Pass the salt is a phrase I have not said in years. A few years ago I weighed 35 pounds more than I do today and when I decided to get healthy and begin to rid myself of processed foods I threw salt, or really, sodium into that garbage can as well. I knew that there was so much sodium in the packaged foods and the fast food ‘burgers’ I was eating and so my initial reaction was I did not need sodium at all and began to cook without salt. I was having a blast in that I was tasting the ingredients and not the sodium as I was cooking. I felt the weight coming off and the energy going up so I never thought about adding salt to my food and it has just not been a part of my diet.
That is until Wednesday August 8th came. That morning I went out and ran for 2 hour and 15 minutes. I covered 14.5 miles that morning at a pace of 9:17/mile. It was an aerobic run where I was not pushing the pace at all and ran comfortably as seen by my average Heart Rate of 151 bpm. This was a great morning run but it was very humid. I had taken a handheld with me that I could drink from every 15 minutes and provide my body what had been typical for me. Approximately 250 calories with nearly 1400mg of electrolytes. Perfect blend and never before any issues, that is until I went swimming that afternoon.
My swim set that afternoon was to be 3900 yards with a 1000y set at threshold pace followed by 10×100 descending. It was during the 1000 yard set that my legs started to feel a bit tight. Then in the middle of the 10×100 the cramps hit and they hit hard. I have swam through cramps before and they typically go away, but this time they persisted. At first so did I as I was not giving into the cramps. I figured that if I was in the middle of Tempe Town Lake and needed to swim through cramps I would need to know how to do it. I kept on going and then the calf cramps found their way into my toes and that is when I had to call it quits. The cramps hurt so bad that I could barely stand and was thankful to be in the pool and not the lake.
Yesterday I was at my chiropractor getting ART and other painful work done and we started chatting about my training. I told him about this situation and he said immediately to me: You need to put salt on your food since you are not eating processed or fast food. He followed that up with the fact that I need to add calcium and magnesium supplements to my diet.
I did a bit of research on leg cramps while swimming and the first item that popped up was dehydration. With dehydration comes a shortage of electrolytes and being as I had run 2h15m earlier that day it began to make sense. The other item that caused cramps during swimming is plantar flexing. The more I thought about it the more it made sense that it was purely dehydration. I typically drink 1.5 gallons of liquids per day and on this day I just did not replace all the calories and electrolytes that I lost during that run.
With all this being said I am now going to add a bit of salt to my meals as I am cooking, and especially this week since this is taper week with a 70.3 coming up on Sunday. The lesson here is to not just know your body but to know what you are putting your body through. Every day and every run is not the same. There are days that are hotter and more humid that others. As I have said before recovery is the key to building up your speed because you get the proper recovery. I did not recover well enough between the run and the swim and I paid for it.
You can also read this post that I did back on March 22, 2011.