8 Tips to Run a Mile Without Stopping

man running on a path in the park


Do you start a run off with good intentions but end up frustrated when you have to walk? Many new runners have a tough time running a mile without getting out of breath. While you might be tempted to quit, don't give up. It takes time to build up your endurance as a runner.

The keys to non-stop running are proper pacing and good form. Once you learn what to do (and what not to do) running for longer stretches will become easier. Here are a few tips to help you run a mile without stopping.

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. When you begin a new program, it is smart to take basic safety precautions.

While you might like to listen to music, it's not always the safest way to run. If you are running outside, consider leaving your headphones at home. You'll be better able to focus on the road and hear any traffic noises (from cars, other runners, or cyclists), as well as other important cues from your environment (such as animals).

You also need to make sure that you're visible—especially if you run in the early morning or in the evening after dark. Wearing reflective clothing or shoes can help you be more easily seen.

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.

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 can help prevent side stitches.

You might 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.

Slow Down

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

Everyone's running speed will be slightly different, but you can start by aiming to run at a conversational pace (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. For now, it's more important that you build confidence and endurance before increasing pace.

Practice Good Posture

Keep your shoulders relaxed, down, and back to practice good posture as you run. If you lean forward (a common newbie mistake), you close the chest area which can make it harder to breathe. You might end up feeling winded much sooner as a result.

By keeping your posture upright, you keep the airways open and your breathing will be 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.

Use Your Arms

As you learn how to run a mile, you'll probably notice that your arms can help lighten your legs' workload. It's 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 rather than crossing over your chest.

If you see that your hands are starting to float in front of your body as you run, 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 movement helps to balance and propel your body forward, which means your legs don't have to work as hard.

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.

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.

Start With a Flat Route

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.

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. This will help ensure that you don’t exhaust yourself and have to 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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