Want cardio cred? Follow this program to run your fastest mile ever
The 4-Week Plan to Run a 6-Minute Mile. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a runner or not, or whether you ever plan to toe the starting line of a marathon or 10K. Every man should aspire to run a 6-minute mile, or at least see how fast he can run this classic distance.
Running hard for a mile requires speed, stamina, and grit. And then there’s muscle: “People often forget that you need strength to run that distance that fast,” says Ryan Lamppa, cofounder of Running USA and founder of Bring Back the Mile, an advocacy group trying to restore the race to its pre-1980s glory (that is, before track and field’s conversion to metric).
“Look at milers: Unlike distance runners, they’re muscular,” Lamppa says.
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Much of that strength comes from the training required to clock a decent time. “You need to run intervals—repeated bouts of all-out effort and rest—to target both slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers,” says Ben Rosario, head coach of the Northern Arizona Elite running team.
That’s why a 6-minute mile is such an accomplishment. “It shows that you have power and a strong aerobic base, which translate to better performance in any sport,” he says.
Follow these steps to achieve it in just 4 weeks.
1. Set a Starting Point
A week before you begin the program, head to the track at your local high school or college and, after a warmup, run a mile as fast as you can. (A mile on a typical track is four 400-meter laps in the inside lane, plus about 10 yards or meters.)
Note your time. This is your baseline for deciding a reasonable goal and for measuring improvement. If you’re new to mile-specific training, you can reasonably expect to run the mile 10 to 15 percent faster after this four-week program.
So if you run a 7-minute mile, you’ve got a good shot at hitting that magical 6-minute mark after a month. In this preliminary week, if you do another cardio workout (in addition to your regular workouts), make it an easy distance run.
2. Accelerate Your Training
Once a week for the next 4 weeks, head back to the track to run intervals. (Use the chart below to guide your sessions.) Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of light jogging and four to six “strides.”
To complete one stride, accelerate from a jog to a sprint over 50 meters. Rest briefly and then begin your intervals workout.
Two other days a week, jog for 30 minutes. These cardio sessions should be in addition to—not to the exclusion of—your regular gym workouts. Just be sure to perform each workout on a different day.
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3. Time Your Mile Again
Did you finish in 6 minutes or less? Congratulations! You are faster and fitter than most men on the planet.
If you missed your goal, no worries; just repeat the four-week training cycle. “But this time, also run hills once a week to strengthen your quads and boost your explosive power,” Rosario suggests.
Find a moderate hill—something challenging but not so steep that you need to walk up it. Sprint uphill for 20 to 30 seconds. Walk back down to recover. Repeat 6 times. Then go back to the track and try again!