How I Stopped Surfing the Web Long Enough to Run a 5K In Las Vegas

Introduction:

I’m going to be honest: I used to hate running. To me, the idea of a running 5K race (3.1 miles) in the middle of a scorching desert was best avoided like the plague. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably like how I used to be. I avoided running, or exercising in general, because I found it to be exhausting, boring, and redundant; I would rather surf the web or watch television than break a sweat running. As a result of my aversion to exercise, I was overweight and it became a health issue for me; I had developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My story wasn’t unique; obesity is a health problem for a most Americans.  Locally, Las Vegas is ranked the sixth fattest cities in Nation, according to Men’s Fitness. This growing problem is important for Americans because it can lead to medical conditions: such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. After training and running a 5K, I am proud to say that I am in shape and actually enjoy running.

You may be asking yourself, how could I now find something that I hated an enjoyable experience? Well, in all seriousness, I realized that running a 5K was enjoyable because the rewards of running far outweigh any of the difficulties, and pains, that are associated with it. It simply came down to me realizing that training for 30 minutes a day provided me with the obvious benefits of losing weight and getting in shape, but also because it became relaxing and motivational. So if you are how I used to be, averse to running, I’d strongly recommend that you train for and run a 5K: running for 30 minutes a day will change your life.

Running 3 miles may seem like a simple and easy way to exercise, but most people avoid running a 5K because it is so problematic. From personal experience, I found that there were three problems with running that built upon each one another: inexperience with running, boredom and lack of motivation issues, and the Las Vegas heat. These problems, however, can be overcome, and simply at that. The following steps explain how I overcame these three problems to successfully run a 5K. Just like the problems, the steps build upon one another in order to help you get out there and run your 5K. Steps one through four will help you adjust to your inexperience with running, from picking a race to the training you will do. Once you’re better at running, steps five and six will give you some interesting ways to make running more fun and avoid getting bored. Steps seven through nine will help you adapt to running in the Vegas heat. Finally, steps ten and eleven will provide some tips and advice for your race day and beyond.

 

Inexperience:

            For most of us, I believe that a major reason why we are afraid to exercise is because we are inexperienced at it. Personally, I would be discouraged to run because I would almost instantaneously run out of breath. How could I be expected to run 3.1 miles if I could not even run for 45 seconds straight? If you’re inexperienced as I was, then the following four steps will you develop your newfound experience in running.

 

Step 1: Pick a 5K Race: Committing to a race will provide you with an end goal!

  1. From big name races that draw hundreds to small local community races, 5Ks take place almost every weekend in Las Vegas. With races occurring every month, there are three key factors that you should use to find your ideal race: time until race day, the location, and the price to compete in the race.
    1. Time until race day: When deciding on a race, being realistic with your fitness level and goals are essential. I decided to run my first 5K about two weeks before race; it had to be the worst idea imaginable. Unless you’re a seasoned athlete, live in the gym, or a superhero, you will need to train for a 5K. For this reason, choosing a 5K that will provide you enough time to train is the most important factor. If you’re moderately fit, you might need just four or five weeks. If you’re a couch potato, like myself, then err on the side of six to ten weeks to train.
    2. The Location: As with real estate, an important factor is location, location, location. Choose your battlefield wisely as it can either make or break your race day performance. For your first 5K, make sure that the route is preferably flat, with zero elevation all the way through. Streets in Las Vegas are generally flat, so there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. If you’re location does contain a hill, or other elevation change, you should train accordingly on a similar elevation.
    3. The Price: “Wait, there’s a cost to run a 5k?” Most 5Ks are now run as fundraisers for various causes: multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, and autism to name a few. These races donate registration fees, ranging from $20-$35 dollars, to the fundraisers. If you’re a little light on cash, I’d recommend researching local running clubs, such as the Las Vegas Track Club, as they host bi-weekly races at local parks with fees ranging from $3-$15.

Step 2: Finding your baseline: Not everyone is a naturally runner; just like everything else, you have to start somewhere and build from it.

  1. During this step, you will find your baseline running speed, endurance and fitness levels. If you’re like most inexperienced runners, this step should be painful and exhausting, but it is essential.  To find your baseline, you will need to run a mock 5K, or 3.1 miles, as fast as you can. Plain and simple, just run. If it takes you a little longer than you expected to run, or you can’t complete the run, don’t fret. After finding your baseline, the next step is to find a training plan to help you set and meet your expectations.

