9 Ways to Help You Run a Faster Mile

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.

1

Interval Training

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

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.

2

Build Endurance

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 per week (in addition to shorter runs on other days) 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 to 3 miles (assuming you’ve already reached that mileage) and add 1 mile a week until you get to 7 to 8 miles. If you are training for a half marathon or full marathon, you'll continue to build your mileage on that long training day.

3

Stride Turnover

Practice improving your stride turnover so you learn to take quicker, shorter steps. To go faster, you need to go faster. Use a running drill to work on your stride turnover. Run at your 5K pace for a minute and count your foot strikes (such as only your right foot). Recover at an easy pace for a minute. Then run again and try to increase your foot strike count. Repeat this sequence several times, trying to increase your foot strike count by one each time.

Be careful not to overstride. Your feet should land under your hips, not in front of you.

4

Work on Your Running Form

Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each run ensuring you are using proper running form. Your posture, arm motion, and foot strike all make a difference in your speed. You don't want wasted energy and inefficient body mechanics that will slow you down. Work on your form at a lower speed so it can serve you well as you speed up.

5

Hill Repeats

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 by warming up with 10 to 15 minutes 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 five repeats and try to work your way up to 10. Finish with a 15-minute cooldown of easy running. 

6

Climb Stairs

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 five times, and try to work your way up to 10 repeats.

7

Lose Excess Weight

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

8

Strength Training

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 bodyweight exercises a couple times of week can help you add lean muscle. Get started with basic strength-training workouts for runners.

9

Get Enough Rest

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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