How to go from sitting on the couch to running.

In a recent post, I shared a little bit about my friend, Chad’s story. I’d like to continue using his example, mixed with a bit of my own personal experiences to create a framework for engaging in running.

If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, and then you come home every day and sit down in front of a screen, you are probably not in great physical condition. Many of us, myself included, have sedentary work lives. That’s okay, because it’s what keeps the lights on and food on the table!

What’s not okay, is for us to neglect our physical fitness by coming home and “vegging out”. I was guilty of this for many years, so please don’t hear condemnation — I totally sympathize with you!

Things started to get really bad for me when I found myself commuting 2–3 hours a day. I got up early, sat in the car, then sat at a stressful job, then sat in the car. By the end of the commute home, I was exhausted, so I just sat on the couch and watched Netflix. This went on for about 3 months, until we were able to sell our house and move closer to my job.

In that time, I really got out of shape. I was eating fast food at least once a day, if not three times. Exercise fell by the wayside, and I could see a nice layer of fat building up in my mid-section.

Chad’s job was similar, except he traveled all the time for work. Not only that, but he was always toting around candy to give to the clients he called on. Can you imagine sitting in a car full of M&M’s all day? I don’t have enough restraint to avoid eating them all!

There were plenty of reasons for the both of us to just sit on the couch at the end of a long day, and avoid exercising. But, we both friends and family that wouldn’t let us slide from taking care of ourselves. Our wives and children needed us to be in shape — for now and for the future.


I would say that the first thing you need to do to go from the couch to running, is to get some accountability. You need a cheering section to motivate you when things are tough, and to celebrate with your achievements.

My wife knows next to nothing about running, but she always asks me how my run went. And, when I tell her that I ran a 10-minute mile, she makes over me the same as when I run an 8-minute mile. She and the kids both remind me to get out and run, and will usually make accommodations so I have the opportunity at least a few times a week.


The next thing you are going to need to do is start moving. Sitting is never going to get you running.

Now, depending on your condition, what level of movement you make will depend on your ability. If you have health issues or concerns, you should probably make an appointment with your primary care doctor to have a physical and discuss appropriate exercise to begin with.

Walking is a good first step for most people.

You don’t even need any special equipment to walk — not even shoes, technically! But, I would recommend putting on a comfortable pair of shoes and some loose-fitting clothes. This will allow you to move freely and for your body to be cool and comfortable.

Set a step or distance goal, and keep going until you make it.

You might only be able to start with 50 yards at first. That’s okay, just stop and take a break. The main thing is to keep pushing that further and further. It’s not a race, so don’t feel like you have to double your distance overnight. Going at your own pace will ensure that you don’t get hurt.

If walking is too hard, you might consider starting with an exercise bike or an elliptical.

Regardless, you have to get your body moving and your heart pumping if you want to start running.


Almost everyone that wants to run starts out training with intervals.

How it works is, you decide that you’re going to run for a certain length of time or distance. Chad told me he started out running 1-minute and walking about 5-minutes. My old track coach had us work up to running straight for 10-minutes. You could also decide that you want to run for 100 steps, one block, or a quarter-mile.

Any way you cut it, the goal here is to set a target just beyond your current abilities and work to reach it. Don’t set your goal all the way out at one mile if you can’t even walk across the street without getting winded. In that case, it’d be much more appropriate to have a goal of walking the block without getting winded. Then, you could start working toward running the length of the block.

Distance first

Everyone wants to go for a faster pace. Don’t fall into this trap.

Instead, start increasing the distance you run first. Speed will come naturally as you build up your endurance to go farther and farther.

Focusing on speed first will make you more likely to suffer an injury, or become discouraged when you aren’t making progress as quickly as you’d like. It’s much easier on your mind and body to slowly increase how far you’re going.

When I ran cross country in high school, we used to do these running drills that I hated. We’d run one mile, then walk a lap. Then, we’d run two half-miles, and walk a lap. Then, four quarter-miles, eight eighth-miles, and finish with 16x100m sprints.

The interesting thing was, my half-mile times in Track and Field events were always a lot slower than the miles I would run in these drills. Running three to six miles every day for cross country practice had made running a half-mile seem like nothing. And, my times reflected that ease of effort!

So, don’t get hung up on how fast you’re going. Just take it slow, and before you know it you’ll be getting faster!


Running is simply a matter of moving your feet faster and farther than you did the day before. Don’t overthink it.

Start by telling your friends and family about your goals. Then, start moving. When you’re ready, add in short periods of running and slowly increase your distance. 

There’s no mystery here, it just takes time and effort. Like so many good things in life!

Happy running!


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