From Your Couch to a Half Marathon: A Training Plan That Works

So, you’ve decided to run your first half marathon. Or maybe you’re just thinking about the idea of one it as a future goal. If you’re not a regular exerciser, the idea of getting from the couch to a half marathon and crossing the finish line can sound overwhelming. 

But–it doesn’t have to be. You simply need to dedicate time to your goal, keep yourself motivated, and commit to a half marathon training plan. At The Run Experience, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a training schedule that will take you from the couch to your half marathon starting line on race day

Go From Your Couch To Half Marathon With Us

Coach Morgan training for couch to half marathon

Running a half marathon requires a base-building phase if you’re new to the sport or returning after a layoff. This phase will slowly acclimate your body, help you stick to a training schedule, and give you time to find some cool places to run. Your weekly mileage can stay low as you gradually build up. Using methods such as walk/run/walk is a great way to use short stints of running with a walking recovery built in. 

Here at The Run Experience, we have two programs to guide you from ground zero with the Beginner Running Program and the 30 Day Challenge. Both programs are available in our app as a Premium member with full schedules, video instruction, and a running community who is right in there with you. As a beginner, having access to our coaches for your questions can be a particularly valuable tool as you go from couch to half marathon

Remember, as tempting as it is to jump in head-long and pile on the miles right away, that’s a recipe for disaster. Burnout and injury will most likely catch up to you quickly. Better to start off slowly and surely with those gentle run days, cross-training, and recovery days to ensure the longevity of your new challenge. 

Read even more training tips here for your first half marathon!

How Long Until You’re Ready For A Half Marathon? 

woman running

As a first-timer, plan for 12 to 16 weeks of training from start to finish. This will allow you to build your endurance, strength, and confidence for the first 4-6 weeks, then complete the eight-week half marathon training plan to bring you right up to race day

The important things to focus on as you get started (and what you’ll learn in our programs) are:

  • Proper running technique and form with key exercises to optimize the way you run
  • How to build running strength–without the need for a gym, so you can run faster and cruise up hills
  • Injury prevention–everything you need to know about solving your body’s tight areas, improve your range of motion, and keep you running consistently

Additionally, as a beginner runner, you’ll need to learn how to listen to your body. Some aches and pains are expected, but if you are having nagging pain that doesn’t go away or pain that is affecting your running form, take action. Use your rest days to focus on injury prevention techniques such as mobility drills and foam rolling, proper hydration and nutrition, and getting quality sleep. 

If you’ve been prone to injury in the past and you know you want to build a self-care routine, we even have an Injury Prevention Series to teach you how to injury-proof all the important areas of a runner’s body—the hips, knees, and ankles being the most common areas. Just check it out in the app! 

Start Where You’re Comfortable 

No matter your fitness level, start at a point that your body can handle. If you’re not sure what’s right for you, experiment. Before even looking at what “Day One” of the schedule has lined up, just go outside. Try running for 30 seconds followed by walking for a minute. Too easy? Too difficult? Adjust each interval as it feels appropriate for you. Don’t forget that it can vary from day to day, as well. Some days it might feel like your feet weigh 10 pounds each, and other days you might feel light as a feather. Such is the nature of running! 

Try this follow-along workout from Coach Holly when you’re starting out. You’ll get a good warm up, lots of walk breaks, and beautiful scenery to look at along the way. You’ll also get motivational coaching cues during the times you feel like quitting and finish up with a proper cool down at the end.

Varied Training Will Help You Nail Your Half Marathon Goals

Coach Morgan performing couch stretch

It’s important to point out that training for a half marathon isn’t just about getting the miles in all at the same pace. In order to facilitate strong muscles and prevent injury, you need to incorporate specific quality workouts such as tempo runs and hill workouts. By spending time running at different speeds you’ll tap into different muscles to prevent fatigue, practice charging up gradual inclines, and prevent the boredom of repetitive slow runs. You’ll see these speed workouts built into our Half Marathon Training Program, and Coach Nate will be there to explain the purpose and procedure. 

If you’ve looked at couch to half marathon programs in the past, chances are you’ve seen X-train or Cross-train listed on there. But what exactly does that look like, and why bother including it in your half marathon training schedule? For us here at The Run Experience, it means including strength training and mobility work. 

Body weight strength movements such as lunges, push ups, and core work will all help fortify your body for the impact of running. They’ll also help you learn to move with control and stability through an exaggerated range of motion. When you’re leaning forward in a lunge, you’re building strength through the same movement patterns as running, but with a greater range. The movements will also help build hip strength, midline (core) stability, and better posture, which will allow you to run strong and tall even during the tough speed workouts or long distances

All of these workouts are built into our Half Marathon Training Program, so you won’t be overwhelmed with trying to figure it all out on your own. 

The Run Experience Half Marathon Coaching 

Once you’ve committed to running a half marathon and picked up your new running shoes, it’s time to sign up for a race. Before you pick a program for the half marathon distance, spend one to three months developing a good athletic base, as outlined above. 

Once you’re up to 15 to 20 miles a week, pick a race that’s at least eight weeks from the time you start your training. Once you’ve signed up, it’s time to get started with a half marathon plan. 

There is no shortage of half marathon training programs to choose from, but we strongly believe we at The Run Experience have a first-class training program for half marathoners. It will get you to the finish line with the results you want. Here are just a few of the things you join us as a Premium member:

  • A scaleable running approach with LIVE coaching support.
  • Four training runs per week (pace and tempo specific), two cross-training days, and one mobility/recovery day.
  • Dynamic warm ups and cool downs to target mobility, form, and injury prevention
  • In-depth video resources on strength training, injury prevention exercises (a favorite of our members), run technique and even breathing.
  • Access to all our other programs such as Running Strength, 5k Program, Full Marathon Program, and more.

