How quickly can you go from couch to marathon?

Going from couch to marathon in 3 months

To start this training schedule, you’ll need to have a training base of about 20 miles per week and you should be able to comfortably run up to 10 miles at a time. If you aren’t quite at that level, you may want to try a longer marathon training program.

Weekly Training Runs

Your training includes tempo runs, interval runs, long runs, and easy runs, which are all explained below. See the weekly schedule (below the training runs) for the exact details on exactly how much to run and at what pace.

The schedule doesn’t indicate which day to run each workout, so it’s up to you to decide when you want to run them. But try to avoid doing tempo runs, interval runs, and long runs on back-to-back days. You should take a rest day or do an easy run or cross-training in between.

If you’re not sure of the correct pace, you should run at a pace that feels comfortably hard—so that the run starts off easy but gradually gets annoying. At the end of a tempo, you should feel glad you are stopping (or slowing down), but you could continue if you had to.

More advanced runners can always add some additional miles to their warmup or cooldown.

Interval Runs

Interval runs are repeats of a certain distance (i.e., 400m) at your 10K pace and then a recovery period after each interval. For example, 5 x 800m at a 10K pace with 90-second recovery in between would mean running a total of five 800m repeats with 90 seconds running at an easy, recovery pace in between repeats.

Interval runs can be done anywhere, but it’s easier to do them on a track. You should first warm up at an easy pace. Then, do the intervals/recoveries for the set number of repeats. Finish your intervals with a 10-minute cooldown.

Long Runs

Some long runs will be done at a comfortable, conversational pace for the designated mileage. Others will be done at a specific pace, based on your targeted marathon pace (TMP).

You can use a race time estimator calculator to get an estimate of your marathon time by using a recent time from a race of another distance.

Easy Runs and Cross-Training

Cross-training and easy runs can be done on the other days of the week, as your schedule permits. It’s recommended that you take at least one complete rest day per week.

Easy runs should be done at a comfortable, conversational pace. Cross-training can be any activity other than running that you enjoy, such as cycling, rowing, swimming, yoga, or strength training. You should do the activity at a moderate intensity.

Aim for at least one day of strength training per week; two days per week is even better. Your strengthening workout doesn’t have to be too long or intense and can be just bodyweight exercises, as in this sample workout.

Note: Warm-ups and cooldowns should also be done at an easy pace.

Going from couch to marathon in 4 months

Eyeing a marathon that’s 16 weeks away? We can show you how to train for a marathon in 4 months or less—though, more time is always better when it comes to improving your pace and reducing your risk of injury. Our 4-month marathon training plan has all the scheduling, tips, and know-how you need to succeed.

Whether you’ve trained for a half marathon before or not, you can still do a full marathon first. Our program is based on strength work, specific training runs, weekly long runs, cross-training, nutrition, and correct form and posture.

Each day of the week will have a specific focus throughout the training plan. The workouts will change some over time as you progress towards race day. For example, some weeks you will lower your training volume a little bit to help you recover from intense periods of training, and you’ll go through a “tapering” period to help your body feel rested before you hit the starting line. 

Mondays: Core Work and Restoration Training

On Mondays, it’s all about focusing on new movements with increasingly challenging volume and core workout sets. We’ll focus on improving your running posture and being able to hold it for longer periods of time–so you can expend more energy by running as efficiently as possible.

We’ll also pay special attention to your breathing mechanics, so you can get the most out of each breath when it counts. This workout should take about 45 minutes.

Tuesdays: Posture, Breathing, and Pulling Drills

This workout for marathoners will focus on three different drills that we introduced in all our training programs. You’ll start with a quick warm-up featuring belly breaths and a 10-minute run where you connect your breathing with your running cadence. 

The main drills you’ll focus on next are the leg swing, pulling, and running as tall and relaxed as possible. The total workout of running plus drills will take about 20-40+ minutes.

Wednesdays: Strength and Cross-Training

Wednesdays come packed full of strength training that will foster more stable hips and shoulders–and how it translates into better running form. It also includes cross-training that will make you stronger and give your legs a break from all the pounding, as anyone who is training for their first marathon experiences.

The workout takes about 45 minutes and includes a warm-up consisting of three 10 rounds of seconds of jogging in place, followed by three rounds of 10 seconds of butt kicks, with 10 seconds of rest in between. You’ll also do three rounds of lateral lunge and hip circles and two rounds of opposite arm circles. 

Thursdays: Hill Intervals

Get ready to hit the hills for speedwork and strength on Thursdays. Why are they so important? Hills build running strength and improve form and technique when you train for a marathon.

They also help us increase our running cadence for powerful, efficient running. Ankle, hip, and shoulder mobility improves with hill running, too! Here’s what a typical hill workout may look like:

  • A warm-up with 10 belly breaths to prepare for an intense workout
  • A slow 10-minute jog to get your muscles warmed up, focusing on running tall and light
  • One round of 10 sprawls, 10 squats, 10 hip circles per leg, 10 elbow touches per side, and 10 leg swings–you should be good and warmed up! 
  • Depending on where you are in the 16-week training plan, you’ll run 5-10 60-90 second hills. Find about a five percent incline, or use an indoor treadmill. Jog down the hill for about one to two minutes of rest between each hill. End with a 10-minute cool-down jog and light stretching. This workout should take about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what week you’re on. Now, let’s check out this video on three hill running tips for stronger running: 

Fridays: Rest Day, Nutrition, and Mobility

You’ve packed a lot of work into four days so far this week. On Fridays, we’ll focus on rest, nutrition, and becoming more mobile. The goal is to provide a mental and physical break to recover–and prepare to stay with your training plan. While working hard is important, it’s just as important to give your body the chance to recover, rest, and reduce the risk of injury.

Rest, but also focus on working/stretching out those tight areas. For example, use a foam roller on those tight calves and quads! 

Saturdays: The Distance Run 

Like most runners training for an important race, you probably fall into one of two categories when it comes to longer distances–you love it…or it’s your least favorite. If you love speed work such as tempo runs, you probably fall into the latter category. 

However, it’s a critical part of your marathon training! It teaches you how to pace, how to get used to the distance of a long race, and how to handle your nutrition needs on a longer run. Here’s what a typical long run workout may look like, depending on your training week and your current weekly mileage:

  • Start with 10 minutes of light jogging where you focus on your breathing
  • Do one round of leg swings, lunges, hip circles, and inchworm push-ups
  • On your first week, run five to seven miles at an easy, conversational pace. In later weeks, you’ll build up to about 20 miles to get you ready for the big day. 
  • Remember, this run is about distance, not pace. You should be easily able to talk during this run, not gasping for breath!

Sundays: Fun Run and Cross Training Day

This is your day to have fun with your running and remember why you fell in love with the sport in the first place. After all, all of your marathon training schedule doesn’t have to be serious business.

So today, it’s up to you. If that means a game of soccer with friends, riding a bike, or playing tennis with a buddy, go for it. There’s only one rule–have fun! 

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