Stepping Up The Pace: 19 Ways To Shave Down Your Race Time

No matter the distance—5K, 10K, half-marathon, or a full 26.2 miles—whittling down your time and getting faster is often a runner’s goal. Shaving minutes or even seconds off a race time may feel close to impossible. However, there are science-backed methods (combined with a little hard work and determination) to morph into a speedier version of yourself. From strength training and focusing on the core to recovery techniques and catching enough shut eye, we’ve compiled 19 tried and true ways to get you from the start to the finish line in less time.

Breathe right

Focus on deep belly breaths. 1 Envision your stomach as a balloon. Every time you breathe in it should inflate and every time you breathe out it should deflate. Once you’ve got that deep, even breathing down pat, you can use more energy to focus on running rather than the less-effective huffing and puffing.

HIIT it

High intensity interval training (HIIT) helps build speed and endurance by increasing aerobic capacity. 1 Rather than focusing on long, steady static runs every day, switch things up with alternating periods of high-intensity effort and periods of lower-intensity work (a.k.a. the recovery). The short rests after quick, intense bursts may gradually increase your ability to run faster for longer. 1

Roll it out

Foam rolling—also known as self-massage, or self-myofascial release—relies on a tube-like tool to help loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, and increase range of motion (especially in the knees). 2 Foam rolling can also help prevent the buildup of scar tissue and reduce pain in running-specific muscles like the quads, hamstrings, and calves.3 Beyond all those benefits, a few sessions with a foam roller per week can help prevent injury and speed up recovery, which are two of the sneakiest, best ways to improve speed.

Source: Multiple Uses of Biofoam Rollers

Speed play

While the name may give you the giggles, fartlek training (Swedish for speed play) is a fun way to play with high intensity intervals, minus the clock-watching structure. 4 Once you warm up, alternate fast periods with slower, easy-effort running. Instead of timing each interval to the second, have fun and challenge yourself by running to specific landmarks (i.e. a certain tree or mailbox).

Source: Workout Of The Week: Brad Hudson’s 1-2-3-2-1 Fartlek

Beef up

Picking up a pair of dumbbells, a medicine ball, a kettlebell, or a barbell for weight training can help lower your race time outside of the gym. Research shows resistance training has a positive effect on endurance running performance. 5 Why? When runners up their mileage, muscles that aren’t ready for increased intensity are more prone to injury. 6 Training with weights can increase range of motion, prepare muscles for a bump in intensity, and improve posture and endurance.

Build a core of steel

Strengthening your core—abdominals, hamstrings, glutes, hips, back, and obliques—is an effective method to improve stability, speed, and overall performance. 7 8 Best of all, a strong core can help runners hold proper running form longer.

Head to the hills

Running hills increases intensity and reduces risk of injury, thanks to decreased joint impact. Running, jogging, or even walking up hills develops muscle fibers, but the key is to gradually increase the length and steepness of hills.9

Grab a cup of joe

Caffeine has long been associated with improvements in running performance and speed. 10 In one study, just 3 grams of caffeinated coffee enhanced runners’ speeds during a high intensity 1500 meter run. 11 Since caffeine absorbs quickly, you can drink a cup of coffee close to the start of a run.

Take it to the mat

Just as foam rolling can decrease running times by improving flexibility, yoga can be an effective way to stretch out tight muscles and improve strength, balance, and coordination. Yoga also teaches pranayama, or breath work—the belly breathing we talked about earlier. 12Taking yogic breathing from the mat to the pavement can help runners control the body and help a run feel less demanding. 13

Sleep plenty

Research suggests just one night of sleep deprivation can have negative affects on endurance performance and pacing. 14 Adequate sleep can help speed recovery after tough runs because our muscles repair while snoozing. So do what you can to get into a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. 15 If mid-afternoon coffee keeps you from falling asleep with ease, skip it. If you find late-night TV keeps your motor going, shut off the tube earlier. Shoot for the sleep sweet spot of seven to eight hours a night.

Bump up your cadence

Cadence—also known as stride rate—is measured by how many times both feet make contact with the ground. 16 Next time you head out for a run, count the number of steps you take in 20 seconds (count each time your right foot hits the ground). Multiply that number by three and you’ve got your cadence. Keep track of your cadence on each run (just count once, no need to go crazy) and work to increase your steps per minute over time. Remember, your jogging cadence will be lower than your race-speed cadence.

Lose some pounds

Think back to high school: Chances are your book-filled backpack was unbearably heavy. Running to class and climbing stairs with a backpack was no doubt more challenging than without the extra weight. The same principle is true for running: The fewer pounds you have to lug around, the faster you could go (for every pound lost, a runner could cut about two seconds off his or her mile time). 17 Though simple physics say most of us will run faster if we shed a few pounds, it doesn’t mean all of us should take on a massive weight loss journey. If you’re already on the slender side, losing weight could mean muscle loss, too.

Ditch extra gear on race day

Stripping down won’t shave minutes off your race time. But, just like losing a few pounds can have a positive effect, it’s helpful to wear just what you need on race day.

Make time for the “Dreadmill”

Yah, yah, we know: Most runners dread the treadmill. But, treadmill running has benefits. Without roadblocks (i.e. stoplights), running on a treadmill is a great way to stick to a set and monitor a pace. Plus, the treadmill is a boon during bouts of inclement weather.

