Five Tips for Running the Mile

The one mile race is a distance that requires a combination of speed, endurance, and mental toughness. To train well for a one mile race, you need to develop a strong aerobic foundation AND you need to build up your anaerobic capacity. That's pretty tough! So, the key to successful training is finding the right balance between easy running and faster workouts.

Tips for Running the Mile #1 - Easy Running

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Easy running is the foundation of any successful training program. This is because it helps you build your aerobic capacity. This is absolutely critical for endurance running. And make no mistake about it. Even though the mile is only four laps of the track (or eight if you are running on a 200m track), it requires endurance. It's great to have speed. But if you run out of gas halfway, you are done for!

Easy running should make up the bulk of your weekly mileage. It should be done at a pace that feels comfortable and conversational.

Still not convinced that you should do easy running? Then check out this page about building your base.

How much easy running should you do? Good question. I like to see athletes run a long of 60-90 minutes in length. That seems insane for a race that lasts 4-8 minutes. Your other easy runs can be shorter; 30-45 minutes or so. Clearly, this is dependent on a lot of factors such as your current mileage level and ability. But these provide some reasonable guidelines.

Currently running much less than that? Then check out the Increasing Mileage Safely page for more guidance.

Tips for Running the Mile #2: Incorporate Quality

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Once you have got a solid aerobic foundation, you can begin to add faster workouts / quality workouts into your training. There are several types of speed workouts that are beneficial for running the mile, including intervals, tempo runs, and hill repeats. Intervals involve running a specific distance or time at a faster pace, followed by a period of rest or recovery. For one mile training, you might run a variety of interval workouts. You could start with intervals that cover more than the mile but are somewhat slower, e.g. 8-12 x 400-meter intervals.

As you get closer to a race, you can get more specific and start running 4 x 400m at a pace faster or at your goal mile pace. For example, if your goal is to run a mile in 6 minutes, you might run 400-meter intervals at a pace of 1:30 (6-minute mile pace). Depending on where you are at in the training cycle, the rest period between intervals should be longer or shorter. Check out more information about interval running.

Tempo runs are sustained efforts at a pace that is comfortably hard. The goal with tempo runs is to improve the handling of lactic acid in your body. You should check out the tempo running page for more information. For one mile training, I would recommend starting off with shorter cruise intervals, e.g. 6 x 4 minutes tempo with 1 minute rest. Then build up over a cycle to something like 2 x 15 minutes or 3 x 10 minutes tempo.

Hill repeats are another effective speed workout for one mile training. Running uphill forces the body to work harder and recruit more muscle fibers, which can improve overall strength and speed. You might run 6-8 hill repeats of 30-60 seconds each, with a jog down recovery between each repeat. Also check out the Hill Running page for more information.

All of these types of quality workouts increase injury risk. If you are not used to them, I recommend you start off easier with shorter workouts and less repetitions and build up from there. Especially hill repeats can be a bit brutal to begin with!

Tips for Running the Mile #3: Leg Speed

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In addition to all of the above, your one mile running program should prioritise leg speed workouts.

A simple way to improve leg speed is to regularly do strides. You will want to do these at the end of most easy runs.

You can also do specific leg speed workouts. A simple way to do them is to do 8 - 12 x 15 - 30 seconds of repeats with plenty of rest in between, e.g. 4-6 minutes of easy running. In those 15-30 seconds repeats you focus on running with very quick turnover and being light on your feet.

Tips for Running the Mile #4: Strength Training

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In addition to all of these specific running workouts, it's important for one mile runners like you to include some form of strength training in your weekly routine. This might include exercises like squats, lunges, and plyometrics, which can improve power and explosiveness.

Strength training is its whole own topic and what you do depends very much on your starting point.

Not used to strength training at all? Then you can make a safe start with strength training by doing bodyweight exercises. When you get more used to this, it will make sense to get into the weight room and start lifting.

A great introduction to running specific strength training is my strength training for runners page.

Tips for Running the Mile #5: Recovery

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Finally, recovery is an important aspect of any training program. You can't go hard every day. That's why the best running programs include a healthy mix of easier and harder days. As part of your recovery, consider healthy lifestyle decisions as well: plenty of sleep, proper nutrition and hydration are also essential for optimising performance and recovery.

In summary, the best training for a one mile race involves a combination of easy running and speed workouts, with a focus on developing aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity. Intervals, tempo runs, and hill repeats are all effective speed workouts. When training for the mile you will want to build plenty of leg speed as well. And you will want to support your running program with some form of strength training and recovery. By finding the right balance between these elements, you can build the speed, endurance, and mental toughness needed to excel in the one mile race!

Check out the Q&A below to find out what others have asked about running the mile!

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