How to Run a Faster Mile

7 Tips to Help Improve Your Time

Hoping to improve your mile time?  Whether you’re a high school track athlete, beginner runner, or a masters runner, you can make some small changes to improve your pace. Here are some tips for shaving some time off your mile PR:

Do interval training.

Runner on track
Cavan Images

High-intensity interval training is an excellent way to improve your speed and confidence. Interval workouts are a fun way to work on your speed. Once a week, do track workouts, such as 200m (1/2 lap) or 400m (one lap around the track) repeats. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, alternate between running hard for one 200m or 400m and then easy jogging or walking for the same distance to recover. If you’re doing 200m repeats, start with six repeats and try to work your way up to 8-10 repeats. For 400m intervals, start with two or three repeats (with a recovery lap in between each), and try to work your way up to 5-6 repeats. These workouts can also be done on the treadmill, of course.

Or, if you're running on the road, you can use lamp posts or telephone poles to mark your intervals. After warming-up, try sprinting for two lamp posts, then recover for two, and keep repeating the pattern until you've covered a mile.
Pyramid Interval Workout
Treadmill Interval Workout
Ladder Workout

Build endurance.

Man and Woman Running
John Howard

If you want to run a faster mile, you’ll have to run longer than a mile. You may already be running more than a mile several times a week, but are you doing one run that’s significantly longer than the rest?  Doing one long run a week will improve your cardiovascular fitness and strength, which will lead to faster times. It also helps improve your mental strength, which will help you push through discomfort towards the end of a mile race. Start with 2-3 miles (assuming you’ve already reached that mileage) and add one mile a week until you get to the 7-8 mile range (unless you think you might want to train for a half or full marathon!)

Do hill repeats.

Running Uphill
John Kelly

Doing hill repeats will make you stronger, as well as improve your running efficiency and increase your lactate threshold. All that should help you improve your mile time.

To do hill repeats, start with a 10-15 minute warm-up of easy running. Find a hill with a decent slope -- but not too steep. Start with sprints lasting 30 seconds, walk down to recover, then build up to 40 second sprints. Start out with 5 repeats and try to work your way up to 10. Finish with a 15- minute cooldown of easy running. 

Or climb stairs.

Erik Isakson/Getty

If you don't have easy access to hills, you can run stairs instead.  Use the same approach as hill repeat. Run up the stairs for 30 seconds, walk down to recover.  Repeat 5 times, and try to work your way up to 10 repeats.

Lose weight.

Dieter on Scale
Photo by David Madison

If you're already trying to shed some pounds, here's more incentive: Research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. So, for example, a 10-pound weight loss could shave about 20 seconds off your mile race time.

More: Weight Loss Tips for Runners
7 Secrets of Skinny Runners
Tips for Breaking Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

Add strength-training.

Front plank exercise
Cavan Images

Building muscle strength will boost your speed, as well as give you additional benefits. You don't need to lift serious weight or hit the gym five days a week.  Even just doing several body weight exercises a couple times of week can help you add lean muscle. Here are some basic strength-training workouts for runners.

Don't forget about rest.

Chris Cole/Getty Images

Don't assume that running hard every day will make you faster. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so don't forget to take rest days. Your muscles actually build and repair themselves during your rest days. A rest day doesn’t have to be a complete day off.  For example, you could do easy cardio such as walking, biking, or swimming on a rest day. But make sure that don't do two days of intense workouts, such speed workouts, in a row.

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