re losing over 2.5L/hr, then you definitely have a very high sweat rate.

While we’ve seen very high sweat rates (upwards of 3L/hr) in a handful of athletes, it tends to be in very, very big guys (men do tend to have higher sweat rates than women), and/or those working incredibly hard in oppressively hot and humid conditions.

Also bear in mind that body weight and size factor into all this to a degree, so if you’re a very, very tiny female distance runner but you’re sweating at 1.5L/hr, that might be considered a high or even very high sweat rate for you personally. On the flip side, the same number might be deemed quite low for a 6ft 11in, 330 pound offensive lineman in the NFL. But I’m sure you get the general idea.

What to do (and not do) with the data

Once you’ve collected a reasonable amount of sweat rate data, the obvious question is: What can you do with the numbers? Again, the answer is not as straightforward as most of us would like it to be.

Many athletes, for example, will find that they sweat at a rate of 1L/hr when running hard, and extrapolate that they need to drink 1L/hr when running (i.e. to replace 100% of their losses). There’s a nice simplicity to the concept of ‘1 out = 1 in,’ and for a long time it was assumed that 100% sweat loss replacement during exercise was likely to deliver an optimal performance. However time and research have actually shown that hydration is far more complex.

For one thing, 100% replacement often requires drinking beyond the body’s natural thirst instincts, which can be very dangerous. It carries the risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels resulting in some nasty symptoms), and this alone is enough to strongly discourage 100 percent fluid replacement as the ideal. So, what percentage of your losses should you aim to replace?

The answer might be quite a bit lower than you think. You can actually tolerate quite a bit of dehydration (as defined by body weight loss) during training and competition—assuming you start well-hydrated. The exact amount is highly individual and most likely varies a bit day-to-day as well. This blog on how much dehydration you can tolerate is well worth a read, to help get your head around how much fluid you might want to be replacing.

It’s also not productive to try to use sweat rate data to try to create a pre-determined, inflexible strategy for fluid and electrolyte replacement. Instead, measuring your sweat rate should be about getting a decent ‘ballpark’ figure for how much sweat (and sodium if you know your sweat composition) you’ll likely lose over a period of time, at a certain intensity and in a particular set of environmental conditions.

If you need some help with putting a hydration plan together to test in training, take our free online Sweat Test. If you take it after getting some sweat rate data you’ll be well on your way to answering all your questions on sweat rate with more confidence and accuracy.

The post How to Calculate Your Sweat Rate appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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“Now what?”

Coaches in moderate- to long-term relationships with their athletes will identify this sentiment immediately. You’ve been in contact with your athlete on a regular, and in some cases nearly daily basis, as you’ve pushed, prodded, and cajoled her into their finest effort at the “A” race.

Let’s say it’s the local IRONMAN 70.3 that your athlete has, after two years of guidance, successfully conquered. It’s been a long haul to say the least, but both of you kept a positive attitude (well, most of the time anyway), and she relied on your expertise throughout the journey.

But, no sooner has she crossed the line, received her finisher’s medal, and reveled in a big hug from her family than she’s asked by a fellow finisher, “So, you gonna do another one?” With hardly enough time passed for her quads to stiffen from the day’s effort, she’s being pestered about doing it again. It’s then she realizes she hasn’t given much thought to her next step or even if there should be one.  

Enter her coach.

Find an outlet

You’ve faced this situation before and know that there might be an unexpected sense of loss once the absolute structure of long-course training fades. A void in life where the carrot of daily training and the essence of the endurance lifestyle is now in the rearview mirror. Thus, perhaps she does contemplate, “Now what?”

After profiling many entrants in the IRONMAN World Championship over the years, I understand that if the post-race period is addressed and planned for pre-race, then, as the Beatles so famously sang, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on.”

For the grizzled veteran, this event is merely a subway stop along the way and the training life indeed does go on. For the rest of us, though, the fairly rigid structure of big-time triathlon training may need to be resumed to restore life’s balance.

No major life decisions, like putting money down for a follow-up 70.3 for instance, need be made, however. As the recovery process begins, having a short competitive effort (where they can sport that recently earned 70.3 finisher’s shirt as an added bonus) as a part of the overall training plan can serve the racer well.

Some would say — and I’d agree — that this can all be worked out weeks, if not months, in advance. It’s a common story I hear that vacations get postponed, like so many other things, until after the race, and a trip following a major event might be a great place to fit in a smaller competition.

