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How To Run A Faster Mile: 6 Expert Training Strategies

Get faster with our expert coach's mile workouts.

Although many distance runners seemingly look down upon the mile after high school or collegiate competitions, running a fast mile or working on strategies for how to run a mile faster is still a very popular running goal.

It can even be surprisingly beneficial for distance runners focusing on longer events such as the 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.

If you work on improving your mile-time performance, you will likely see a pretty significant carryover effect1Hellsten, Y., & Nyberg, M. (2015). Cardiovascular Adaptations to Exercise Training. Comprehensive Physiology6(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c140080 to some of the other “big four” distance running events, particularly your 5K and 10K race times.

In this guide to how to run a faster mile, we will briefly discuss factors that affect your ability to run a mile and dive into our top tips for training to run a faster mile yourself.

A person sprinting on a track.

Factors That Affect How Fast You Can Run a Mile

Improving your mile time can benefit most runners because many of the same training plan strategies will improve your overall aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, leg speed, and even pacing. These can all help you run a faster mile and other longer-distance races faster.

Before we discuss training strategies for a fast mile run, it is important to note that there is a limit to your ability.

After all, there are world records, and unless you are chasing those down, you may hit your peak mile performance and then struggle to see significant improvements.

Here are some of the top factors that affect how fast you can run a mile and what even constitutes a good mile run time:

#1: Age and Sex

Age and biological sex are two factors you can’t do much about.

However, as an example, at the one-mile distance, a 7-minute mile is better for a female than it is for a male when the two runners are matched by age and ability level.

If you look at the world records or Olympic times for every running distance, the men’s world record is always faster than the women’s world record for the same distance. 

This is because men carry less body fat and have a higher percentage of lean body mass relative to women and, thus, are stronger and faster runners.

Also, we slow down as we age, so younger runners will tend to have faster running times than older runners at the same fitness level. (However, this is not true in all cases).

A person running fast.

#2: Experience Level and Fitness Level

The newer you are to running, the more significant improvements you will see when you implement tips for how to run a faster mile because there is more room for “growth“ or “improvement.“

#3: Effort Level

Finally, it’s also important to consider your effort level when you want to run a faster mile.

Are you doing a timed mile on the outside track as a workout or as a time trial or is it a mile race you are training for? 

Or are you looking to improve the mile time average in longer races and training runs at a faster race pace?

To some degree, there is a fair amount of overlap as to how to run a faster mile in either scenario, but there are also differences in how to run a fast mile when you are just doing a single all-out mile versus how to run a faster mile average in long distance races.

A person running.

Tips for How to Run a Faster Mile

Let’s move on to the practical for tips on how to run a faster mile.

#1: Build An Aerobic Base

Certainly, strategies for improving mile-time performance will involve speed work, but it is also important to focus on building your aerobic base and cardiovascular fitness by running easy runs.

Gradually increasing the distance or amount of time that you can run at a conversational pace without stopping is essential.

This is especially true if you are newer to running or trying to run a fast mile for an armed services physical fitness test, occupational test, or just a faster mile on the treadmill because you have started incorporating running before or after lifting weights. 

Build up to at least one 30-minute run per week if you are a beginner.

Experienced distance runners can essentially negate this mile performance tip and take the opposite approach—dialing back the distance of their runs and implementing more speed workouts for running a fast mile—which will be a more effective approach for improving mile performance.

A back squat.

#2: Lift Weights

Strength training can help you run a faster mile.2Vikmoen, O., Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., & Raastad, T. (2017). Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiological Reports5(5), e13149. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13149

Rather than lift light weights for many reps, use heavy weights for fewer reps and focus on compound, explosive exercises like step-ups, squats, deadlifts, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, weighted calf raises, and hip thrusts.

#3: Build Power

One of the best tips for how to run a faster mile is to work on your power.

This can involve incorporating plyometrics into your training program (box jumps, burpees, etc.) and working on resisted speed workouts such as running with a parachute, doing a weighted sled push or pull, and hill training.

#4: Practice Pacing

Newer runners may need to practice even pacing to improve mile performance. 

Use your watch to try to run even splits to partition your energy for the full mile without slowing down because you went out too fast for the first lap of your timed mile.

People lined up on a track.