Step 3: Finding the Right Plan: from books, personal trainers to Smartphone applications, training plans can be found almost anywhere.

  1. Using a training plan is an excellent way for you set targeted goals, such as time, distance, or pace and they allow you to gradually develop your running skills. A training plan will include a regime that you are expected to follow every week. The best of plans will feature simple running intervals, such as a 1 minute run and a 2 minute walk, and will gradually increase from there. You can find hundreds of training plans very easily by Googling it, although it is a little more difficult to find a great plan. A great training plan should reflect your fitness level, schedule, and goals. Once again, be realistic. You don’t want to use a plan designed to win an Olympic Medal. Personally, I think the easiest and best training plan is the 5K Runner iPhone App.
    1. There’s an App for That:

i.     Simply put, the best running App on the iPhone is 5K Runner. It’ a free and easy training app that provides a beginner regime for all fitness levels. Featuring a 3-run-per-week schedule, it prepares you to run the 5K in less than 35 minutes. I used this schedule to train and it comes with my highest recommendation. It’s extremely easy to start the plan; all you need to do is simply press “Run Now”. While you begin your run, the App will provide you with verbal cues when to begin and stop your intervals. To me, it’s the easiest training program because of those reasons.

Step 4: Train, Train, Train

  1. Now that you’ve found your training plan, all you need to do is follow it and train for the next six to eight weeks, plain and simple. Training normally takes about thirty minutes, but those will be the toughest and most difficult thirty minutes of your life. During this step, you will take your out of shape body and mold it in to a 5K running machine.  Over the next couple of weeks, you should see improvements in your overall health: you will lose weight, gain muscle definition, and see your running speed and distance increase. A great way to gauge your improvement and performance is through the use of another App: Runkeeper.
    1. Runkeeper is an superb app that collects data for numerous activities (from swimming to skiing) and by using the GPS technology, collects specific details about your run: total distance, average pace, route info, and even heart rate. Runkeeper can also serve as a personal trainer with built in verbal queues that motivate you to run. After your workout, Runkeeper will provide you with a detailed summary of your run, as a sort of report card, so you can better examine your run in greater detail. The App also allows you to post the details about your run to social networking sites.  Now your friends on Facebook can either like your running accomplishments or laugh at your horrible runs, either way you will be motivated to keep on running. This social ability will come in handy as you will most likely run into the second general problem of running during this step: boredom and lack of motivation.

 

Boredom and Motivation:

Trust me, running sucks. During your weeks of training, it will be a physically exhausting experience that hurts during and after your runs; side stiches (agonizing pain in your sides) and sores will become your enemy. As you train for your 5K, you may feel inclined to skip running sessions because they are boring and tedious or because you generally lazy and lack the proper motivation. During my training sessions, I found that by listening to music and running with a friend were ways to overcome these two problems.

Step 5: Fighting Boredom by Listening to Music:

  1. Just like traveling, you’ll find that running can be made less boring by listening to music during your run. In addition to using Apps, listening to music is another great advantage of running with a smartphone. When selecting your music, I’d strongly recommend that you listen to music that you find appealing and that has a really strong and upbeat tempo. It is an important step to consider because running to a song with an upbeat tone because it motivates you to keep up your pace when running. Honestly, I’ve found that running to a song with a slow beat, such as Somebody I Used to Know by Goyte relaxes me to the point where I begin to walk, instead of run. While an extremely upbeat song, such as Koyto by Skrillex, keeps me in the running mood with its dubstep beats.
  2. Another advantage of listening to music is because it is great way to pace your run. Since most songs are about three to four minutes long, you should be able to monitor your progress by seeing how many songs you have listened to. For instance, I created a 27-minute playlist so I could estimate and gauge my progress based on how many songs were played. Also, another advantage to music is that you can play a power song when you’ve hit a rut and need a boost of energy.