It’s important to get those competitive juices flowing again and check that yearning need to be stressed, in a good way. Maybe help your athlete find a 5K run or mile swim at their vacation destination. How about a fun run with one of the kids? Tennis or horseshoes, anyone? In any case, the time to allow for physical healing, physiological recovery (financial healing, too, maybe), and psychological recovery to run its course is important.

Don’t jump back in too quickly

While in Kona, I was out for a Sunday ride before flying home. In fact, the IRONMAN World Championship had just concluded at midnight and the day was in the pre-dawn, early morning hours on Sunday. I passed two gentlemen running on famed Ali’i Drive, and, to my surprise, they both had IRONMAN wrist bands on from the race that had concluded less than 6 hours previously!  

Now I’m a bit of a curious person so I first confirmed that, yes, they were both in the race, then asked how they were already running at such a quick pace. “It’s never too early to begin training for your next event,” I was told.

I’m not sure they would get universal agreement with that opinion. Many, including this author, think we need time after racing to bask in the glow of athletic success or restore lost athletic confidence that comes with defeat. You, as coach, play a large role in helping your athlete accomplish just that.

The post What Coaches Should Do To Prevent Athlete Post-Race Doldrums appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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As part of the partnership between the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) and TrainingPeaks, we’ll be bringing you twice-monthly episodes of the new “Triathlon Training Explained” show, where hosts and former pro triathletes Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell answer your triathlon training questions with the help of TrainingPeaks software, coaches and industry experts from around the world.

Whether you had the race of your life, or one that you’d rather forget ever happened, taking some time to do a post-race analysis is key for continuing top performance or working toward reaching your racing goals.

In this episode of GTN’s Triathlon Training Explained they explain how to do a post-race analysis and why looking at variables within and outside of race day is important for understanding the entire picture of your performance.

Threlfall sits down with Coach Phil Mosley to do a post-race file analysis in TrainingPeaks of one of his own recent IRONMAN 70.3s, and go over what TrainingPeaks metrics to look at and why.

They also discuss why regular benchmark testing is vital to understanding what your race day expectations should be, and why comparing yourself purely to your peers can be very misleading and counterproductive.

See the full episode below:

Triathletes in the know like GTN’s Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell use TrainingPeaks to help plan, track and analyze their training. Dial-in your triathlon training with a free 14-day Premium Trial today!

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A fateful 15 weeks ago, I put my powerful, 78-pound dog on a leash, put the leash on my wrist and jumped on my bike to ride about a block to the trailhead. Everything was going fine until a squirrel bolted across the road, and my dog applied all four legs of sprint. With a quick jack of the handlebars I was flying through the air, with the leash still wrapped around my wrist. I landed directly on my elbow and proceeded to flip into a snowbank.

Despite visiting a doctor two days after my fall, the x-ray looked fine and I did not receive an MRI until 3.5 weeks later. I could do almost everything except swim—the action of freestyle produced a horrible sharp pain and weakness down my arm. A visit to my PT and an MRI confirmed our worst suspicions, and I was diagnosed with a full thickness (torn from the bone) tear in the supraspinatus, a muscle in the rotator cuff of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, which keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are common in people of all ages and across a large range of athletes. And while tendonitis and strains can generally be treated non-surgically, tears caused by trauma or overuse have a large chance of degenerating without surgery, especially in athletes who continue to use the shoulder.

After the MRI I was quickly scheduled for surgery with a shoulder specialist. It is recommended that surgery after a traumatic tear should be done as soon as possible. Waiting means an increase in the likelihood that the torn tendon will not be able to form scar tissue that not only helps it heal back to the bone but also allows it to function normally after rehabilitation.

Fortunately, 94% of individuals are happy with the results of rotator cuff surgery, although the larger the tear both the longer and more challenging the recovery and the more likely the results will not be as good.

Surgery

The surgery requires anesthesia, and about an hour of operating time. The doctor placed a small screw into the top of my humerus and then did two small stitches with polyethylene, which he said was pretty much impossible to tear. I was fortunate that the rest of my shoulder complex was in good condition, and that I went into surgery with full mobility.

Still, as anyone who has experienced it will tell you, the shoulder is the worst joint to cope with post surgery. At my pre-op appointment I was told to take narcotics the moment I felt any tingling or hint of pain, and the NP told me matter of factly, “this is the most painful shoulder operation.” I’m happy to say that ultimately no narcotics were needed, so advice here, listen to your own body!

