Getting Ready for the reWarding5k the Adam Ward Way

It’s June 2001 and I’m hanging out with my good buddy Adam Ward in Slippery Rock, Pa. We’re in his room at 148 Grove City Road and I’m staring at a huge poster of the band Korn tacked to the wall of Adam’s room. 

I’m pretty sure it was this one.

The guys in the poster are staring hard back at me, uncaring and serious, faces locked in some kind of disgusted, testosterone-fueled judgment from their place on the wall. Each member of the band is dressed as if to personify some different aspect of music from their time period. It’s as if the very embodiment of 90’s music — metal, rap, grunge, and rock — came to life and dressed each of the men in a uniform befitting a different genre. 

“Here, wear these baggy pants and for goodness sakes, put that hat on backwards,” the 90’s music beast said to the bass player. “You be the ‘Rap’ guy. And you, lead singer, put on these goth clothes. Try on this eyeliner.”

I never cared much for Korn. The band’s sound matched their haphazard look, which is to say it was grating, jarring, and uncomfortably unrefined. Adam is typing like mad at his computer on some random college assignment and I break his concentration. It’s time to discuss this band, I decide. 

“How can you even like this band? They are kind of… horrible.” 

“Well, here’s the thing,” Adam said. “When I was in school, I was a really big kid. I mean really big. And then one summer I decided to change that.”

Over the course of a pretty brief few months in the summer between terms at North Hill High School, Adam logged mile after mile running in his hometown of West View, Pa. Aggressive music supplied by bands like Korn and Alice in Chains filled his ears and served as inspiration as he moved towards his goal.  

And that was classic Adam Ward. He had something he wanted to accomplish and made it happen by making a plan, tracking his progress diligently, and setting it all to music. He mapped out a process, stuck to it, and gave it a soundtrack.  

There’s a lot we can learn about accomplishing goals from Adam’s approach. Even if you’re a veteran runner looking to get faster or just hoping to finish your first 5K, it can be alot easier by having a strategy, approaching it diligently, and making it fun. 

The reWarding 5K will be held on Nov. 14, 2021, at North Park just north of Pittsburgh, Pa., With only 50 or so days away, the clock is ticking. Still, there’s enough time to get ready for the reWarding5K the Adam Ward way. 

Here’s how you can and don’t worry, there’s no aggressive 90’s music required.  

Pick a Battle Plan

The Internet is full of information about running. Websites like Runner’s World, Brook’s Running, and The Wired Runner offer countless blog posts all dedicated to running. A quick Google search for “5K training plans” will bring up tons of resources and suggestions. 

One of the most popular plans for finishing your first 3.1 race is the “Couch-to-5K” program. As the name suggests, this plan is designed for non-runners, or people that don’t run regularly enough to finish a race. 

It starts off slowly, interspersing walks with runs over short intervals, and includes the critically important rest days in between workouts. Over the course of six weeks, the program increases the time you spend running and decreases the walking periods. In the end, with how the program is designed, you’ll be pretty close to running for a half-hour straight, which should put you in the sights of the 5K finish. 

Six-week beginner 5K schedule

There’s literally hundreds of flavors of the same workout available for free with a simple search. If you’re into learning through audio, there’s even a podcast version of the Couch-to-5K program

Planning is the first step to success. The famous quote attributed to many, including James Cameron, Rick Page, and Vince Lombardi, is that “hope is not a strategy.”

Or, as Adam put it on several occasions: “Dude, you’re gonna hurt yourself if you just start working out without a plan. Don’t be silly.” Adam was always reading men’s health magazines and scouring the Internet for workout plans to achieve his goals. Be like Adam and come up with a plan.

Track Your Progress Diligently 

Once you have a plan to achieve your goal, the best way to ensure success is to diligently track your progress. The best way to make sure you make progress and reach your goal is to keep track of how far you’ve come. 

When it comes to training for your first 5K, it’s helpful to track both individual workouts as well as your progress towards the  overall goal. 

But if you’re heading out to train for your first 5K, how do you keep track of your time spent running and walking? The last thing you want to do is try and keep track of the time on your own by keeping a mental clock running in your head. You’re body will be fighting you the whole way and the last thing you want to do is count off seconds in your brain. 

Luckily, there’s no shortage of apps available to help you keep track of your workouts. One of the best for keeping track of your progress in the Couch-to-5K program is the C25K app by Zen Labs Fitness (Apple, Android).

The C25K app has the entire Couch-to-5K running program inside and has pre-planned timed workouts to help you track your progress without having to worry about tracking your time as you go. There’s an audio trainer for workouts, giving cues at all the necessary intervals. When it’s time to run, the app will let you know. When you can start walking after a run interval is over, the app chimes in. 

The app lets you shove your earbuds in your ears and work hard on achieving your goals without having to keep track of time. 

If you’re training for distance instead of following a timed program, apps like Map My Run, Runkeeper, or Strava are good options. Christine Luff, writing for, keeps an exhaustive list of the best running apps available

In addition to tracking your progress for each individual run, it’s essential to keeping score overall. 

Then keep progress overall. Each workout you complete is one step toward realizing your dream of finishing a 5K. Make a checklist of the training program. Mark off everyday you complete as progress to your goal. Having your plan in a place you see everyday will help you remember the importance of sticking to the plan. 

If it helps, print out your workout plan and place a copy of it on your fridge. Completing your workouts each day and checking off the boxes as you go will help motivate you to keep going.

When Jocelyn Glei was planning to launch her podcast Hurry Slowly in 2017, she bought a 4-foot roll of craft paper and mapped out every single detail it would take to complete the process. By creating a visual roadmap for success and keeping track, Glei felt grounded, motivated, and in control of the project.

“It’s hard to overestimate how good this feels,” Glei said. “We need to see our progress, writ large in the physical world, to feel it.”

Another great way to help you achieve your goals is to tell the world about them. Build an army of supporters for your task by telling everyone you know. Award-winning business communicator Molly Cain says that making yourself accountable to your friends and family is one of the best ways to reach your goals.

“Sure, it’s uncomfortable to share your setbacks,” Cain writes. “But when you do, you’re going to get emails from friends who have experienced the same and they’ll get your mind back on track. And when you tell them about the milestones you reach, you’re going to get applause from people wishing they were you and reaching those same goals too.”

Whatever you choose, make sure you track your progress and be accountable for your successes. Celebrate your wins too as you march toward achieving your goal.   

Set it All the Music

The idea of running a 5K is, at first, a glorious one. It seems like a wondrous accomplishment; an achievement on par with some of life’s more challenging endeavors. 

And it’s true. Running a 5K is an accomplishment. Not everyone runs a 5K. Most folks don’t even sign up. 

But it’s also a very real thing that when you get started with training for a 5K — especially if this is your first race — you’ll quickly learn another fact about running: It stinks. 

Running is an intense, volatile, emotionally and physically exhaustive exercise. Your body and mind will fight you every step of the way at first. When I started running in 2017, my mind would literally fight me every step of the way. 

So it’s helpful to have something to take your mind off the process during the exercise and nothing works better than music. Just like Adam did all those years back when he was shedding the pounds, it’s helpful to set the exercise to a soundtrack. 

Music is one of mankind’s crowning achievements. It has the power to invoke emotion, fuels feelings, and motivates us to do great things. 

And if you want to prepare for the reWarding5K the Adam Ward way, here’s two running playlists to help you in your training.

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