How to improve your mile time

The Mile, one of the hardest distances to run. It’s a tricky one to pace and to train for too. If you get off too fast your legs will slow down before you make it to the finish line. Set off too slow and you’ll spend the whole race playing catch up which is never fun.

But, with that being said the mile is one of the most rewarding distances to run. Which is why i’ll be running the Westminster Mile in a little over a month’s time. I’ve never raced this distance before so I am excited to see what my legs can do and in what time they’ll carry me over the finish line.

The mile requires a lot of hard work and determination and if you’re looking to improve your mile time, here are a few tips on how to train, race and pace the mile.

“You don’t actually have to run the mile to become better at it”

When I first started running, I thought that you had to run a distance again and again in order to become better at it. But as I became more experienced with running I realised that’s not the case at all. You don’t have to keep running the mile to become better at it.

Track

The first thing that I did when I signed up to the Westminster Mile was head back to track. If I’m going to improve my mile time, this is the best place to start. I love running on a track. All of the distances are marked out for you and compared to pavement running, you don’t have to turn any sharp corners or wait to cross the roads either.

I also find that the track emulates those race day sensations and really helps me to find my stride. I never have a bad session on the track and I’ve recently started running with Track Mafia again. Now that the weather is getting a bit better, I have no excuses and neither do you. Find your nearest track and start doing speed drills and intervals.

Intervals

Intervals are painful but they work wonders when you’re trying to improve your time. They help build your VO2 max, foot speed and allow you to learn what your goal pace feels like. Try running 4-6 x 800m at above your goal pace and limit your recovery to 90 seconds after each 800m. Try to make each run faster than the last one and record your time to monitor improvement.

Another great interval to practice is jogging the bends and sprinting the straights. These will seem reasonable to beginning as you’re only running 100ms but the lactic acid will soon start to kick in. Just make sure you keep keep jogging the bends and sprinting the straights. Keep doing this until you clock a mile in total, take 3 minutes rest and then go again.

Or, give this workout by Jo Pavey a go. It combines both intervals and tempo runs.

3 x 800m with 2 min recoveries
3 mins rest
3 x 400m with 90 sec recoveries
5 mins rest
10 mins at tempo pace
5 mins rest
4 x 200m with 60 sec recoveries

 Hill repeats

The run we all love to hate. Hill repeats are a great way to build your leg strength and cardiovascular fitness. If you don’t live near a hill, whack the incline up on your treadmill and run at 80% effort. If t’s steep enough, your 80% effort will feel about 110%. Depending on how long your hill is or if you’re on a treadmill, you can either run 100m or run in a pyramid. Run for: 20, 30, 40, 60, 40, 30, 20 seconds. Jog back down the hill in-between runs. The key to pyramid running is trying to keep your effort level the same as the time increases.

Recovery

When you up the intensity of your training, you need to make sure that you up your rest hours too. The quicker your body recovers, the faster you’ll edge closer to achieving your goals. I find that because my muscles are usually quite tight, stretching does more harm then good so I try to foam roll a few times a week to relieve my muscles. Whilst stretching will help your body, over stretching won’t, so if it hurts don’t force it. Your flexibility will increase overtime.

Weight train

Weight training will help you to generate power and improve your muscular endurance, which is essential for running the mile. Big, explosive lifts like squats, cleans and deadlifts will help you to generate power but it’s also worth focusing on glute activation too. Your glutes are the most important muscle used during running, but they’re lazy and often need to be woken up before a run. Single leg deadlifts usually do the trick, but I also use a resistant band to really fire my glutes up. Try to add a few weight training sessions to your running routine and don’t forget to warm up and cool down after each running session.

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