Couch to Half Marathon Tips – All Your Essential Questions Answered!

So, you’ve decided to take on a couch to half marathon training plan? Congratulations, that is an ambitious and exciting goal; welcome to the running world!

If you are new to the sport, you may think that running just entails throwing on a pair of sneakers and heading out the door, but there is a whole lot more to it to do it right.

From running gear and training time to fueling and hydration, I’m here to give you my best couch to half marathon tips and try and answer any questions you may have. 

I want to ensure you have a safe, healthy, and successful couch to half marathon journey so that when you finish, you are ready for more. 

A marathon, maybe? 

In this guide, I will answer the following questions and give you couch to half marathon tips to get you on your way, and then to the finish line. 

  • How do I start my couch to half marathon journey?
  • Do I need any specific gear for a couch to half marathon training plan?
  • How much time will I need to dedicate to a couch to half marathon plan: total, weekly, daily?
  • Besides running, do I need to make time for any additional training during my couch to half marathon training plan? 
  • How can I stay motivated during my couch to half marathon training?
  • Should I set a time goal for my first half marathon race? 
  • Do I need to carb-load before a half marathon?
  • How do I fuel and hydrate during my half marathon?
  • Couch To Half Marathon Tips

Ready? 

Let’s get running! 

An aerial view of a half marathon.

How do I start my couch to half marathon journey?

You already have, with Marathon Handbook! You are in the right place to embark on this awesome adventure as we have all the information and couch to half marathon tips you’ll need to cross that finish line. 

The first thing you need to begin your couch to half marathon journey is a well-thought-out, professional training plan. We have crafted our very own couch to half marathon training plan that gradually builds up your mileage safely to get you there.

Print out this training plan and stick it on your fridge; that’s the first step. 

Do I need any specific gear for a couch to half marathon Training plan?

The most essential equipment you will need to invest in for your couch to half marathon training plan is a pair of running-specific shoes. 

A pair of running shoes.

This is the best investment to help keep you injury-free throughout the process.

It can be overwhelming to pick out your first pair of running shoes. So head to your local running store, where professionals will be available to assist you in choosing which ones are right for you.

To get you started, check out our running shoe guide for all the important details you’ll need to know when choosing running shoes. 

As for other gear, a couple of comfortable running outfits including running shorts or tights, shirts, sports bras, and running socks would be next on the list. The most significant difference between running clothing and regular clothing is the material which helps avoid chafing and blisters, and dries quickly.

Lastly, a GPS running watch is a great addition to your running gear collection. Although it is not an absolute necessity starting out as you can use running apps on your phone to log distance and time, a running-specific watch is a much more convenient way to track your progress. 

How much time will I need to dedicate to a couch to half marathon plan: total, weekly, daily?

Our couch to half marathon plan takes 15 weeks, providing that you can jog for 5 minutes straight before you begin. If not, please take a few weeks before to build up to that benchmark.

A person stretching, a good couch to half marathon tip.

Let’s look at how our program is organized, how many days per week you will need to invest, and an average of how long the daily sessions are.

Our program is broken up into three sections: 

Couch to 5k

Total time: 4 weeks

Weekly time commitment: 4 days of running, 1 day of cross-training, (+ 2 days of strength training ideally) 

Daily time commitment: Set aside 45 – 60 minutes daily, including warm-up, training session, and cool down.

5k to 10k 

Total time: 4 weeks 

Weekly time commitment: 4 days of running, 1 day of cross-training, (+ 2 days of strength training ideally) 

Daily time commitment: Set aside 45 – 70 minutes daily, including warm-up, training session, and cool down.

A computer, notebook, pencil, pair of running shoes, and a plant.

10k to Half Marathon

Total time: 7 weeks 

Weekly time commitment: 4 days of running, 1 day of cross-training, (+ 2 days of strength training ideally) 

Daily time commitment: Set aside 45 – 60 minutes per day, including warm-up, training session, and cool down for sessions during the week. As the long runs get longer, you will need up to 2 hours for a weekend run.

Do I need to make time for any other training besides running? 

Yes, you should! 

One of my most important couch to half marathon tips is that running should be complemented with strength training and cross-training sessions to help us improve at a quicker rate and avoid injuries. 

Running is a high-impact sport, so we need to assist our muscles, bones, and connective tissues to handle what we are putting them up to. 

Add two 30-minute sessions of strength training to your training plan. Exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, calf raises, push-ups, planks, and pull-aparts should be part of these training sessions. 

A person doing a lunge.

