Whether you’re running competitively, for fun or just to stay in shape, the sport features several milestone distances, from the 100-meter dash to the marathon. One such landmark is the mile, a race that captured the public’s attention in the 1950s, as runners, including the famed Roger Bannister, sought to break the 4-minute mark. Since then, it’s remained a popular distance, even as the very best athletes today make it four laps around a track in less than 3:45.
Naturally, any consistent distance is a good candidate for measurement, especially if runners are looking to improve their time.
“The mile is a great event for distance runners to use as a barometer,” says Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, run coach at IRunTons. “It can be a measure of both speed and endurance, strength and cardiovascular fitness.”
5 TIPS FOR A FASTER MILE
Lacing up your shoes and hitting the track is a great start, but it helps to have a strategy going in. These five tips can help:
BALANCE YOUR WORKLOAD
The mile is a relatively short distance event. To improve your time, you need to train for speed and endurance. “Doing speed or HIIT work too often may make you faster initially, but it will likely impede your performance and health in the long run,” says Gallagher-Mohler. It’s important to vary your distances, balance those fast runs with slower-paced efforts, and take rest days to recuperate.
HIT THE WEIGHTS
If you want to improve your running, you need to run. But what you do off the track can make a significant impact on your mile time, so be sure to put your muscles through some strength-training exercises, advises Gallagher-Mohler. “Core, glute, hamstring and calf work, in particular, are important,” she says.
TRY CROSS-TRAINING, TOO
Gallagher-Mohler suggests cycling as a helpful cross-training supplement to running. “Substituting one spin class a week for a speed session is a great way to improve leg strength and the anaerobic system without the same pounding as a run,” she says.
CONDUCT TIME TRIALS
As you continue training, you can assess your strength, speed, endurance and cardiovascular fitness with a mile time-trial. You can do this solo or as part of a group run every 6–12 weeks, depending on where you are in your training cycle.
“The trick is to not be afraid of the results,” says Gallagher-Mohler. “Often, runners get intimidated by this process, worried that their time isn’t fast enough.” But she offers a reminder that time-trials and races are not assessments of your worth. “They are an opportunity for feedback on how your body and mind are doing on a given day.”
BUT DON’T ASSESS YOUR PROGRESS TOO FREQUENTLY
As noted above, occasional assessments of your progress can be beneficial, but avoid the temptation to conduct too many time-trials. It’s similar to stepping on the scale too often when you’re trying to lose weight. Checking on your progress is good, but you need to install reasonable time windows between sessions to get the most accurate picture of where you stand.
Unless you’re racing in a track series, Gallagher-Mohler says there’s no need to run time trials more frequently than 4–6 weeks apart. “Your body and mind need time to adapt to training so that improvements can be made. Patience is key.”
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.