How To Run A Faster Mile

in Fitness, August 5th, 2020

So let’s say you can run a mile, but you are ready to improve and run a faster mile. Or maybe, what you’re trying isn’t really helping you shave time off your mile like you thought it would.

Either way, you’ve come to the perfect place. After getting back into running shape these lat few months, I started to pick up great habits that really led me to run a faster mile.

When I was in high school…..ten years ago i might add *sigh*…. I ran track and field and my primary focus was the short distance events like the 100m or 200m sprint. At the time, I was not a fan of long distance AT ALL. But surprisingly enough I run between 3-5 miles several times a week. Way up from how i used to think of running.

I started running more seriously again this past March and I have sinced cut off about 3 minutes off of my mile time! (One of my first runs in March I ran a mile in 10min, 52 seconds. My most recent mile from July was 7min, 46 seconds…I’ll be back in August with an update 🙂

The point is it can be daunting to try to run faster and improve your time. I’ve gathered 7 habits that you can implement so you can run a faster mile in no time!

Give Your Body The Right Fuel

This is a big one to start! If you are seriously working on improving your run time, you have to make sure that you are drinking enough water leading up to each run. This doesn’t mean gulping down a gallon of water right before you heat out the door, but instead drinking lots of water hours and days before your run.

By making it a habit, it will help your body get into the routine of running when it’s actually properly hydrated. Plus, consistently drinking water will help you minimize dehydration and cramping during your runs.

I like to run as soon as I wake up in the morning but that doesn’t work for everyone. The next time you run, grab a small snack before your run. I like to use bananas or a cup of dry cereal before my longer runs.

It won’t weigh you down during your run but will provide you the energy to make it to the finish line.

Make Sure to Stretch

I’ve seen a lot of people focus on stretching after their run, but stretching before the workout is just as important. By getting your body loose, you give it a better chance at moving through the run AND recovering afterwards.

Try the below stretches before your run and you will FEEL the difference in how your muscles respond to your run as you get more used to it as a routine.

  • High Knees for 30 seconds (3 sets)
  • Jumping Jacks (3 sets of 20)
  • Fast Walk Before The Run (10 minutes minimum)
  • Static Stretching

These are a few of my favorite things to do before I run. I noticed that the more I incorporated these activities into my overall workout, the looser I felt when I ran. That did wonders on the days I needed to push myself to run faster!

Did Someone Say Fartlek?

I actually like to call them my Speed Racer days because honestly, that’s pretty much what Fartklet means. It is is a Swedish term for “speed play” and it focuses on mixing up your running routine to include moments of high effort, followed my moderate effort or running.

According to Runner’s World, a fartlek helps to keep you focused on your efforts during the run, and not necessarily the pace of watch.

I try to focus on both, effort and pace, and that has tremendously helped me in becoming a stronger runner. I’ll use my Apple Watch to keep an idea of my pace to see if i can at a faster mile pace even for a few moments throughout my run. It sucks at first but pushing yourself is how you will continue to see results.

Throughout the week, try to incorporate at least 1-2 Fartlek workouts. Try starting at a moderate running pace and when you see a cross section or a stop sign, pick up the effort and speed in your workout. Once you hit your goal or target, reduce your effort and speed.

This is a GREAT way to help you run faster because not only will it improve your stamina and mental determination during the run, it will get you used to running harder for longer. This will help you run that faster mile you want!

Run Hills

This is definitely not the funnest one I had to describe it. That’s just me being honest, because sometimes even walking up hill is a battle, seriously…

BUT, I will say that it is so necessary if you want to run faster longer! Using hills to workout will help train your body to increase efforts when running different terrains and will improve your overall stamina.

You don’t have to find a steep hill either. It just needs to have some type of an incline that you know will push you. (If it’s a tiny hill, the progress you will see is tiny so don’t cut corners. Choose a hill that will PUSH you past your comfort zone.

After you’ve done your stretching and initial warm up, try running one mile that leads up to your hill or close to it. It doesn’t matter your pace quite yet, but after you finish the mile try slowing your pace and run up your designated hill with as much effort as possible. When you get to the top, walk back down the hill and repeat it 5x, then cool down!

The first couple runs will burn. Your legs will be tired from the mile and the hills but over time, you will get stronger. The hills won’t feel as daunting and you will be closer to running a faster mile.

Include Cross Training

I’m a big fan of cross training because it is a great way to get fit and train your body to be stronger, recover quicker and perform at it’s best ability.

When I was preparing for my first half marathon I started incorporating strength training into my workouts. At the time I signed up for a gym pass at my school that had classes. I dropped in at least twice a week and used the rest of the week to focus on my running.

Little did I know that it was the perfect thing to do because it pushed me into the best shape of my life!

AND the best part is even though I used a gym in the past, you don’t need one. You just need to find other activities that you can do that will help push you differently than simply running.

Below are some of the exercises I’ve incorporated into my general workouts over the years that you can start using today. I usually do this at least 2x a week when I run distances under 2 miles:

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Squats
  • 15 Burpees
  • 10 Lunges (each leg)
  • 15 Push ups
  • 10 Pull Ups (Sets of 3)
  • 15 Kettleball Swings
  • 25 Bicycle Kicks
  • Mountain Climbers (3 sets of 1 minute)

It will hurt at first because you’re not used to it. But I’ve noticed over the last few months that it really helped me mentally push myself and I slowly became stronger. My body feels leaner and ready to run faster more often.

Alternating Locations

I’m a big fan of changing up where you run sometimes for a few reasons. It helps to change the scenery so you don’t fall into the same run each time and it helps you teach your body to run on various types of terrain.

Running the exact same route every single can sometimes become boring which takes away from the motivation you may need to push yourself to run a faster mile.

I noticed this for myself when I used to run by the lake. After a few runs on the same trail, going the same direction, and the same distance sometimes, I wasn’t pushing myself as far as I could. I had become so used to every hill, incline, crevice, etc. that I wasn’t pushing really pushing to get better.

Don’t get me wrong, i still improved my time. But i felt it was slower progress than it could have been.

I recommend trying different places or routes that you can run. Find routes that include different inclines or different hills and provide you with a different backdrop during your run.

Use Self-Affirmations When You Run

Last, but not least, practice using self-affirmations before and during your run. Speaking to yourself positively will influence how you run and will help you have the mental capacity to push yourself even when you want to give up altogether.

There were so many times I struggled to practice any one of the above habits because I just wasn’t too nice to myself. I used to think that I couldn’t realistically shave time off my mile so what was the point?

Thankfully, I realized that is no way to think and even so…It would not help me become more motivated during my hard runs.

So instead I found a few self-affirmations that I repeat to myself during my run that really help put me in a great space:

  • You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.
  • Don’t stop running, even if you have to slow down. Just don’t stop.
  • You are good enough for this run, you can do it.
  • It won’t be easy but you are a runner, act like it!

The last one is probably one of my favorite ones. I sometimes think that because I’m not running competitively, i can’t take it too serious. But that is so far from the truth! I am a runner because I tell myself I am. I practice it, study it and ultimately try to get better.

So it’s okay if you have moments that aren’t the best or if you can’t run a faster mile tomorrow. Trying to reach a fitness goal, no matter what it is, is hard but you are better than you were yesterday, just keep going.

You can run faster and you will. You can run longer and you can train your body to do what you want it to do. Don’t lose sight of that and you will be running faster in no time!