Prioritize tempos

While on the topic of the dreaded treadmill, let’s talk about tempo runs. This training involves setting your pace at a slightly faster speed than comfortable—not necessarily a full-on sprint, but a tad speedier than normal. While interval runs, strength training, and varying your routine are all important and effective ways to run faster, tempo runs are a great way to prepare for longer races. In one study, runners who incorporated tempo and interval runs (plus running more miles per week) ran significantly faster than those who didn’t up their mileage and run both tempo and interval. 18 Shoot for two to three miles per tempo run (not including warm-up and cool-down) if training for shorter races and four to eight miles for half-marathon and marathon distances. 19

Source: Summer Training For Fall Running

Skip, jump, and hop

Plyometrics—quick, explosive exercises that include jumping, hopping, and skipping—are an awesome way to strengthen leg and foot muscles. 20 Studies show runners, especially sprinters, who incorporate plyometrics into their weekly routines see improvements in speed.21 22 Keep in mind that plyometrics, including popular moves like squat jumps and box jumps, can definitely increase a runner’s risk of injury, so incorporate a plyo workout just once a week.

Add miles

To get faster, sometimes the simplest (and, in some ways, the most difficult) way is to tack on more miles. 23 But, it’s important to note that running too much will increase your risk of injury. In general, a good guideline to follow is a mile extra for every run per week (for example, four extra miles if you run four times weekly). Maintain the added mileage for two weeks before tacking on even more miles.

Carbo load

While there’s no need to wolf down a box of pasta or a baguette before every run, research does show that consuming foods high in carbohydrates a day or two before a race may increase runners’ endurance for long runs—we’re talking marathon-length .24

Don’t get hurt, darn it

If you overdo it and get injured, you may have to toss your running shoes in the closet for a few weeks or more. Take care of your body, get lots of sleep, and strength train for strong, healthy ready-to-run muscles. 24

Article credit: http://www.fix.com/blog/stepping-up-the-pace/.

Sources:

There’s something inside all runners that drives us. There’s a deep drive inside all of us that pushes us to be better – to run farther, faster, stronger. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s to show off a little bit. But whatever it is – it’s there. If you’ve ever run a race before you know it’s there, and if you’ve ever run a second race, you know that the only thing that matters is beating the time that you posted in the first race. Many people have a strong desire to increase their speed and shave seconds off their time, but not a lot of people know how to do it safely. I often see injuries in my physical therapy clinic from people who are trying to take their running to the next level but haven’t exactly done it correctly. There’s a proper way to shave time off your running and it’s the topic of today’s post! Today I would like to share with you my 8 of my top tips to shave time off your miles! Hit a new PR this year by following these steps to faster, stronger, injury-free running.

1. Learn How to Breathe: Breathing is everything. Delivering oxygen more efficiently to your working muscles will help them work stronger longer. Have you ever heard of “Belly Breathing” before? Basically you train yourself to shift the demand of oxygen intake from your chest muscles to your diaphragm in order to maximize oxygen consumption and decrease accessory muscle activity. WHAT?! Basically that means your body gets more air for less energy. Perform “Belly Breathing” by filling your stomach with air, not your chest. As you take a deep breath focus on driving your belly, not your chest, outwards. This causes a contraction of your diaphragm instead of your chest muscles and thereby increases oxygen intake. Sometimes I recommend a progression of performing this exercise first laying, then sitting, and finally standing to ensure you get it down correctly

2. Learn How to Breathe While Running: Most of us breathe on a 4-count cadence while running. This simply means that on average we inhale for 2 steps and exhale for 2 steps. This pattern of breathing actually results in us using only 50-60% of the available air we take in (we’re turning it over too quickly and not maximizing all of it). More breathing with less efficient oxygen delivery means more work breathing and less energy to our legs. What I advise people is to try to change from a 4-count cadence to a 5-count. That means you’ll take 3 steps during inhalation and 2 steps while exhaling. This not only draws more air into your lungs, but it also keeps it there for longer; thereby helping your body to absorb more oxygen. This is vital in avoiding the “wall” that all of us have hit at one point or another. Go try it – it’s a little difficult to get down, but I promise it will be well worth it!

3. Form Is Everything: Proper running form is key to maximizing energy expenditure. If you’re running with poor form chances are you’re spending a lot more energy on a lot of extraneous motion. You should have your head up, looking straight ahead. Your body should be held tall but relaxed with your shoulders back. Your arm swing should be forward/backward and not side-to-side (a problem I encounter a lot in the female population). Another big problem I encounter is people landing on their heel with their foot way out in front of them while running. This is essentially results in a negative ground reaction force – you’re “putting the brakes on” during your run. If you keep your initial contact with the ground is centered more directly under you that will assist in propelling you forward throughout the running motion.

4. Get on Track: Track running is a great way to increase speed. Some things you need to know – one lap around the track is 400 meters or ~1/4 mile. 4 times around a standard track = 1 mile. Many schools open their tracks after school is over; summer is a great season to take advantage of your local track. Take some sort of stopwatch with you and practice running faster laps. Try to make each subsequent lap faster than the one previous until you can’t do it anymore. Another great idea is to run the straights at a much faster speed than you normally would, but walk/jog the turns. This type of interval running is a great way to get your body used to running at faster speeds.

