Sunday, October 18, 2009

About Dehydration

Kendo practice last weekend was a special one. Some people from Indianapolis stopped by to have a joint practice that made the dojo very packed and very active. While the practice was tough and devoid of air circulation, it wasn't the most brutal practice I've had. Unfortunately, I made some poor choices and really paid for it when I got home and for the rest of the weekend.

In the hours of the morning, I usually eat a good breakfast and hydrate myself pretty well as I know that, no matter who is teaching that day, I will be expected to work hard. But, this particular morning, I didn't drink as much water as I should have. And while I was able to survive on that, I also went across the street to have some beer with the dojo folk like I always do. Getting home was fine, though I was getting a little sleepy on the way. But when I got home, things took a turn for the worse. Going up the stairs was a task that was more daunting than usual. I live on the third floor in my complex, so that only multiplied the heavy work. At the top, my head was pounding very hard as I unlocked the door. As I got in, I stumbled around as I took my shoes and Kendo equipment that was strapped to my back. I just spent the rest of the night relaxing and tried to take a nap with very little success. There was also the strange feeling on my skin that was almost prickly and felt consistently cold (later found to have a fever that was 100.3 at the time). When the night was over, I took a Tylenol and went to bed to go to Iaido practice. The next morning, I felt very cold and stiff (even for that dojo), but was able to muster once I got moving, but had to sit out most of Kendo when I had difficulty breathing and generally not feeling well.

The story ends up in a good way, though. When I got home from the Kendo/Iaido practice of the following day, I finally put two and two together and thought about the possibility of dehydration. My symptoms kind of matched what I had when I was dehydrated the last time and what I saw on the Mayo Clinic website. Once I started drinking more water and rested some more, I started feeling better as the day went on. In my case, I was lucky, but it really could have turned out much worse. So, with this post, I would like to highlight the subject of dehydration, what to look for and what to do about it if you happen to fall under this condition.
When I got home, I had a pounding headache and felt pretty dizzy as I stumbled into my apartment complex to take off my shoes and heavy Kendo equipment on my back. On top of that, my skin felt kind of sensitive and still felt kind of chilly despite how warm I made my apartment with the central and space heater. The following afternoon, I took my temperature and it clocked in at 100.3 F.

Dehydration is the condition when your body doesn't have enough water to sustain itself. As most of us already know, the human body is 75% water and pretty sensitive to any changes to body condition that it might not be able to handle well. In normal conditions, the water allows your blood to flow easier to carry nutrients throughout the body, including the oxygen we all need to breathe. The body also gains some lubrication to allow for proper movement of body parts and satisfactory functioning of the organs. Once you pull water out of the equation, the body can't operate as efficiently and has to work harder to compensate for the lack of sufficient water.

There is a large list of symptoms to look for to see if you are dehydrated. They include:
  • dark urine
  • fever
  • less elastic skin
  • pounding headaches
  • dizziness
If you start to notice these symptoms, then it's a very good idea to stop what you are doing and try to get water as quickly as possible. There are some more serious symptoms like fainting and more severe occurances of the symptoms listed above where medical attention might be needed.

The good thing about dehydration is that it's very easy to prevent and treat. To prevent it, just drink enough liquid like water or sports drinks beforehand. During practice, listen to your body and take water breaks when allowed. Some dojos might not have water breaks depending on the type of practice and how long it is, so just prepare yourself well beforehand. For those that do have breaks or allow you to stop on your own from time to time, then TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!!! And if you're part of those dojos that goes out to drink after practice, it might not be a bad idea to have some water on hand to make up for the water you will lose from digesting the beer and alcohol and other normal body functions. If you get dehydrated, most cases could be treated by drinking more water and possibly taking a Tylenol to relieve the headaches. For more severe cases, a doctor might be needed where they can do a lot more in terms of treatment. There is some more information out there on the internet in terms of symptoms and treatment, like the Mayo Clinic where I got some of the information typed here.

The value of Kendo practices comes out with the intense mental and physical exercises performed during training. Despite all that, trying to tough it out for the benefit of saving face will only make you look ridiculous in the end as you're carried off with some sort of injury. Make sure you listen to your body and treat it well or you could end up being out for a long time, possibly forever through serious or mortal injury.


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