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Big Dam Happy Endings

John Knowles and Natasha Green at Big Dam Run

There are endless reasons to run, and we’ve just added “finding your soulmate” to that list.

Or should we say “sole mate”? 

No...let’s not. 

All puns aside, running provides numerous benefits, from improved physical health, to stress management, to better sleep. On top of that, it’s an activity you can do from almost anywhere with essentially no equipment or gear (besides shoes, of course), so it’s incredibly accessible. 

But one thing people normally don’t consider when it comes to running is the community it builds—the people you meet and the bonds you form through casual jogs and high-profile races alike.

When John Knowles approached the starting line of the Big Dam Run 5K in 2017, the Nevada desert heat provoking pre-race sweat, he had no clue that in 3.1 miles, he would not only relish crossing the finish in all his dehydrated glory—but he would also find his wife-to-be.

John met Natasha in the moments before the gun went off, when the two were claiming their blaze-orange race-day T’s. Their brief intro segued into the run, and even as the dry heat gave way to parched lips and whimpering lungs, the two ran in tandem—seemingly unbothered by the late-spring swelter and enjoying one another’s conversation and company.

No one had a clue that love would blossom on the eve of one of the largest Magento conferences in the United States—or that a little desert race would mark the beginning of a relationship that would lead to a proposal two years later (and a wedding three years later!). 

It just goes to show what happens when you pair the inherent connection among the Magento community with the unmatched power of running.

Big Dam Run 2020 takes place on Sunday, March 29! Sign up today and prepare yourself for a festive run with some pretty cool people—and who knows? Maybe you’ll even meet “the one.”

Strength Training for Distance Runners

Within the running community, there have always been misconceptions and concerns when it comes to strength training and weightlifting. Many people fear that hitting the gym will cause them to gain “too much” muscle or add extra body weight that can end up negatively impacting their race times. Even Arthur Lydiard, the legendary coach who trained athletes in the ‘50s and ‘60s, has firmly stated that runners don’t need to do any strength training in order to reach their performance goals.

However, research has proven that strength and conditioning programs can be incredibly worthwhile for new runners and seasoned marathoners alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Benefits of Weight Training

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can be “a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.” The Mayo Clinic also stresses the fact that it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time to begin seeing the positive effects of weightlifting; people can begin noticing changes with just 2 or 3 half-hour training sessions per week. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Increased lean muscle mass.
  • Reduced body fat. 
  • Better muscle coordination. 
  • Reduced chance of injury. 
  • Improved bone density.
  • Easier (and more enjoyable) runs. 

Recommended Types of Strength Training 

Runners concerned about putting on extra weight or developing “bulky” muscles have no reason to worry. There are a number of ways to tone your muscles, increase endurance, and boost running performance while maintaining a lean figure. A few common types of strength training options to consider include:

  • Circuit training. A circuit routine is a surefire way to get your heartrate up, benefit your cardiovascular system, and keep your workouts interesting. This type of training includes brief, high-intensity exercises with short rests between each set.
  • Traditional weightlifting. Traditional weightlifting has been shown to improve running economy, coordination, and anaerobic performance, making it a beneficial routine for sprinters. However, runners should focus on moving moderate amounts of weight instead of trying to pile on the pounds.
  • Plyometrics. Also known as “explosive training,” this type of exercise has been proven to improve running performance at 5K. As the name suggests, plyometrics involves several quick bursts of movements. Jumping jacks, squat jumps, and box jumps are common elements in this type of workout. 

Suggested Workouts

Not sure where to start? Here a few simple exercises that are specifically recommended for runners of all ability levels:

Best of all, these exercises require no special equipment and can be completed whenever you have a few extra moments in your day. Just take care to not push yourself too hard right away!

Pre-Race Fuel for Runners

Whether you’re prepping for your first 5K race or your first marathon, getting proper nutrition should be one of the top priorities in your training regimen. After months of workouts and early morning runs, taking some time to create a great meal plan before race day will ensure that all your hard work will pay off. To help you get a better idea of which foods you should enjoy (and avoid), here are a few expert tips on how to choose nutrient-dense foods before, during, and after your race. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Hours Before Race Day

Even if you’re relatively new to running, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “carb-loading.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you should eat an enormous pasta dinner the night before your race and call it good. Treating yourself to such a heavy meal will likely cause you to wake up feeling bloated, uncomfortable, or even nauseous; in other words, definitely not a great way to start a race! 

Instead of “carb-loading” in one big meal, nutritionists advise getting carbohydrates from a variety of foods over a few days. You can begin adding more carbohydrates to your diet up to three days before your race to slowly build up your glycogen reserves and avoid “hitting the wall” on race day. Add one of these foods to each of your meals to boost your carb intake gradually:

  • Rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or pasta.
  • Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
  • Whole grain bread or tortillas.
  • Yogurt with granola.
  • Juice or sports drinks
  • Fruits and vegetables (just be aware of fiber content!).

3-4 Hours Before Your Run

The morning of race day should include a nutritious breakfast that’s low in fat, low in fiber, and high in carbohydrates. Avoid eating processed meats, such as bacon or sausage, and stay away from heavy foods like donuts and pastries until after your race. Foods like these can weigh you down and make you feel lethargic since your body has to work harder to digest fatty foods. Instead, opt for simple foods you’re familiar with, such as:

  • Toast or bagel with peanut butter.
  • Banana and a granola bar.
  • Oatmeal or low-fiber 
  • Eggs or yogurt.