5. Head for The Hills: Hill running is a great way to increase leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. Try incorporating “hill repeats” if you haven’t done it yet. Here’s how you do it: Find a fairly steep hill that’s about 100 meters long. Start at the bottom and run hard (80% max effort) to the top of the hill. You’ll then slowly jog back down only to start running hard up the hill again. Start with 3-4 hill repeats/week; eventually you want to work up to 6-7 per week.

6. Tempo Runs: A great way to start running faster is to start running faster (rocket science, I know!)! Tempo runs are a great way to build speed and strength as well as your anaerobic (lactate) threshold. After a 5-10 minute warm-up, run 15-20 minutes at a “comfortably hard” pace (a little faster than you would normally run). Finish with a 5-10 minute cool down. Start with 1-2 tempo runs/week and increase up to 3-4 (anything more than this might be too much and actually cause more injury than good).

7. Rest: Now, I know what you’re thinking: “You want me to do what??” “One of his tips to faster is to not run?” I know, right- crazy. But here’s the truth: running hard every day will not make you faster. Rest is critical to recovery and injury prevention. You need to take one day each week where you don’t run at all. Your body uses this time to build and repair areas that have been broken down so you actually come back stronger from your rest than you would have otherwise. Trust me on this one – one day off.

8. Don’t Just Run: One of the biggest problems I see in running is that people think that’s all they need to do – run. I ask people in the clinic what they do for training while running and their answer is always the same… “I just run”. What many people don’t realize is this one simple fact: you’ve gotta be strong to run!! It’s a high-impact, repetitive activity that causes a lot of breakdown if not done correctly. Strengthen key muscles in your core and legs including quads, hips, butt, back, and stomach to stay healthy and strong while running. Strengthening these areas is vital to helping carry you the distance and keep you on the strong track to the finish line.

There you have it! 8 simple steps to help you shave time off your mile! Follow these tips to help carry you longer, stronger, and on your way to your new PR this year. Get yours!

Jared Beckstrand, Doctor of Physical Therapy, who specializes in exercise prescription. He loves being active and seeing his patients become more active and get into shape. He is also the Blogger at Tone and Tighten, LLC

Q: What’s the most effective way to train to shave time off my half-marathon PR?

A: So you’re determined to max out every ounce of fall’s weather and squeeze in a final half marathon before you’re forced to treadmill train. After all, who wouldn’t want to enter the winter swiping one last strong finish under his belt?

But beware. Overtraining or training the wrong way could dock minutes off your time. According to running coach and former Olympian Jack Daniels, who’s now an associate physical education professor at A.T. Still University, you should stay away from sprints in training. “You won’t be running the race that fast,” he says. “Plus sprinting makes you lose all form and good mechanics.” Finish your endurance season strong with these nine tips on shaving time off your half-marathon PR.

1. Go On ‘Easy Runs’ – Make sure to build an easy run into your weekly training. Give about 70 percent effort and try to cover a third of your weekly mileage. Although the speed might feel sluggish to you, don’t worry; it’s a good thing. You heart works the hardest (and best) when you’re working at a 60 to 65 percent effort.

2. Master The Mechanics – Consistent breathing is just as important as a steady stride, so practice your breathing mechanics with repetition runs. Here’s how you do it: Run for 30 to 60 seconds, then fully recover for three times the length—this will ensure you focus on good stride, relaxed form, and easy breathing with every rep. You can run between 5 and 10 repetitions a few times per week, but just make sure they make up less than five percent of your weekly mileage

3. Catch Your Breath – Skip the urge to take quick, shallow breaths. Instead, follow a 2,2 breathing rhythm. Take two steps (right, left) while you breathe in and two steps (right, left) while you breathe out. Not sure if you’re running too fast? Try this test. On an easy run, you should be able to follow a slower 3,3 breathing rhythm. Can’t? Slow down.

4. Train Anaerobically – Once you’ve done a few races, push yourself with interval training. Run hard for three minutes, then rest for two at a speed you could race at for 12 to 15 minutes. New to intervals? Try running relatively hard for ten right foot falls, then walk for five or push yourself to jog for ten. Repeat by increments of 10 up to 100, and come back down. Because you’re not tracking miles, this workout gets your mind off of immediate mile markers.

5. Push Yourself – For the biggest benefit, train with threshold training. Go out for runs that incorporate sets of six to 20 minutes at a pace 12-20 seconds faster than the pace you’re planning to run the half. (If you’re running shorter sets at pace, run 4-5 sets. Or, choose 1-2 sustained sets at for a longer time frame.) This sustained pace at threshold mimics the benefits of explosive cardio training, so your legs will get used to the pace and you’ll be able to run more comfortably in your desired race pace on race day.

6. Forget Runs Less Than 30 Minutes– A 10 to 15 minute run means you’re likely spending more time showering and changing clothes, so for a real benefit, pick up the mileage and put down the soap. Try to get to the point where the least you run is 30 minutes. That way, you’ll have a solid sustained cardio foundation to work from on race day—the extra mileage pays off because your body will be used to sustained running. Anything below 30 minutes will likely be a waste of time.

7. Focus on rate, not length, of stride – Don’t try to lengthen your stride (it’ll happen naturally as you become more fit). Instead, focus on turnover rate—the number of steps you take per minute. “All good runners turn over 180 times a minute, which is about 90 right foot falls per minute,” says Daniels. “But beginners tend to lope along instead of rolling along at around 80.” The slower your turnover, the harder you’re hitting the ground upon return, so shuffle—don’t bound.

