Ah, the sweet mile: 1.609,35 meters of cardio goodness. Good on its’ own, or the perfect distance to accompany weight training as a warm-up or cool-down. I love the mile – short and sweet – and frankly, after a mile or so that’s when I start wanting to lift something heavy. 5k, you’re okay too. But the mile… what a great distance!
When you become a mile connoisseur, you start to want to do crazy things: like run it faster! Now why we humans like to do things faster is a big mystery, but it is what it is. You start running a faster mile, you get to the point where just 1 isn’t enough – you want to do 2, or even 3. And that, my friends, is the start of a slippery slope: next you’re on to 3 miles, then half-marathons and marathons. Maybe even ultramarathons – ahhhh! And it all started with the humble mile… Meanwhile the weight room sheds tiny little tears of loneliness (awwwww).
In all seriousness, remember to combine your cardio with strength training. Cardio = good for fat loss and endurance. Weight training = good for lean, sexy, body and muscle strength!
Bottom line: the mile is a great foundational distance for you to improve your speed on. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a 10 minute mile, or heck, even a 20 minute mile at the moment, you can get faster. So whatever your end goal is, try out the tips below to increase your speed and decrease your time.
Before we get to the tips, a word of caution: if you’re a beginner runner, who can barely eke out a mile before you collapse in a heap of exhaustion, forget about training for speed at the moment. Aiming for speed before you’ve built up and conditioned your leg muscles and tendons, is a recipe for injury. It’s much better to aim to increase distance and endurance for about 3 months without even thinking about speed.
Tips to Run a Faster Mile
Warming up is important with any exercise, but it’s especially important when you’re doing high-intensity and speed training. Make sure you spend 5 – 15 minutes warming up: you can even do a 1 mile warm-up at a relaxed pace.
Go for endurance.
To increase the speed you run 1 mile, aim to do 2 – 3 mile runs at a straight pace. E.g. if you currently do 1 mile at 10 minutes, aim to do 2 miles at 10 minutes a mile – so the total would be 20 minutes. This will build up your endurance, so you can focus on adding speed to your 1 mile.
Hill, stair (run up, walk down) and sand runs are a fantastic way to develop strength and endurance. You can start with sprints lasting 20 seconds, walk down as your rest, then build up to 40 second sprints. Work up to 10 of those, two times a week and you will see a huge improvement in your strength and endurance.
Hit the treadmill.
The treadmill, love it or hate it, has a few benefits: weather-proof, accuracy for pace training, keeps you at a steady pace, can do inclines and offers a lot of training variety. So don’t worry if you can’t hit the Great Outdoors, the treadmill is fine.
Just HIIT it.
High-intensity interval training is a great way to improve your speed as well as maximize fat loss. You can do 200m – 400m intervals: e.g running 200m at a sprint and then jogging 200m to recover – rinse and repeat 8 times. Or you can try out Fartleks (I know. It’s Swedish.) or ladders – both are forms of of HIIT.
Sleep, fuel and hydrate.
This is an obvious one, but it bears repeating because we often forget it: get enough sleep, eat well and drink enough water – especially if you’re training hard.
Building muscle strength will boost your speed (as well as give you a better physique). Try out some lower body strength training workouts.
Lighten the load.
Yep, it’s true: the lighter you are, the faster you go. The good news is that speed training (especially HIIT) will help you burn fat (provided you’re eating clean), which should allow you to run faster. And it’s not just about your body either, you can lighten your workout gear too with minimalist running shoes and clothing.
Stretch it out.
We all know stretching is good for us, but how many of us actually do it? If you want to increase your running speed, stretching can help you increase your stride length which should translate to faster times. In addition, being flexible helps prevent injury, so get those postural muscles nice and loose!
Perfect your technique.
Good running technique prevents injury and enhances performance: watch this video on running technique for some tips.
You want to be quick on your feet, then speed drills are the way to go. Granted, they can look a bit strange – like you’re running very fast, but not getting anywhere – but as strange as they look, doing them can really improve your performance. Here are some good ones.
Rest and recover.
Rest and recovery is critical, so make sure you get it. You should take at least 1 day off between intense training: e.g. if you train weekdays, take Wednesday off as a rest day (you could do upper body strength training on this day).
Use those tips for a few months and you’re sure to improve your 1 mile time. Next thing you know, you’ll be running 3 miles, half-marathons and maybe even marathons – just remember the strength training too!
What’s your current 1 mile time? Let us know in the comments below!