During the Race

“If your race takes more than one hour, you’ll need to drink during it,” says Master of Human Nutrition and triathlete Kaisa Sali. She recommends taking small sips of water every 15-20 minutes, or at each aid station, in order to avoid dehydration. If you’ll be running a half or full marathon, Sali says it’s a good idea to take in anywhere from 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, depending on the individual’s weight. These can be taken in by gels, sports drinks, bananas, or sports bars.

Post-Race

After you’ve crossed the finish line, it’s wise to grab a sports drink to help you replace fluid, proteins, and carbs. Snacks like recovery bars, milkshakes, smoothies, cold cereal, and chicken sandwiches are a few great options that can boost your energy and begin repairing damaged muscle tissues. Then, you can feel free to indulge in your favorite meal—you deserve it!

Balanced Nutrition for Runners

If you frequently work out, you might have heard the saying, “Healthy bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.” Even if you’re a highly dedicated runner, you simply won’t be able to perform at your best if you don’t prioritize nutrition. You’re more likely to suffer from fatigue and uncomfortable muscle cramps, or you may even require longer recovery periods between workouts. 

If you think your diet has some room for improvement, this brief guide can help you create a balanced plan that won’t leave you feeling undernourished or overstuffed (while we dispel a few common nutrition myths). Here’s what you need to know:

Understand Your Calorie Needs

No matter whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight, it’s wise to know how many calories your body requires to keep you performing at your best. Runners often take their Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) into account to make sure they aren’t undereating. You can use a TDEE calculator to determine how many calories you need everyday based on your age, weight, height, activity level, and body fat percentage.

If you just want to know how many calories you burn during a workout, you can input your current weight, running pace, and duration of your workout into this handy calculator here. Just keep in mind that your caloric output can vary slightly depending on weather conditions, level of incline, gender, and other factors.

Keep Your Diet Interesting

If you find yourself throwing the same 12 items into your cart every time you go grocery shopping, you’re definitely not alone. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut when planning and preparing foods to fuel your workouts. Even if you always get “healthy” ingredients, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In fact, depriving yourself of your favorite foods might even make cravings worse!

If you need some motivation to switch things up, try keeping a food journal for a week. This simple exercise can help you recognize where you need to make changes in your daily life. For instance, if you struggle to avoid high-calorie snacks at night, you might need to add more protein to your dinner or make healthier snacks ahead of time to avoid polishing off an entire bag of chips!

Add These Foods to Your List

If you’re getting tired of your current meal plan, consider picking up some of these superfoods suggested by Runner’s World:

 

  • Almonds. A small handful of almonds contains plenty of vitamin E, and they can decrease LDL cholesterol. 
  • Eggs. One egg can provide 10% of your daily protein needs and 30% of your vitamin K needs.
  • Sweet potatoes. Although one potato is a mere 100 calories, it packs in over 250% of the DV of vitamin A and contains good amounts of vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
  • Black beans. One cup of canned black beans will provide 30% of the DV for protein, and nearly 60% of your daily fiber and folate needs.
  • Dark chocolate. The antioxidants in dark chocolate can ease inflammation and have even been shown to improve heart health in some studies. Sweet!

Hydration Hacks for Runners

It doesn’t take long for new runners to find out that guzzling water right before a run makes for a rather uncomfortable workout. Side cramps and the feeling of water sloshing around in their stomachs are two common reasons why runners may also refuse to drink water during a long run—even to the point of dehydration.

However, it can be tricky to find the right balance of water intake for runners at all levels. It may take some trial and error before you discover a system that works best for your needs and running habits. That being said, there are a few basic hydration tips that any individual could benefit from. According to experts, these are some of the best strategies for avoiding dehydration and overhydration to help you perform at your best:

Focus On Everyday Water Intake

Sports nutritionist Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, reports that nearly 50% of regular exercisers begin their workouts in the early stages of dehydration. “Your priority should be staying on top of daily hydration," Ryan recommends. “If you hydrate properly, you won't need to worry as much about becoming dehydrated during a typical moderate run." This means that you need to be drinking adequate amounts of water everyday; not just days you work out. The old guideline of “8 glasses of water per day” is a good rule of thumb.

Take a “Sweat Test”

If you want to ensure you’re taking in enough water during a long run, USAT Level I Triathlon coach Chrissy Carroll, R.D. says that you can simply weigh yourself before and after a workout. “If you've only lost 1-2% of your body weight, you’re in the hydration sweet spot,” Carroll says. “If you've lost more than 2-3% of your body weight, try hydrating a little more during your long runs.” A good standard practice is to drink 0.4 to 0.8 liters of water in the first hour of a run. This equates to a few sips of water every 15-20 minutes. 

Carry Water—Or Get Creative With Your Route

REI Outdoor School Instructors Julia Zuniga and Cory Rand are all too familiar with common concerns and complaints when it comes to staying hydrated. They both recommend that runners should wear a waist belt or hydration vest during strenuous workouts, and that people should set a timer to go off every 20 minutes so they remember to drink. 

However, they also acknowledge that carrying water can weigh people down when they’re trying to improve their speed. Their solution? “Plan a route that will take you by a water fountain where you can drink or refill a bottle,” Zuniga and Rand respond. They also suggest that you can use your car as an “aid station” by planning your run in loops around the vehicle. You can stop at your car to drink water, grab a quick snack, or whatever else you need to keep going.

Copyright © 2019 Big Dam Run organized by Wagento. All rights reserved.