Cross-training is another important part of the couch to half marathon journey as it conditions your cardiovascular system without the impact of pounding the pavement.

For those who are not accustomed to the stress running puts on the body, cross-training is an excellent addition to help keep you injury-free while still developing an aerobic base. 

Some examples of cross-training include cycling, swimming, elliptical, ski erg, and rowing

How can I stay motivated during my couch to half marathon training?

The best way to stay motivated is to enjoy each mini-goal within the long-term goal of the half marathon. Choose races that fall on the dates you will be running each stepping stone distance, 5k and 10k. 

The race atmosphere is inspiring. Being surrounded by hundreds of other people who share the same passion will motivate you even more, to keep working towards your big goal. 

During these races, you will feel the positive energy and excitement everyone is feeling, and it’s contagious! 

Look at your local race calendars and see what you can schedule into your plan. 

People running a race.

Should I set a time goal for my first half marathon? 

Absolutely not. 

The goal of running any new distance for the first time is to cross the finish line happy, healthy, and wanting more. Running too fast or pushing for a specific time before you’re ready will frustrate you, and that would take all the fun out of the process. 

After running your first half, you will have a benchmark time to work off. Then you can start thinking about paces. But for this first one, just have fun and enjoy! 

There are several different methods runners and coaches use to train. These include pace, heart rate, and power meter (watt) training, but the best way to prepare for your first half marathon is by using the Rate of Perceived Exertion.

This way, you run based on how you feel and don’t try to push a pace you aren’t ready for. On the other hand, you won’t be held back by a high heart rate value popping up on your monitor if you are feeling great and can speed up a bit. 

Run by feel for this first bout of training. 

A person running through a finish line.

Do I need to carb-load before a half marathon?

For a half marathon, we need to think about carb loading before the race due to the time we will be running. To ensure our glycogen stores are built up to decrease the chance of fatigue during the race, stocking up on some carbohydrates a couple of days before is not such a bad idea. 

This doesn’t mean you need to add a ton of extra food to your current diet but replace some of your food intake with carbohydrates instead of your normal portions of fats and proteins. 

Here is an equation to help you calculate how many grams of carbohydrates you should consume 36-48 hours previous to your race: 

10–12 g of carbohydrates/kg of body weight/day

For example, suppose you weigh 60 kilos. In that case, you should try and consume between 600-720 grams of carbohydrates the day or two days before your half marathon. 

Remember, always eat foods you know your body will react to well. You don’t want any unpleasant tummy troubles on race day! 

Some possible carbohydrates to add to your diet are bananas, oatmeal, bread, bagels, rice, pasta, and potatoes.

A person opening an energy gel.

How do I fuel and hydrate during my half marathon?

Not only do you need to carb load before your big half marathon, but because of the total running time, you will need to hydrate and fuel during the race. 

Another one of my couch to half marathon tips is that fueling must be practiced in your long runs before the race, ensuring you have your strategy well-practiced. 

As for fuel, the recommended amount per hour can be calculated using the following equation: 

Kilos of bodyweight = grams of carbs to consume per hour

So, if you weigh 60 kilos, you should consume 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during the race. 

During your long runs, try out different energy gels, bars, gummies, sports hydration with carbohydrates, or even solid food, to find out what works best for you. Check nutrition labels to ensure you add up to the necessary amount of carbs per hour. 

As for hydration, each of us will need to consume a different amount depending on how much we sweat and how the weather is on the day of the race. 

A close up of a person's face, sweating.

A sure-fire way to avoid dehydration is to take a sweat test and calculate the amount of fluid you sweat per hour. When you have calculated that amount, try replenishing 80% of what you lose. 

Remember, don’t chug a bunch of liquid at once during a race, as it may upset your stomach. Take advantage of the water stops and take sips at the different stations throughout the race. 

Couch To Half Marathon Tips

Now, for some final couch to half marathon tips:

  • Stick to your training plan. If you have to miss some sessions, repeat the week instead of skipping over vital stepping stones.
  • Schedule your sessions in your calendar. That way, you’ll be sure to get them in and not schedule anything else at the same time.
  • Respect your rest days. Your rest days are just as important as your training days. Your body needs time to recuperate and if you don’t give it what it needs, you raise your risk of injury or burnout.
  • Have fun! Run for fun, that’s what I always say. If not for fun, then what for?

I hope you feel inspired and full of knowledge after my couch to half marathon tips and tricks. If you have any other unanswered questions, feel free to write them to me here.

For more couch to half marathon tips and our training plan, click here!

People running a race over a bridge.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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