Step 6: Make it Social:

  1. Running sucks, there’s no doubt about it. After a really intensive training session, you may feel extremely demotivated to run again. Training with a friend is a great way to overcome any motivational issues you may be having. Living in Las Vegas, it should not come as a surprise that a great way to keep you and your partner motivated is to gamble. Whether it is losing money or being forced to do humiliating and humorous acts, get creative with the bets because the fear of losing should enough motivation.
    1. For me, running with a friend was sufficient motivation for me to stick to my training schedule. For my first 5K, a friend signed me up for a 5K that I was completely unprepared for. I attempted to train for the race, but with two-weeks notice, it was futile. The results of 5K were eye-opening, my friend managed to complete the three miles in less than 19 minutes while it took me fifty minutes. While my friend jogged the race with a breeze, I struggled painfully. Needless to say, I was the punch line of many jokes afterwards and even to this day. Humiliated and disgusted with my performance, I was motivated to do better, and I am proud to say that I have done better.

 

Beat the Heat: I dreaded running in Las Vegas was because of the heat. With night temperatures reaching 93 degrees, it comes as no surprise that I avoided running. By running at the most opportune times, staying hydrated, and selecting the right gear, you will be able to beat the heat!

Step 7: Run during opportune times:

  1. Most 5Ks will begin during the mornings when the heat isn’t in full effect. One of the best ways that I recommend training for a 5K is to run at this time. It will allow your body to become adjusted to the race temperature and it will stimulate your metabolism for the entire day. If you’re not a morning person, I suggest running either during the evenings, when the temperature is lower, or running at a gym. If you plan to run at a gym, I would advise against using a treadmill, to instead use an indoor track. I found it more rewarding to run on a track or outside, compared to a treadmill, because you are able to visually monitor your programs.

Step 8: Stay Hydrated

  1. If you live in Las Vegas, you know that during the summer, water is your best friend. If you are preparing for a 5K, you should keep your body hydrated throughout the day; be prepared to drink at least 3 liters of water each day. Keeping your body hydrated will give you optimal performance come race day.

Step 9: Selecting the perfect gear for your run:

  1. I could write a whole separate article on how to select the perfect running gear, but I will keep this section short and simple. The strongest recommendation I can make for your clothing and shoes is to pick items that are light in color and in weight. There are many different brands with hundreds of various products, but I recommend researching the Nike Dry Fit clothing and Nike Free Run shoes. Dry Fit clothing is specifically designed to allow for increased air circulation in the clothing that cools the body much more efficiently than a conventional shirt. Nike Free Run shoes are designed to emulate running barefoot: the shoes are created with the same Dry Fit air circulation and a lightweight sole that feels great; it feels like you are running on a cloud. If you are not interested in the Nike gear, there are many other brands to choose from. Regardless of this, avoid dark colors, as they tend to absorb heat much faster than their lighter counterparts.

 

 

Race Day:

You’ve done it! You’ve signed up for a 5K, trained for it, and now you are ready to run it. During the week of the race, you should keep your body well rested, fueled, and ready to compete. The wait is over.

Step 10: Rest leading up the race:

  1. As a rule of thumb, keep the days leading up to the race relatively stress free and non-intensive. Having ran for a good 6-8 weeks, this is the time to rest, relax, and prepare for the race. I’d recommend going to the race location and briefly jogging the track so that you can get an idea of what you’re in for. On the night before the race, I’d recommend that you go to sleep hydrated and wake up well rested. On the morning of the race, get up at least two hours before the race so that you can eat breakfast and rehydrate your body. It will also give you enough time to get to the race on early. Once you have arrived at the race, perform a brief warm up jog and prepare to put your training to good use.

Step 11: Race!

  1. Judgment day has arrived; this is the moment that you have been training for the past couple of months. You’re more than ready enough. Just remember to keep a steady pace, don’t over exert yourself, and finish strong!

Beyond

Well, you’ve done it! You have successfully finished running your 5K. You’ve become an experienced runner having trained for eight weeks, you have overcame the hurdle of boredom and motivated yourself to continue running, beat the Las Vegas heat, and completed a 5K. Take the time to congratulate yourself on the major accomplishment. Starting from having very little experience in running, you have made it running 3.1 miles. While its great to pat yourself on the back, I wouldn’t rest too soon. Don’t stop with just one 5K; no, you should go out there and sign up for another one and try to beat your time! Personally, I took my second 5K as a way for me to cement my dedication to fitness and a way for me to increase my running speed. Whether you decide to run another 5K or not, you should try to stay fit and exercise more frequently. There are many other ways to stay fit besides running, such as picking up another sport or lifting weights at the gym. For what it’s worth, motivating myself to run a 5K has changed my life for the better. Hopefully, after reading this article and running a 5K, it has changed yours as well. Just remember, thirty minutes a day will change your l

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