I emerged from surgery with a pillow sling and directions to wear it 24/7 unless showering. I was allowed to use my body to swing my arm around, but I was directed not to actively use it or lift it. I could use the lower part of my arm only.

Recovery and Return to Sport

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery is listed as 6 months to a year, and if you’re an athlete, this can feel like an insurmountable amount of time. It is recommended that overhead athletes (anyone who uses the arm above 90 degrees- swimmers, tennis, lacrosse, baseball players…) do not return to their sport until they experience zero pain with rest of activity, have full strength in muscles across the affected joint, and have pain free shoulder range of motion.

In the first 5 weeks, I ran ‘gently’ and rode my trainer, but still emerged with what my surgeon called an ‘extremely stiff’ shoulder and was bumped immediately to intensive PT and stretching to return my mobility. One hands-on visit with my PT and I experienced relief I had not in 7 weeks. With mobility work, and gradual strengthening, I was on my way to a slow return to the shoulder I once had.

Another avenue to consider for recovery is non-western medicine. I was able to have time with Amber Myerowitz, an acupuncturist who performed both Electro-Acupuncture and Cupping on my back. She told me, “Both cupping therapy and acupuncture have similar goals in that they aim to relieve pain by mobilizing blood flow to the injured area to promote the body’s natural self-healing process.” A number of athletes have reported their own stories of acupuncture and cupping working to help them loosen and recover.

Prevention

“Good posture in the shoulder blades, stretching, and some very simple strengthening exercises will help prevent 99 percent of all shoulder problems you could have,” says orthopaedic surgeon Grant Garrigues. Consider your technique in overhead sports such as swimming. Don’t let tight shoulders from an aero bike position become the norm. Simple stretches such as wall angels, lying with a foam roller perpendicular to the spine and arms outstretched, and yoga shoulder openers are all good daily practices.

Something as simple as improper hand position in water entry during freestyle swimming, can put a repetitive stress on the shoulder that may result in damage.

Perhaps what stood out to me loudly here is that many rotator cuff injuries occur over time, and while youth may seem everlasting, the 60+ generation is paying for years of shoulder abuse. “About 50 percent of people over the age of 60 will have one.”

Take care of your shoulders! You may not recognize the work they are doing and the complexity of their performance until you are forced to confront an injury. While some accidental trauma is an unfortunate consequence of being an athlete, long term wear and tear and abuse can be minimized by proper stretching, strengthening and attention.

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When it comes to understanding how to hydrate properly you need to consider two things: how much you’re sweating (i.e. your sweat rate—usually measured in ml per hour); and how much salt you’re losing in that sweat (your sweat concentration. i.e. how salty your sweat is). Understanding both of these gives you an overall appreciation of your net fluid and sodium losses over a given period of time. This enables you to work out a sensible personalized hydration plan.

Your sweat rate varies a lot based on the temperature, how hard you’re working and a number of other factors. We’ve seen up to a 5 or 6 fold difference in sweat rates between athletes. Sweat concentration is something fewer athletes have a solid grasp on. It’s all about how much electrolyte (specifically, sodium) you lose in your sweat, and is generally a lot more stable than your sweat rate (it’s actually largely genetically determined).

At Precision Hydration, we’ve tested athletes who lose less than 200mg of sodium per litre (32oz) of sweat and we’ve also seen athletes losing well over 2,300mg per liter! Our data suggests the average athlete loses around 950mg/l, which tallies with other large scale studies. But how do you know how much sodium you’re losing in your sweat? Getting your sweat tested is the easiest and most accurate way, but it is possible to estimate your losses and use this to optimize your hydration strategy. In fact, recent research (which we contributed to) found a strong correlation between what how much sodium athletes’ think they lose in their sweat and their actual sweat sodium concentration.

That’s why why one of the questions we ask in our free Online Sweat Test is “How much salt do you think you lose in your sweat?” and why the online test is a very viable alternative for athletes trying to figure out if they might benefit from replacing more sodium using sports drinks and supplements. Still, people often ask for help with answering the question. So here are some signs to look out for that suggest that you may be a “salty sweater.”

You get salty marks on your kit/skin.

If you tend to get white, salty stains on your skin or clothing after training sessions or races, you might have saltier than average sweat.