8. Land Naturally – Forget the forefoot hype. Seventy to 75 percent of mediocre runners land rearfoot or midfoot, which tends to be more comfortable and economical. Running barefoot or training in a minimal shoe? The lack of cushioning promotes forefoot running, which puts more stress on your calf muscles—not ideal if you’re prone to shin splints. Rearfoot striking, on the other hand, can put more stress on the quads and knees.

9. Think big picture – Look towards the long term instead of focusing on just one race. Have a non-time related goal for each run. Try to start slower, run with a partner, breathe through the whole race, or turnover faster. You’ll accomplish your goal and won’t even worry about finish time.

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Fear of missing out?

When Army Maj. Dan Browne was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, he was the first at West Point’s first to break the 4-minute-mile barrier.

Before graduating in 1997, he earned three All-American honors in distance running while racking up six school speed records — all of which still stand today. In the years since, he’s claimed several national running titles, earned a berth to the 2004 Olympics competing in the both the 10,000-meter race and the marathon, and is now in Rio as the long-distance coach for several Team USA athletes.

All that to say, Browne knows a thing or two about running. And more importantly, for those in the military, he knows exactly how to help troops improve their times for the dreaded annual fitness tests.

Whether it’s about for the timed 2-miler for those in the Army and Navy, Marines’ 3-mile run for Marines or the 1.5-mile test for those in the Air Force personnel, he says, “I get this question all the time,” he Browne says.

The good news is that “for average runners, it’s actually pretty easy to shave some significant time off your run.” says Browne.

Okay, OK, so he means the kind of “easy” that comes with a fair amount of hard work and dedicated training. “But you’d be amazed at how far people can come in just two months.”

So, how far is far?

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A typical middle-of-the-PT-pack runner with, say, a 16-minute 2-mile run, shouldn’t have any problem dropping two minutes off their time in two months, he Browne says.

You Your mileage, of course, will vary with age and general fitness level overall fitness, but he says “generally speaking, for regular runners, adaptions can happen really quickly. You can make dramatic gains in just a couple of months. It’s really remarkable.”

To be sure, the faster you already are, the harder that gets, he says. For Olympians and other elite runners, shaving just a few seconds — even tenths of a second — can make a medal-winning difference. But for many military runners, dropping two minutes in two months from a 2-mile run “is not an unrealistic goal at all,” he Browne says. “It’s completely possible.”

Here’s Some of his Browne’s go-to tips to help make it happen.

1. Start running three times a week

He knows that It sounds obvious, but it’s critical to get specific about what it means to run more, Browne says — especially if you’re going to do this in two months.

“You’ll need to be increasing your total mileage every week. So, if you run ten 10 miles a week now and over time you can double that to 20 or 25 miles a week, your time will get better. It’s just going to happen,” he says.

To do that, Browne recommends starting with three runs a week and gradually increasing up to five per week by the start of the second month.

“Your body is designed to physically adapt to stress. Part of that adaptation process takes place when you run. It’s your body signaling itself saying, ‘Hey, this is hard, let’s try to make it a little better so it makes it a little easier.’ So, you get fitter, you lose some weight, you gain lean muscle mass. And a bunch of other little adaptions start to take place that will start to improve your time.”

2. Do interval training

At least once a week, hit the track for interval training.

“Do eight quarter miles — one lap around most tracks — with 1- to 1.5-minute recovery breaks between each lap,” says Browne says. “With each lap, try to be faster than your normal pace. So, someone with a 16-minute two 2-mile is running an average of two minutes per lap. That person doing the intervals should try to average 1 minute, 40 seconds in at least the first four laps.”

This is one of the single most effective methods of improving run times, he says.

3. Hit your lactic threshold

This may sound like the stuff reserved only for elite runners, but the science works for everyone, says Browne says. And it should be part of your run plan at least once a week.

“As your you run, your body starts to produce lactic acid in your muscles at a certain pace,” he says. “By training close to your lactic threshold pace, your body naturally becomes more comfortable at it and, in your muscles, it actually become easier.”

So, how do you know what that threshold is? “For elite runners it truly is an exact science working with exercise physiologists and getting blood tests done, but for most people, getting in at least the right ballpark is a lot easier.”

To find it, Browne’s advice is simple: “Get to a pace that feels uncomfortable, but manageable.” That pace should be for at least 2 miles at first, but you’ll want to go longer as your tolerance improves.

You can use heart rate monitors on fitness watches to help you zero in on your threshold as well.

Again, it will vary by age and fitness level, but “when I was running, for example, I knew I was in my lactic threshold zone when my heart rate was between 157 to 160 beats per minute.”

4. Progressive running

This is a technique in which where you gradually increase your pace throughout the run.

“It’s also a wonderfully natural way of running that I think minimizes your risk of injury, because you’re allowing your muscles to warm up as you get faster.”

But when done correctly, this is also much harder than a regular run.

“It teaches your body how to run fast when you’re tired. That’s a similar kind of feeling you have when you’re putting everything you have into that 2-mile test.”

If time is limited on any given run day, says Browne, “this is one of the best ways to maximize your training in the shortest amount of time.”

5. Build in recovery

“This is the same thing I teach my Olympic athletes,” Browne says. “Training is only beneficial if you allow your body to adapt to it, recover and then get stronger.”

Elite runners “get better and better at finding ways to recover faster and faster, which allows them to do harder and harder work.”