#5: Add Track Drills

Running drills like A skips and bounding can help you work on your neuromuscular coordination, power, and running form, and running economy, all of which can help you run a faster mile.

You can structure these track workouts to improve 1-mile time performance in various ways. 

For example, you might divide the workout into sections, such as running drills, followed by sprints, followed by speed-endurance intervals. Alternatively, you can incorporate running drills, track and field drills, or plyometrics interspersed with sprinting intervals.

#6: Keep It Varied

Track drills are only a small component of a speed workout to get faster.

You should also be doing sprint training with intervals. There are many ways to structure interval training workouts for running a fast mile.3Haugen, T., Seiler, S., Sandbakk, Ø., & Tønnessen, E. (2019). The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Medicine – Open5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0221-0

‌You can run sprint repeats that are the same distance, such as 8 x 200 meters or 4 x 600 meters, or you can do ladder or pyramid track workouts.

A person sprinting on a track.

A ladder track workout involves either running intervals in ascending or descending distances.

For example, an ascending ladder track workout for a miler would consist of 4 x 200 meters, 2 x 400 meters, 2 x 600 meters, and 1 x 800 meters, with a full recovery in between each interval.

Each interval would be run at your goal mile running speed or faster.

A descending ladder track workout starts with the longest distance and works down towards the shortest sprint.

You can also do pyramid speed workouts, which involve increasing and decreasing the intervals’ length.

For example, you could do a pyramid track workout for milers that might involve 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 600m, 400m, and 200m.

Pyramid workouts for milers are one of the best types of speed workouts to run a faster mile because you have to work on your pacing over the course of the entire workout, but you can also hammer home the descending portion of the ladder once you have hit the longest interval.

This can help you build leg speed and improve your kick in the mile in the third and fourth laps once you are already tired.

A person running on a track.

A time-based track interval workout can also be an effective speed workout for running a faster mile time, particularly if you are a distance runner and want to incorporate speed training into longer runs or you don’t have access to a track for mile workouts.

For example, you could run 8 to 10 x 30 seconds at 90-95% effort or max heart rate with 60 seconds of recovery jog between intervals.

This would be a speed-based mile workout.

On the other end of the spectrum, you could do another time-based running workout to improve your mile time that might be more along the lines of:

4 x 5 minutes at mile pace (for milers with a fastest mile time of nine minutes or more) or 4 x 3 minutes at mile pace for mile runners with a fastest mile time of eight minutes or faster).

These types of longer intervals (time—or distance-based) increase speed endurance, which refers to the ability to hold a faster pace for a longer time without slowing down, like you would with a hard tempo run.

Overall, you will want to incorporate both types of intervals into your program when implementing the best plan for how to run a mile faster:

Once a week, add short, super-fast sprint intervals to improve turnover and target your anaerobic energy system.

At least once a week, add longer running intervals to improve your speed endurance, pacing, and physical and mental stamina for holding a faster mile pace for a longer period of time.

Ensure you warm up and cool down before and after these high-intensity workouts to run at your best and promote injury prevention.

A person looking at their phone on a track.

#7: Rest and Recover

Even if you are super keen on running a mile faster, you still need to respect your body’s limits and get adequate rest and recovery in your running workouts and your training overall.

Particularly if you are new to running, run no more than every other day to start. You will need to respect your rest days to recuperate and give it your all the following workout.

Even if you are an experienced runner, consider cross-training in place of one aerobic run per week to reduce the risk of injuries.

This is especially true if you suddenly add a lot of speed training to run faster when you have been predominantly doing steady-state, comfortable distance runs.

To that end, gradually build the intensity of your workouts for running a faster mile.

Of course, working with a running coach is always the best option, as they can create a personalized plan for you and your needs. At Marathon Handbook, we provide 1:1 online coaching and can help you reach your goals.

Ready to get started? Grab your running shoes and get going!

If you want to see how your running performance stacks up against your peers, check out this next guide:

References

  • 1
    Hellsten, Y., & Nyberg, M. (2015). Cardiovascular Adaptations to Exercise Training. Comprehensive Physiology6(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c140080
  • 2
    Vikmoen, O., Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., & Raastad, T. (2017). Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiological Reports5(5), e13149. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13149
  • 3
    Haugen, T., Seiler, S., Sandbakk, Ø., & Tønnessen, E. (2019). The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Medicine – Open5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0221-0
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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