A Peek At Our Half Marathon Training Plan

We’ll dive into the first week of our eight week Half Marathon Training Plan here so you can see just how we organize our training to include running, cross-training, and mobility throughout the week. In the app you’ll get a video with full details for each day of training.

Remember that if your fitness level isn’t quite ready for this plan then we still have tons of resources for you! Once you’re a Premium member in the app you can explore the 30 Day Challenge or the Beginner Running Program we mentioned earlier. Both programs will help you build the base you need before tackling the longer distances. 

couch to half marathon plan week 1Day 1: Core Work and Restoration

  • Warm Up: two rounds of:
    • 30 jumping jacks + 5 plank walkouts
    • 10 squats with a 2 second pause at the bottom + 5 pushups
    • 20 leg swings + 10 lunges per side
    • repeat for 2 total rounds
  • Mainset:
    • 3 rounds: 30″ single arm planks (alternate arms slowly side to side) + 10 V up/tuck up variations
    • 3 rounds: 20″ side planks (each side) + 10 happy stars
    • 3 rounds: 5-10 downward dog pushups + 10 lateral leg raises “windshield wipers”
  • Mobility:
    • Chest stretch (on belly). ~2 minutes per side
    • Upward dog + downward dog flow ~5-10 reps (or 2 minutes)
    • Anterior + posterior banded hip stretch. ~2 minutes per side in each direction

Day 2: Posture, Breathing, and Pulling Drills

  • Warm Up
    • 10 deep belly breaths
    • 5 minute easy run to get your heart rate going
    • Bend & Touch: stop running and continue warm up with a bend over and touch and reach back.
    • Side Bend: side to side bend.
    • Hips: follow with 5 high kick + lateral lunges in each direction.
  • Drills: 
    • Leg swing + Pull: this drill involves a standing leg swing + Pull. 10 each side.
    • Pulling: 5 rounds: 30 meters run, pull 10 times on the right, pull 10 times on the left.
    • As you pull your leg up, focus on being as tall and relaxed as possible. The taller and more relaxed the easier it is to pull!
  • Run:
    • Run the remainder of the time at a steady to moderate pace. Every 5 minutes include 10 quick pulls on each side.
  • Cool Down & Mobility:
    • 3 minutes of easy running
    • 2 minutes of couch stretch per leg

Day 3: Strength and Cross Training

  • Warm Up
    • 3 rounds: 10″ jogging in place, 10″ of high knees, 10″ of butt kicks, and 10″ of rest
    • 3 rounds: lateral lunge and hip circles
    • 2 rounds: 10 opposite arm circles each way and 3 shoulder rotation (with hand against wall)
  • Main Set:
    • 3 rounds: 10 meters of walking lunges and forwards bear crawl
    • 3 rounds: 10 meters of inchworms and backwards bear crawl
    • 3 rounds: 10 single leg burpees (5 L, 5 R) and 10 step ups per leg. Choose height on ability.
    • 3 rounds: 10 shoulder touch push ups (touch, touch, pushup) and 10 box or bench jumps. Choose height on ability.
  • Mobility:
    • 5 minutes quad rolling & smashing
    • 5 minutes thoracic spine (upper back) and shoulder work

Day 4: Hill Intervals

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 deep belly breaths
    • 10 minute run progressing from easy to moderate effort
    • 1 round: 10 sprawls, 10 squats, 10 hip circles per leg, 10 elbow touches per side, 10 forward/backwards arm swings
  • Run:
    • 5-7 rounds: 60 second hill interval. Rest 1-2 minutes in between.
    • *Use a “runnable” hill, nothing that’s over 5% incline.
    • Options: continue up the hill & slow jog back down to the start, or use a treadmill indoors
  • Cool Down & Mobility:
    • 3 minutes easy run/walk cool down
    • 2 minutes of rolling with a ball, per foot

    Day 5: Rest and Mobility

    • Today is a recovery and restorative day. The goal is to give you the mental and physical break you need to not only absorb all the hard training you’ve done this week, but to feel rested and refreshed and ready to tackle this weekend’s long run and fun run.
    • Feel free to spend time on your problem areas, i.e. roll out your quads and do the couch stretch if you’re dealing with tight hips and knee issues! You can use the mobility you’ve seen here, or don’t forget about the Injury Prevention Series in the app!

    Day 6: Long Run

    • Warm Up
      • 10 minutes of a breath-focused run
      • One round of leg swings, lunges, and hip circles
      • One round of inchworm push ups
    • Run: 
      • 5-7 mile run with optional walk breaks
    • Cooldown & Mobility:
      • 3 minutes of easy jogging and walking.
      • Mobility area of choice.
      • Repeat a previous mobility drill and spend at least 2-3 minutes per side where applicable.

    Day 7: Fun Run and Recovery Cross Training

    • Optional Run
      • 20-60+ minutes. A great way to get extra mileage for the week provided your body is ready to handle those miles and you have race goals that require them!
    • You can also just spend some time outside moving around. Mow the lawn, play with the kids, take your dog for a hike…just something to be active and move your body in a different way than running. Your choice!

    Whew, that was a busy week! Keep up the momentum and take out the need to plan all the elements of your training by yourself. Download the mobile app and take advantage of our Half Marathon Training Program to go from couch to half marathon today!