But the principle, he says, is the same for everyone in “getting to new levels of fitness.”

Starting with a three-run-per-week schedule — running, for example, Monday, Wednesday, Friday — ensures that recovery time is built in.

That’s also why on the last week of his two-month plan, Browne recommends only running only two or three times, with a few days’ break, before the actual test run. So, if the test is on a Monday, your last training run should be on Friday. That’s going to give your body the chance to bounce back and give you that peek peak performance.”

Jon Anderson covers all that’s fun, fascinating, and formidable about military life, from off-duty travel and entertainment to family and fitness. He can be reached at [email protected]

There’s nothing like racing a hard 5K, especially when the runner’s high kicks in. It’s a rewarding distance to race, and you can run many of them in a season!

In order to race fast, you’ve got to run fast in training. Here are five fun 5K workouts to help you reach your sub-28:00 goal.

Run Faster in 1, 2, 3 – Start with the one-minute intervals once per week for three weeks, progress to the two-minute intervals for three weeks, and then run the 1-2-3 workout once per week for the weeks leading up to your 5K race. It’s best to run this on a flat, predictable terrain like a path, road, or track.

***

1. One-Minute Intervals:

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

Run 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up.

Run 8 x 1 minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone (see chart below).

Follow every minute of hard running with one minute walking to catch your breath and recover.

Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

***

2. Two-Minute Intervals:

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

Run 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up.

Run 6 x 2 minutes at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone.

Follow every two minutes of hard running with one minute walking and one minute jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

***

3. 1-2-3 Intervals:

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

Run 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up.

Repeat three times:

Run one minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone followed by one minute easy walk or jog.

Run two minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and one minute jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Run three minutes in the red zone followed by one minute walking and two minutes jogging easy to catch your breath and recover.

Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

***

4. Tempo Miles Workout: The interval workouts build speed, but this workout will improve your stamina to run faster more efficiently. The key is to run at the right effort (your “red line”) so you can raise your threshold—the point at which your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy.

Run this workout once per week and at least two days away from the interval run. If you are new to running speed workouts, alternate this workout with the interval workout every other week so you are running one hard workout per week. Take note of your pace as you progress, as you will cover the mile more quickly as you improve.

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

Run 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up.

Repeat three times:

Run one mile at just outside your comfort zone, or a place where you can no longer talk in sentences (at the upper edge of the orange and red zone, A.K.A. your red line).

Follow with walking two minutes to catch your breath and recover (take more time if needed.)

Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

***

5. Progressive Endurance Workout: Another key element of fitness for running fast 5Ks is to build your endurance, or the ability to cover long distances efficiently. For the 5K, that means running five to six miles once per week at an easy, conversational effort level—the “yellow zone.”

As a progression (for the seasoned runners who have a base like yourself), you can weave in a Progressive Endurance Workout every two to three weeks to simulate the race course. This combines all three effort zones—yellow, orange, and red—and teaches you how to run in all three zones, which is an effective skill for pacing yourself on race day.

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

Run two miles in the yellow zone (easy effort).

Run one mile in the orange zone (just outside your comfort zone).

Finish the final mile in the red zone (hard, but controlled).

Run one mile at just outside your comfort zone, or a place where you can no longer talk in sentences (at the upper edge of the orange and red zone, your “red line”).

Follow with walking two minutes to catch your breath and recover (take more time if needed).

Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

***

And finally, one more tip before I leave you to your 5K training: Many a race is won and lost in the warmup and prerace preparation. The shorter the race, the more intricate the warmup should be, as racing for a 5K personal record demands that you start out running hard and then go harder. The more you invest in a proper warmup, the more easily your body will be able to push when the gun goes off.

Try this warmup before your speed workouts and on race day to boost your performance. Aim to finish this warmup 10 minutes before the start of the race.

Walk briskly for two to three minutes to wake up your muscles.

Run five minutes at an easy, conversational effort to warm your muscles.

Run at a moderate to hard effort for three minutes (not all out).

Run six 15-second accelerations (progress the speed of your runs to close to a sprint and then walk it out to recover).

Finish with four 15-second skipping drills (focusing on pushing off your toes and reaching your body forward versus up in the air).

By investing in a thorough warmup, weaving in a variety of speed, tempo, and endurance workouts, you will be well on your way to running faster 5Ks this season.

* * *

You can ask Coach Jenny a running question on the Ask Coach Jenny Facebook Page or email your question here. Follow her on Twitter @coachjenny.

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You know the half marathon is my sweet spot right? Just enough time to warm up my legs, not so long my brain can interfere! Over the years I’ve dropped my time, but a new PR is on my goal list and so today I bring you a stud of a runner, an amazing triathlete, mom, writer, person, Allie.

In a sport that is measured in milliseconds, 10 minutes is an eternity.

Most runners only see such huge time improvements when they first begin running and racing, since their mind and body are still trying to figure it all out.

I’m here to tell you how, at 39 years old, and after more then a decade of running and racing, I cut my half marathon PR (personal record) from 1:38 to 1:28. It can be done at any age and at any time during your running life.

And before we go any farther, just know that a good half marathon time is personal! It’s about your training, your body, your life and what progress looks like in your running.Whether you are trying to break the Sub Two Hour half marathon or crank it down to 1:28, here is everything you need to know to run a faster half marathon.

1. Know it will be hard.

I want you to really read that and understand it.