Remember that the drier the air, the faster your sweat will evaporate, which often results in more visible salt marks than in more humid conditions. (I see a lot more salt residue on my kit when I go running in Arizona than in Florida, for example). Also bear in mind that salt residue will be more visible on darker kit, so factor that into your observations. Oh, and ignore salt residue found on your kit after a triathlon where the swim was in the sea, for obvious reasons!

If you have a very high sweat rate, it has to be said that the white marks might be a result of the sheer volume of sweat rather than because you necessarily have very salty sweat. But even if that’s the case, the presence of the salt residue suggests that your net losses might be on the high side and that you might benefit from a higher sodium intake.

Your sweat tastes salty and/or stings your eyes (or cuts/grazes).

Very salty sweat often stings your eyes and/or creates a burning sensation if it runs into cuts or grazes on your skin. This is why I rarely run without a cap or visor (with a built in sweat band) in the summer! As obvious as it may be (and as gross as it might sound) if you lick your arm when you’ve been sweating a lot and it tastes really salty, this can be another sign that you’re losing a lot of salt.

And if you’ve ever had a dog take a keen interest in licking your legs after a long hot run or bike ride, it’s probably because they’re enjoying the salty taste, not just because they really, really like you. (sorry!)

You feel faint or suffer head rushes when standing up quickly after exercise.

This is another tell-tale sign that your sodium and fluid losses could be on the high side.

When you lose a lot of salt and fluid (through your sweat), your blood volume/pressure drops. This makes it harder for your heart to get enough blood to your brain when you’re standing. Blood pools in your legs and not enough oxygen reaches your brain for a short period of time, causing the head rush or feeling of faintness. The medical term for this is orthostatic hypotension (literally ‘low blood pressure’).

This used to happen to me regularly when I was in full time training, especially during the Summer, and losing a lot of sweat and salt can make athletes more susceptible.

You suffer from muscle cramps during/after long periods of sweating.

There’s a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that high sweat sodium losses can contribute to muscle cramping during and after exercise. If you’re someone who cramps up regularly during/after long endurance events, then this might be a sign that you’re losing a lot of salt (or not replacing what you’re losing effectively enough).

You often feel terrible after exercising in the heat.

If you often underperform or feel like crap after working out for a long time in hot conditions (and by that I mean more so than those around you, or more than you do after similar exertions in cooler conditions) then your net sodium losses might be on the higher side.

This is especially true if…

You crave salty foods during and after exercise.

For us humans, the craving for salt is a deeply hardwired physiological trait.

In fact, in terms of basic human drives, it’s up there with thirst when you’re low on body water, the desire to sleep when you’re tired and to get jiggy when choosing a mate.

That’s because taking in sodium is crucial if your body is to preserve homeostasis (a balanced state), and in our evolutionary past, salt was not as freely available as it is today. So, we have a deep-rooted craving to replace lost salt when our levels get low.

One study demonstrated that fact very neatly. Researchers offered people different soups and recorded which they ate more of when they’d been sweating on an exercise bike. People consistently showed an unconscious preference for saltier soup after they’d been sweating, which the researchers took to back up the idea that our bodies are very good at correcting salt deficiencies through dietary intake when needed.

As a logical extension then, if you lose a very large amount of sodium in your sweat when exercising, you’re likely to exhibit a strong preference for salty foods in order to replace your losses. In other words, if you find yourself attracted to the salt shaker when you’ve been training a lot, this might be another sign that your body is trying to make up for a sodium deficit.

What can you do if you are a salty sweater?

If this article describes your experiences to a tee (at least 5 apply to you) then it’s highly likely that you’re losing a large amount of salt in your sweat (and/or a lot of sweat period!). If that’s the case, trying a more aggressive sodium replacement strategy might be a very good idea indeed. Try upping your sodium intake before, during and after periods of prolonged sweating. You can do this by adding more salt to your food / eating saltier foods or by reaching for an electrolyte supplement or sports drink. Keep in mind that of the most famous supplements don’t contain enough sodium to replace what the average person is losing, let alone the losses of a salty sweater. Look out for the stronger electrolyte drinks containing at least 1,000mg of sodium per litre (32oz).

You can also take our free Online Sweat Test to get some initial personalized hydration advice, including recommendations on what level of sodium supplementation might be right for you. You can use this to start a bit of your own trial-and-error testing in training to see whether it helps and refine from there.

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