Recently a friend mentioned how he only runs when he wakes up very early in the morning or when he has a hangover. New to running, I imagined running with a hangover almost as bad as waterboarding. Turns out, it isn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and almost as good as the hair of the dog (just healthier and more foolproof).
Let’s get behind the science to explain what happens when you go for a run with a hangover. To begin with, there are four ways that your body gets rid of the byproducts of alcohol – via the liver, by sweating, by breathing and via the kidneys. Working out or running facilitates the breathing and sweating part of this, thanks to the aerobic nature of the activity. And of course, when your endorphins kick in after a while, your body will start feeling less encumbered by the night before. Ultimately, a run along with the right warmup and cooldown routine, helps you kick out the byproducts faster.
But there’s still some caution to be practiced before running after a long night. Always ensure you have consumed (a lot) of water at least an hour before run. Hangovers are terrible mostly because you are dehydrated, and you do not want to be running/working out when your body is craving water. Feed it that liquid and wait for your muscles to drink it and get supple.
Do not push yourself into speed intervals or hill sprints. You can do that on a day when you haven’t hit the sauce. A light run should be the order of the day, followed by gentle workouts to stretch and cooldown. You may have thought you could Ironman when drinking up, but you are in no position to even run a 5K without discomfort. Do that when you don’t have a sledgehammer in your cranium.
Indulge in some good ol’ OJ. Orange juice is very refreshing, full of vitamin C and essential salts that will help you hydrate better. But canned/processed juice will give you an extra dose of sugar, and should only be reserved as a last resort. Try to press fresh juice out of the fruit for natural hydration and replenishment of sugar. If you do work out on a hangover, and aren’t properly hydrated, your symptoms will actually worsen.
You won’t feel like the best version of yourself after a hangover run, but you’ll definitely not feel like what you did before it. The adrenaline pumps you up, and you generally feel like you can take on the day. The release of endorphins, combined with fresh air, boosts mood immensely, and helps you focus back on the tasks ahead. Bonus: Your body is also rid of the toxins because of the endorphins.
Remember a light snack – preferably a toast – before the run will also do you a world of good. The excessive liquid sloshing in your tummy needs to be soaked up and ejected. Bread works well for this, along with water to cleanse the leftover alcohol.
And after you finish the run, don’t forget to hit the shower to release some of the tension in your neck and shoulder areas. These are very sore after a night hitting the bottle, and you will need to gently massage them to get that tension out. If you are showering before the run, do some gentle rotations under the hot shower to really get warmth in the deep tissue.