Setting a goal as big as subtracting 10 minutes off your overall half marathon time will at first, make you feel like a badass and can scare you in the best way possible. By the middle of training, those “good” scary feelings may be replaced with just plain scared, tired, doubtful and can have you on the verge of quitting.

You will be doing more speed work and more mileage than you have in the past to achieve your lofty goal, and every fiber of your being will feel it. You will also be adding in more strength training, foam rolling and stretching to ensure you have almost no free time whatsoever.

If this still sounds like something you want to tackle, you are my kind of people, so read on.

Takeaway: Be sure of how badly you want to achieve this goal and then remind yourself every single day.

2. Get Outside Help

If you dare to dream this big, you may want to consider hiring a coach. I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this post you already know a good one.

When I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon way back in 2006, and had to take a whopping 20 minutes off of my time, I hired a coach for the first time. The result? A 3:30 marathon PR and 10 minutes to spare for my BQ.

Of course there are countless ways to get information and training plans without paying for a one on one coach, just be careful of why you choose a certain plan, and also that it fits into your lifestyle as well as aligns with your ultimate goal. And once you’ve picked a plan, stick to it! Hoping around from idea to idea, won’t get you results.

Takeaway: With a goal this big, consider hiring a coach to keep you on track and injury free. Or checkout my detailed Sub Two Hour Half Marathon training guide and coaching videos!!

Can you really take 10 minutes off your half marathon time? YES!! Checkout these tips from @vitatrain4life @runtothefinish

3. Be Smart Enough to Slow Down

This may be the hardest lesson I’ve learned. I used to be of the mindset that harder, faster, longer would equal better. I was astonishingly wrong. Elite runners often talk about having the confidence to run slowly on your easy days, and that is truly what it comes down to.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Your body needs to run both at top speed and very slowly to achieve your desired pace for race day.

If you don’t run your easy days as easy as possible, your body will not be able to recover as it should, and that can lead to the most dreaded of all outcomes: injury. If you want to know how to run faster and longer, a big part of it is slowing down. Counter intuitive initially, but not long term.

Takeaway: Run your easy days easy. My half-marathon pace is 6:43 and I run my easy days between 8:30 and 9:00.

4. Listen to Your Body Signals

There is a fine line between fatigue and injury and you need to know the difference. Just like having the confidence to run slower on your easy days, have the assurance in your training to take some unscheduled rest days or even time off if you feel an injury coming on.

In the past I have traded road miles for elliptical drills and treadmill or track work for spinning.

At first I was scared that the miles on the elliptical and in the pool would not translate to real running miles. But, I trusted my coach; I worked hard, let my body heal and then, this past spring, ran a 3:28 marathon PR and won my age group.

Sometimes rest is the best training you can give your body. Learn how to maximize your training without running yourself in to the ground.

Takeaway: You don’t always have to run on the road or treadmill to reap the same benefits of running. If you have a manageable injury, rehab it on the elliptical and/or in the water for as long as it takes.

5. Surround Yourself with Support

While half marathon training may not be as time intensive as marathon training, when you’re working hard to hit all your long runs, speed workouts and all those recovery sessions it can mentally add up.

There will be days when your entire body is just saying “no.”

There will be days when your mind is saying “I can’t”.

It’s key to surround yourself with people who understand why this goal is so important to you and who will help you achieve it, no matter what.

A friend who is training for her first New York City marathon recently wrote about a really horrible long run. She was close to being finished but felt she couldn’t run another step. She called her husband and said she was done and to please come and get her. He said no. He knew she wasn’t in danger and also knew what she needed to hear. She finished the run and was so grateful he gave her the pep talk she needed to finish strong.

Takeaway: Know who you can turn to for motivation and support when the going gets tough.

6. Be Prepared to Change

Running has this fantastically magical way of changing your entire life for the better.

Somewhere in all those miles and in all of that sweat comes a change. It may start slowly at first but everything from your friends to your wardrobe will morph into something better and different from when you started out.

If you could see the intangibles like spirit, determination, confidence and resolve, running “before” and “after” pictures would be more mind blowing then any body transformation.

Takeaway: Get ready for big changes in every aspect of your life. That’s what achieving a big racing goal can do for you.

7. Fix Your Mental Blocks

When I first set my sights on breaking the 1:30 mark in the half marathon, I had plenty of people ready to see me fail. A so-called friend, when I told her the 6:45ish pace I would need to hold to attain it, pretty much laughed at me. It only fueled my fire.

As hard as it can be, if you put in the work, you have to block out what everyone else around you has to say about your goal. Especially if you write and/or read a lot of running blogs you can fall into the comparison trap. Stay focused on your goal and your training. Forget the rest and get past your own internal negative thoughts!

Takeaway: On race day you need to have nothing but confidence. Remind yourself of all the hard work you put in to make it to the start line and then let nothing stop you from achieving your goal.Once I crossed the finish in 1:29 in 2013 I wasn’t sure I could ever do it again. And then I crossed in 1:28 in 2014.

The great thing about achieving a big bad scary goal is the confidence you gain to do it again and again, and in every aspect of your life, not just running.Dream big. Achieve. Repeat.

Allie is happiest when sweating or writing. She is a competitive athlete on Oiselle Team Voleé and has represented Team USA in duathlon competition.

When she’s not running, swimming or biking she’s writing her health and fitness blog VITA – Train for Life. Allie lives in the Northeast with her husband and twin boys, desperately trying to make gentlemen out of them all!

