8 Tips to Run a Mile Without Stopping

man running on a path in the park


Many new runners have a tough time running a mile without getting out of breath. If that sounds familiar, you probably start your run with good intentions but end up walking in frustration.

Don't give up. It just takes time to build up your endurance. Here's how to run a mile without stopping as long as you follow a few basic steps.

How to Run a Mile Without Stopping

The keys to non-stop running involve proper pacing and good form. Once you learn what to do (and what not to do) running for longer stretches becomes easier.

1. Stay Safe

Running is generally a safe sport, but even a mild trip or fall can derail your program and set you back several weeks. So when you begin a new program, it is smart to take basic safety precautions.

If you run outside, consider running without headphones. This will help you to focus on the road and hear any traffic noises (from cars, other runners or cyclists). Also, be sure that you are visible, especially if you run in the early morning or in the evening when it is dark. Wear reflective clothing and shoes so that you are easier to see.

Lastly, always run with identification. Accidents can happen, and if they do, it's easier for first-responders to care for you if your ID is on-hand.

2. Breathe Properly

Many people assume they need to breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth when they run. While that may work for some, it's not always the right approach.

During harder or faster runs, you should breathe deeply but comfortably. For most runners, this means that they breathe in through both the nose and mouth to make sure they get enough oxygen. With each breath, try to breathe deeply from your belly, not your chest. This may help to avoid side stitches.

You may notice that each inhale and exhale falls into a pattern with the steps you take. This is called locomotor-respiratory coupling. For example, for every breath you take, you might land two footstrikes and for every exhale you might land another two footstrikes. This rhythmic pattern helps your body run more efficiently.

If you feel yourself getting out of breath or have trouble controlling your breathing, you are working too hard and should slow down or walk until you catch your breath.

3. Slow Down

When you start running, it's very common to run too fast. While it might feel good in the beginning, you may run out of steam because you're going too fast. Instead, keep your pace under control and you'll find that you run much further.

While everyone's running speed will be slightly different, aim to run at a conversational pace. That means that you should be able to talk in complete sentences as you run. If you find yourself getting out of breath, slow down.

With improved fitness, you’ll be able to increase your speed. But for now, it's more important that you build confidence and endurance before increasing pace.

4. Practice Good Posture

When running, keep your shoulders relaxed, down, and back to practice good posture. If you lean forward (a common newbie mistake), you close the chest area and it can become harder to breathe. As a result, you may end up feeling winded much sooner.

By keeping your posture upright, you keep the airways open so that breathing is easier. Every minute or so during your run, do a quick posture scan and make sure that the shoulders aren't creeping up toward your ears and you aren't tipping the front of your body forward. Stay relaxed and elongated through the spine for an efficient stride.

5. Use Your Arms

As you learn how to run a mile, you'll probably notice that your arms can help lighten your legs' workload. So, it is smart to use them.

Keep your arms in a relaxed position. They should remain bent at a 90-degree angle and swing gently from the shoulder joint. Try to keep them on the sides of your body, so they're not crossing over your chest. If you see that your hands are starting to float in front of your body, you might be leaning too far forward.

The movement of your arms should feel natural, but you'll probably notice a contralateral pattern. That means that when one leg steps forward, the opposite arm glides forward as well. This coordinated arm and leg movements help to balance and propel your body forward, so your legs don't have to work as hard.

6. Train With a Schedule

Many beginner runners find that following a training schedule allows them to build endurance safely and easily.

When you follow a specific program, both distance and intensity are gradually increased so that you avoid overuse injuries. Following a plan can also help you to stay motivated because you boost intensity and distance at a rate that is manageable.

Many smart 1-mile plans involve the run/walk method. Try alternating between 1-minute of running with 1-minute of walking or use set distances, like half of a track or a tenth of a mile. When you alternate between running and walking, gradually increase the distance of your run intervals.

7. Boost Mental Strength 

Sometimes the key to running longer distances is simply practicing "mind over matter." If you feel like you want to stop, choose an uplifting mantra and repeat it to yourself. Positive self-talk has been shown to help runners and other athletes overcome physical challenges.

Before you know it, you'll be passing the 1-mile mark and moving on to longer distances.

8. Find a Flat Route to Start

If you are running in a neighborhood, the courses you are targeting for your mile run may include an incline. Some runners attack hills, assuming they should just try to get them over with as quickly as possible. But when you are first learning how to run a mile, your focus should be on increasing distance, rather than intensity. Do your best to find the flattest route possible at first, until you are comfortable running a mile.

Once you've got the 1-mile distance under your belt, you can gradually add hills. As you approach the incline, ease your pace so that you don’t exhaust yourself and start walking. Tell yourself that you'll slow down a little on the uphill, but you'll end up going a bit faster on the downhill. Keep swinging your arms and help them "pump" you up the hill.

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