Couch to Half Marathon: The Ultimate Training Plan | Rockay

Couch to Half Marathon: The Ultimate Training Plan

Is it possible to go from a couch potato to running a half marathon?

Yup.

You just need to have the drive.

Achievement is something we all want. At school and work, we want our degrees and our promotions. Outside of those structures, we look to achieve more too. Running a half marathon is a major achievement, but even getting to the starting line is in itself a victory. Chasing physical achievements can be difficult, especially when you aren’t in the best shape to begin with. 

Even if you are the last person any of your friends would look at and say, “Now, there’s an athlete,” you can get yourself the speed and endurance you’ll need to prove them wrong and tell them to go to hell. You can do it politely if you’d like, or even take the high road and just smugly smile. We’re not here to tell you how to react, just how to get into shape. 

You’ve probably heard of Zen Labs’ Couch to 5k or Couch to 10k program that takes you from, well, the couch to running a 10k in a matter of weeks. 

But those were free. You might not want to pay for their half marathon counterpart though  – so here we’re going to try taking you from the couch to a half marathon in 12 weeks for free. 

couch-to-half-marathon

What’s the Couch to Half Marathon Schedule?

A half marathon is 13.1 miles, or 21 kilometers. We’ll stick with 13.1 miles since it doesn’t sound as intimidating. And, in truth, none of this has to be intimidating at all. We’re not throwing you into the deep end here. That’s dangerous. Every runner starts off slow. Throughout their running lives, they increase the intensity of their workouts incrementally, and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing here. 

Of course, a half marathon in 12 weeks isn’t easy. You won’t just be running. There will be cross-training (don’t worry, we’ll get into it), and making changes to your diet too. That said, let’s just focus on the schedule for now. Unlike Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and The X-Files, we’ll not only answer all your questions, but we’ll do so in a satisfying way.

Also, you’ll have the ending benefits of getting in great shape and be capable of running a half marathon, which is also very nice. 

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. For this plan, you’ll be devoting Sundays to a long run. It’s something of a tradition for seasoned runners – so instead of Sunday Fundays or Sunday Scaries, you have Sunday Long Runs. Not quite as catchy, but important to your goals. 

Almost every week, you’ll be gradually increasing the duration of your runs with major goal posts along the way. Each one leads to the next until they finally all connect at the half marathon in week 12. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s first just get through the first two weeks.   

Weeks 1-2

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 3 miles. We’re not expecting you to run the entire time. Slow down and walk as you need to, but run for as much of the 3 miles as possible. 

WEDNESDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 30 minutes. 

THURSDAY: Run for 3 miles.

FRIDAY: OFF.  

SATURDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 30 minutes.

SUNDAY:  Long run: 4 miles. 

Weeks 3-4

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 3.5 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 40 minutes.

THURSDAY: Run for 3.5 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF.  

SATURDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 40 minutes.

SUNDAY: Long run: 5 miles. 

Week 5

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 4 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 40 minutes.

THURSDAY: Run for 4 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF.

SATURDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 40 minutes.

SUNDAY: Long run: 6 miles 

Week 6

This week takes a turn. By now, you’re making serious progress and it’s time to test it. This Sunday, you’ll run a 5k. You can do this by signing up for a local one in your area, or by running at a hard, competitive pace for 3.1 miles. While you can do this on your own, we strongly suggest running a true 5K race alongside others. Running with others will keep you motivated and you focused on your goal. If you do it on your own, you might zone out and fall into a slower, complacent pace during the run, since by this point 3.1 miles won’t be much of a difficulty.

MONDAY: OFF

TUESDAY: Run for 4 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 2 mile run or cross-training for 40 minutes.

THURSDAY: Run for 4 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF or an easy, 30-minute run.

SATURDAY: OFF. 

SUNDAY: 5-K (3.1 miles)

Week 7

MONDAY: OFF. You most certainly earned this day off following the 5K. Good work. That said, we’re still going to be progressing toward the half marathon. Things will only become more intense.

TUESDAY: Well, back to the Slate Rock and Gravel Company. Run for 4.5 miles.

WEDNESDAY: 3 mile run or cross-training for 50 minutes. 

THURSDAY: Run for 4.5 miles.

FRIDAY: Cross-train for 50 minutes. 

SATURDAY: OFF  

SUNDAY: Long run: 7 miles.

Week 8

A minor change in the Sunday Long Run this week. 

MONDAY: OFF. 

TUESDAY: Run for 4.5 miles.

WEDNESDAY: 3 mile run or cross-training for 50 minutes. 

THURSDAY: Run for 4.5 miles.

FRIDAY: 3 mile run or cross-training for 50 minutes. 

SATURDAY: OFF  

SUNDAY: Long Run: 8 miles. 

Week 9

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 3-mile run or 60-minute cross-training. 

THURSDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF or easy run for 30 minutes.

SATURDAY: OFF.

SUNDAY: Run 10K (6.2 miles)

Week 10

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 3-mile run or 60-minute cross-training. 

THURSDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF or easy run for 30 minutes.

SATURDAY: OFF.

SUNDAY: Long run: 9 miles. 

Week 11

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: 3-mile run or 60-minute cross-training. 

THURSDAY: Run for 5 miles. 

FRIDAY: OFF or easy run for 30 minutes.

SATURDAY: OFF.