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Quick reality check: You’re not going to drop minutes off your mile over the course of a week—or two… or three—and you may not even be physically capable of hitting the impressive 6-minute mile running benchmark at all.

“Not everyone can run a 6-minute mile,” says Bobby McGee, a 30-year endurance coach (who’s coached a number of sub 4-min milers) with expertise in middle distance, cross country, road, marathon, and triathlon coaching. “An athlete can have the engine but not the form, or may not have the range of motion and get hurt maintaining that speed for that long.” He adds, “The greatest challenge to an athlete is not the aerobic requirement, but managing quality without breaking down… speed kills in this department.”

But we can guarantee you this: you will get faster following this 6-week training schedule. What’s more: You’ll bulletproof your body, strengthen your cardiovascular capacity, and challenge your calves, quads, glutes, and core.

Each week of the plan, you’ll be running 2+ times per week and have room for other workouts, too. Some of these training weeks may seem a little light, but McGee says: “With all endurance events, the mile and up, 80 percent of training is all easy running other than the time trial.”

Before you dive in, here are a few tips from McGee:

*This program is based on a runner who’s already reasonably aerobically fit. So if you’re not used to this type of running in general, tack a couple extra weeks of easy running and striding on to the front-end of this plan to boost your cardiovascular system and endurance.
*Perform all your quality speed workouts on “flat, fast surfaces” like indoor and outdoor tracks.
*Feel free to take your recovery and endurance maintenance workouts off-road to trails and beaches, if they’e flat and firm.

Warmup for every quality workout:
– Complete an easy 15-minute warmup jog. Or, walk, then skip lightly or run for five to 20 minutes.
– Perform a few dynamic mobility drills: Heel walks, knee hugs, quad tugs, lunges, butt kicks, hamstring kick-outs, etc.
– Run a few stride outs with maximum recovery between each

Cool down:
– Walk for a few minutes, then run easily for 5 to 10 minutes. Some light, active stretches will help speed up recovery and restore muscle function.

Week 1 Prescription:

Complete one 1,000m time trial in the beginning of the program and 2-3 easy runs.

1. Time Trial

How to do it: First and foremost, you need to find your starting point. (Remember to warm up!) Run one time trial of at least 1000m to determine where you are. Run at top effort while maintaining form and control. This is 2.5 times around a standard 400m track. Start at the 200m mark, run to the finish and complete 2 more laps.

“For an athlete to break 6 minutes in the mile, they would have to run an average of 1:29.5 per quarter mile,” McGee says. So, if you can run 1,000m in 3:32, you’re already in 6-minute shape! Another accurate 5km race equivalent is 20:50.

2. Easy Runs

How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-60 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. Invest in a fitness tracker (here are 7 great options) to monitor your pace. You want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate.

“There’s nothing to be gained by going even slightly faster,” McGee says. You’re only endangering the quality of the workout, so watch your heart rate!

Week 2 Prescription:

Complete two to three easy runs with progressive stride outs. (You can incorporate the stride outs after completing one or two intervals in the run.)

1. Easy Runs with Progressive Stride Outs

How to do it:

Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-60 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. If you’re using a fitness tracker, you want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate. Within these runs, complete 4x sub-10sec stride outs with 1min recovery in between reps. Start the first one easy and controlled at just more than your regular easy pace. Then, get faster with each subsequent rep building up speed until you’re going just faster than goal race pace (while maintaining control!).

Complete the strides either towards the end of the run, or after the run. You only need to stride once or twice this week on a sound surface like firm dirt, grass, or a track.

Week 3 Prescription:

Complete two to three easy runs with stride outs, and one time trial at the end of the week.

1. Easy Run with Stride Outs

How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-60 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. However, within this run, complete 4x sub-10sec stride outs with 1min recovery in between reps. Start the first one easy and controlled at just more than your regular easy pace. Then, get faster with each subsequent rep building up speed until you’re going just faster than goal mile race pace (while maintaining control!). Stride on a sound surface like firm dirt, grass, or on a track. Then, add an additional 2x30sec strides. Instead of a 1-minute recovery in between reps, slowly walk back to your start position.

*McGee suggests choosing a stride day after your shorter runs and a light pick up in pace over the last 5min of your longer run.

2. Time Trial

How to do it: End the week with a 1000m-time trial (2.5 laps) to assess your progress. Try to maintain maximum effort.

Week 4 Prescription:

Complete two VO2 max & speed endurance hill workouts (on different days) and at least two to three easy runs.

Expert tip: You want to leave at least two days between quality workouts so you have sufficient rest. McGee suggests scheduling your difficult, quality workouts on Monday, Tuesday, or Saturday. If you know you’re going to run your mile on a Saturday at 10a.m., then make sure you do quality workouts during that same time slot. You’ll set your system up so it’s ready to perform.

1a. VO2 Max & Speed Endurance Hill Workout (Make sure you perform this workout first in the week.)
How to do it: Run 5x30sec hill sprints at a controlled effort—about 95 percent while maintaining control—then slowly walk back down the hill, taking an additional 1min recovery rest in between reps.

Next, run 5x1min hill sprints and jog back for recovery—also at 95 percent effort, (of course this will be at a slower pace—so 95% of a one min effort). If you find you’re losing form and becoming a bit ragged, slow down.

