OK… I think this post is going to gross a few folks out, so fair warning has now been made to self-censor if you have a week stomach! And for those of you with a perverse sens of curiosity, I just caught your attention in a single sentence! So the basic premise of this post is that I sweat. A lot. Way more than other people. At least seemingly so. And I need, for my own sake, to understand that a bit more.
The reality is, everyone sweats at a different rate. The idea that women “glow” and men sweat is BS. Everyone is different. And there’s seemingly little pattern to it. Understanding how much you sweat can be important. Obviously the act of sweating is important… it helps you to regulate your internal body temperature. But it also can affect your performance as an athlete. I think they say that a droop of 1% in hydration can affect performance by as much as 6%. That’s a lot! And, beyond dehydration there’s also the concern of allowing your electrolytes to get imbalanced… too much salt or other electrolytes sweated out and not replaced can bring on cramping, disorientation, etc.
I’ve always been a big sweater (not the clothing, the wet kind). I can remember one year while racing in Peterborough, I had another racer ask me if I needed to some salt tablets. I wondered aloud why he was asking (while politely declining) and he told me to check my clothes after the race. My black tri jersey was essentially white on the back where all my sweat had been drying in the sun as I rode…. literally white. Powdery.
What has me thinking about sweating though is the fact that I seem to sweat more now than I used to. I took a year off from training more or less through 2011, so I’m wondering whether my body has changed somewhat in that time? Or whether it’s just me, not remembering how much I used to sweat? Either way… I would like to get a better sense of just how much I sweat. And what the composition of my sweat is — so I can build a plan for that for race day. Know just how much I need to consume in terms of liquids. And just how much electrolyte I need to replace in those liquids to ensure I don;t suffer from any the potential negative side-effects of an electrolyte imbalance.
The good news is that this is entirely possible. Both a “home grown” variety of test as well as a more scientific one is available to me! The home grown will only really answer the question of how much I sweat… and is simple. Weigh myself before a workout. Don’t drink anything (or know exactly how much I consume) and then weigh again after. The difference is what I sweated out.
The more scientific appraoch is available to me through the Univ of Guelph. A member of the Guelph Tri Club works there and runs a “sweat lab” (amongst other things). Through the lab one can get sweat tested in a variety of heat and humidity conditions, with not only the sweat rate, but the sweat composition being monitored. Much like the other fitness testing I have gone through, it’s interesting and potentially useful data if you choose to use it to help build your plan. But for the average athlete it may be “overkill”.Of course, there’s not much that’s “average” about an Iron distance race!
As far as committing to any sort of testing, I’m not convinced yet I need to. I think I’ll see how I do at the Leadman Tri in a couple weeks. Coming from “winter” (as mild as it was) to the high desert around Vegas will be a huge test of my abilities and my race plan. I will be nowhere near acclimatized to the heat. Nor the dryness of the desert. So, we’ll see how well I perform, and whether I feel any negative effects of what seems like an even more prolific sweating pattern. If I cramp, or otherwise suffer while out there, I will be thinking pretty hard about what kind of planning support I need for my races this summer.