SUNDAY: Long run: 9 miles. 

Week 12

Well, this is the big one. You’ll be taking it somewhat easier this week leading up to the half marathon. 

MONDAY: OFF.

TUESDAY: Run for 4 miles. 

WEDNESDAY: Run for 3 miles or cross-train for 30 minutes. 

THURSDAY: Run for 2 miles.

FRIDAY: OFF.

SATURDAY: OFF.

SUNDAY: 13.1 half marathon. Welcome to Flavor Country. 

The Proper Diet to Go From Couch to Half Marathon

diets-for-couch-to-half-marathon

We’ll tackle your diet next for two simple reasons: the diet is arguably more important than the exercise, and two, changing your diet is probably the most daunting and difficult aspect of training. But modern fitness dieting has more options and combinations than ever before.

Obviously, drinking lots of water will help you stay hydrated while also flushing your system of unwanted toxins. 

Focusing on food, you’ll want to stick with good carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats to help you fuel your body without undoing the benefits of your running. 

Let’s start with good carbs. Eat plenty of them. The body converts carbs into glycogen (sugar) and uses it to supply the body with energy. Examples include pasta, grains, beans, quinoa, legumes, and brown rice. Consider fruits like bananas, oranges, blueberries, apples, and grapefruits.

There is such a thing as a healthy fat. They’re high in nutrients that keep the body functioning. You’ve probably heard a lot about avocados in the news of late for being a “superfood.” It’s also the poster child for being a healthy fat. You can also have eggs, cheese, and dark chocolate. There are several nuts that are healthy fats including macadamia, walnuts, and almonds. For dinner, fish like mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines (great for homemade pizzas), and herring are healthy fats for you to consume. Throw some olive oil on them which is also a healthy fat, and baby, you got yourself a damn fine meal. 

Finally, the lean proteins. Proteins help you build and maintain the muscles and tissues in your body as you build them up during your exercises. Some lean proteins include white-flesh fish like halibut, tilapia, and orange roughy is. Skinless chicken, pork loin, flank steak, and flat-half brisket are delicious and good for you. For snacks, powdered peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and low-fat milk can keep you full without undermining your progress.  

What Should You Eat the Day Before Your Half Marathon?

Make your big meal lunch instead of dinner. That way your body has time to process the food, put it to use in your body, and avoid any stomach ailments the day of the marathon. You can still have something for dinner, just keep it light.

For lunch, your best bet would be pasta. It’s great carb that will fill you up and help the body prepare. 

What Should You Eat on the Day of Your Half Marathon? 

Yes, you can eat the day of the race. Hell, you’ll be eating during the half marathon too. A few hours before the race, have a small meal of protein and simple carbs. Wash it down with water or even a sports drink. Avoid high fiber foods – they could cause some unpleasant indigestion you don’t need in the middle of your run. If you’re in New York, have a bagel. If you’re not in New York, whatever they’re calling bagels is a pale imitation of what we have here. Instead, have a fruit smoothie or some cereal. 

To keep your energy up during the half marathon, carry some easily-transported food with you (you don’t want a grocery store with you, adding extra weight to schlep around that you don’t need). Bananas, granola bars, or even candies like gummy bears can provide you a boost. Rotate between having water and sports drinks every 15 minutes. They’re both good in small doses. Too much water will lead to overhydration, which is uncomfortable for the body, and too much sodium from the sports drinks will exhaust you. 

After the ordeal, you’ll need to replenish your body. It’s suggested that you use a 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein. Complex carbs will level out the insulin in your body. Get something fast, like fruit, muffins, bananas, or Greek yogurt. Later, for a meal, look for some lean protein and maybe treat yourself to an unhealthy fat or two. 

varied-diet

Cross-Training to Make it From Couch to Half Marathon

Since you’re probably new to running in general – and perhaps not even off the couch yet–you were probably a little confused at the cross-training markers in the schedule. Cross-training is an exercise you do to help supplement your primary workout – in this case, running. Cross-training is usually low to no impact, meaning you’re working out but in such a way that you’re highly unlikely to be injured. Athletes cross-train so that they can keep their muscles active without damaging them. 

For your half marathon, you may want to consider any number of cross-training exercises. For more information, check out our article on cross-training here.

The Proper Gear is Required to Go From Couch to Half Marathon Safely

Of course, these runs will be exhausting and sometimes painful. There isn’t a way to keep your body from aching, but we can keep your feet from hurting. Your feet are among your most vulnerable areas and need to be taken care of. Buy comfortable running shoes with a wide toe box and enough support in the heel to keep them from hurting.

As far as socks, we can’t help but suggest our own. Most socks are made of cotton, which will make your feet sweat more and lead to blisters.

Our athletic socks are made of moisture-absorbent wool, which will keep your feet dry. You can further decrease the chance of blisters by running on smooth terrain with supportive shoes. And they’re also a performance fit, offering compression arch support. You should even consider our calf compression sleeves, as compression gear has been scientifically linked to a host of benefits. Click here to get more information on our socks and why we think they’d be right for you. You can also take a look at our selection of socks and sleeves below.

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And there you have it – everything you need to know about going from your couch to a half marathon. Ready to get off the couch now? It’s more possible than ever. 

Questions? Concerns? Be sure to leave a comment below.

Sources

  1. Healthline
  2. WomensRunning

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