How to Run Your Fastest Mile Yet

When 25-year-old British medical student Roger Bannister broke the elusive four-minute mile in 1954, he set the sports world on fire. Fast-forward more than a half-century, and retired Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj holds world record of 3:43.

If PR-ing your mile time is on your bucket list, add intervals to your training. (Image: Patrick Fraser/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

While running a mile in four minutes is a reach for the average runner, there's still plenty of excitement in running a mile as fast as your feet can fly. To power your aerobic engine into pristine mile shape, you need to include a variety of running-specific workouts in your training, as well as flexibility and muscle-building exercises.

A 7-Week Training Plan for Running a Faster Mile

If setting a personal record (PR) for the mile is your goal, following a dedicated training plan not only helps you run a progressively faster mile, but it also reduces the chance of injury. Without a specific intention for each workout, you're more likely to overdo it on mileage and end up sidelined, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Keep in mind, however, that you should have a solid running foundation before you focus solely on speeding up your one-mile runs. Run an easy to moderate pace for at least 12 weeks — the stronger your base, the better your body adapts to more intensive training loads.

Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer and health expert for Maple Holistics, recommends incorporating interval training into a training plan to run a faster miles. "Whether that's HIIT workouts interspersed between your usual runs or adding sprint repeats into your runs, include something into your plan that incorporates speed as well as distance," he says.

Here's the rest of Backe's seven-week plan to help you run your fastest mile yet.

Week 1

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Intervals — 20 minutes of low-intensity with five 20-second bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals — 15 minutes of low-intensity, 15 minutes of moderate-intensity, 5 minutes of low-intensity
  • Sunday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity

Week 2

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Intervals — 20 minutes of low-intensity with six 20-second bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals — 15 minutes of low-intensity, 15 minutes of moderate-intensity, 10 minutes of low-intensity
  • Sunday: Light run — 40 minutes of low-intensity

Week 3

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Intervals — 20 minutes of low-intensity with six 20-second bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals — 15 minutes of low-intensity, 15 minutes of moderate-intensity, 10 minutes of low-intensity
  • Sunday: Light run — 45 minutes of low-intensity

Week 4

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 1 mile of low-intensity with five 400-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 40 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals — 1 mile of low-intensity with four 400-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Sunday: Practice timed mile

Week 5

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 1 mile of low-intensity with five 500-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals of 1 mile of low-intensity with four 500-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Sunday: Practice timed mile

Week 6

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 1 mile of low-intensity with five 500-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 45 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Intervals of 1 mile of low-intensity with four 500-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Sunday: Practice timed mile

Week 7

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 1 mile of low-intensity combined with six 500-meter bursts of high-intensity
  • Wednesday: Active rest — yoga, swimming, walking
  • Thursday: Light run — 45 minutes of low-intensity
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Light run — 30 minutes of low-intensity
  • Sunday: 1-mile race

Tip

For the purposes of this training plan, low-intensity means a pace you could comfortably sustain for a long time (possibly indefinitely), like an easy, warm-up or recovery jog.

Moderate-intensity should feel like you're pushing yourself without wearing yourself out. And high-intensity is approaching a sprint; a speed you should only be able to maintain for the given burst (usually about 20 seconds).

Add Hill Workouts

Practice running uphill and downhill once a week. "Use inclines to test your speed," Becke says. You'll gain explosive power surging uphill and improve speed and stride rate flying down. After 30 minutes of jogging, choose a steep hill (about 100 meters) to run up and surge at a pace that feels like race pace. Jog to the bottom and repeat six to 10 times.

Follow the same procedure for downhill running, but choose a gentler descent. Don't risk injury by losing control running downhill. "When running up hills or stairs, try to keep your general pace the same to improve your running efficiency," Becke says. "If you're using hill drills to improve your speed, you need to focus on your form to avoid injury."

Schedule Rest and Cross-Training

Even when you're in pursuit of a faster mile, it's not a good idea to run every single day. Incorporate cross-training — doing physical activity that's not running — at least once a week. According to the International Sports Sciences Association, cross-training provides a bevy of benefits, including improved overall fitness, a decreased risk of injuries and better performance when you do run.

Cross-training activities should include a mix of other types of cardio, such as swimming or cycling, plus strength workout like weight-training and flexibility work such as yoga and stretching.

A 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the effect of strength training on running performance. The researchers found that previous studies supported the idea that high-intensity resistance exercises and plyometric exercises done two to three times a week can help improve overall running economy.

However, your body also needs to rest. Downtime allows your muscles to recover, rebuild and grow stronger. A rest day doesn't refer to being totally sedentary, notes ACE, but rather a day spent away from any form of intense exercise. You might still go for a walk or play with your kids or the dog, but you're not hitting the gym on a rest day. "When you're working on speed, the important thing is to listen to your body and honor its recovery time," Becke says.

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