1b. VO2 Max & Speed Endurance Hill Workout (Try to up the quality since this workout is shorter than 1a, which you completed earlier this week.)
How to do it: Run 3x30sec hill sprints at a controlled effort—about 95 percent while maintaining control—then slowly walk back down the hill, taking an additional 1min recovery rest in between reps.

Next, run 3x1min hill sprints and jog back for recovery—also at 95 percent effort. If you find you’re losing form and becoming a bit ragged, slow down.

2. Easy Run

How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-60 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. If you’re using a heart rate monitor, you want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate.

Week 5 Prescription:

Complete one race-specific endurance session, one speed & strength track workout, and two to three easy runs.

1. Race-Specific Endurance Session

How to do it: Run a set of 5x400m with 1min recovery in between laps. Pace yourself as you would a mile (shooting for 1:29.5 or 90 seconds per lap, or faster, especially if the 1st & 2nd laps have gone well). See where you stand relative to 90-sec quarters. This will help set your pace going forward, McGee says.

Actively rest for 10 minutes by walking, jogging, or completing mobility drills. Then, run 6 to 10 straightaways, jogging on the turns for recovery; you’ll be making full revolutions around the track. (To make it easier, you can walk the 1st 20m or so between each rep). Aim for at least your 400m pace (1:29.5 or 90 seconds per lap), but no faster than 21sec per 100m.

2. Speed & Strength Track Workout

How to do it: 1st set – Run 5-8x200m at a controlled effort—about 95 percent—with a 100m jog or brisk walk recovery in the same time it took you to run the 200m (or no more than 10sec slower than it took you to run 200m).

McGee advises: “Run fewer reps and hit your target time rather than try to do all 8 at a slower pace. Also, don’t go much faster than 41/42sec per 200m. Actively rest 7-10min

2nd set: Run 300m, rest 20sec, then run 200m at your best effort. “Achieving 63sec or better for 300m and then achieving a 40 to 42sec 200m ought to put you in a good position going into your 6-minute mile attempt,” McGee says. Cool down for 10-15min and follow with stretching.

3. Easy Run

How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-60 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. You want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate.

Week 6 Prescription:

Do one specific endurance track workout, one easy pre-mile workout, and two to three easy runs.

Tip: Pacing is everything. “There’s no putting time in the bank when you’re running the mile,” McGee says. “Go out conservatively, build, then finish strong; an even pace brings PRs.”

DAY 1: Mile Specific Endurance Track Workout
How to do it: Complete this workout at least 5 days before your 6-minute mile goal day. Complete 5-6x300m with 2-3min recovery in between laps. You’re not aiming for speed here; aim for no faster than 1:03s per 300m.

DAY 2: Easy Run
How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30-40 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. You want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate.

DAY 3: Rest

DAY 4: Easy Run with Stride Outs
How to do it: Break the run into intervals. Run for 6 minutes, walk for 1. Or, run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 for a total of 30 minutes. Keep the pace very easy—to where you can maintain a conversation. You want to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of your max heart rate. At the end of the run, or after, complete 4 stride outs, as well as 1 additional stride out at your race pace (45sec).

DAY 5: Rest

DAY 6: Easy Pre-Mile Workout
How to do it: Jog for 10 minutes and go through your warmup (strides and drills). Then, run 400m on a track or run a 90-sec effort at your race pace.

If you’re running your mile in the morning, complete the Easy Pre-Mile Workout the evening before. If you’re running your mile in the evening, complete the Easy Pre-Mile Workout the same day, just in the morning.

Race Day Tips

McGee’s top tips for race day:

1. On race day, warmup for your race as you would (and did) for all quality workouts.
2. Do everything in your power to go out at 21-22sec in the first 100m, or 43-44sec for the first 200m. For every second you go over these recommendations, McGee says you’ll cost yourself about 2.5sec in speed in the last half of the mile.
3. BUT, remember a mile is 9m longer than four times around a 400m, track. With the 1st lap being 409m and starting from a standstill, going through lap one faster than 1min 28sec will put you in a hole and make the 3rd lap exceedingly tough.
4. Concentrate on staying with this effort (pace) or bettering it in lap 3, but be sure to leave yourself room to do this (a.k.a. don’t burn yourself out).
5. Drop your chest and lean slightly when you’re at the last 300m.
6. Dial in the “rearward whack” (pump) of your arms with 200m to go.
7. With 100m to go, hurry your feet and get on your toes. But relax! You want to hold your form, drop your shoulders, and focus on getting to the finish line with all of this intact.
8. Don’t race to the end. When you “dig,” you lose form and slow down.
9. Time trials with even splits produce the fastest time. Wear a watch and try to get as close to even splits as you possibly can.
10. Enjoy the ride and don’t stress if you don’t break the 6-min mark on your first go-around. Take the extra time to get stronger, faster, and perfect your form!

5 Weird Perks of Being a Long-Distance Runner >>>

Race Day

Warmup:
– Walk, then skip lightly, or run for 10-15min
– Perform a few dynamic mobility drills: Heel walks, knee hugs, quad tugs, lunges, butt kicks, etc.
– Run four stride outs with maximum recovery between each. If nervous or a little tight, add up to 4 more strides, but rest sufficiently between each. Calmly walk about and stay loose for 5min before the start.

Rehearsal Lap

How to do it: The evening before an a.m. mile race, or the morning of a p.m. mile race, run a lap (400m) at your desired race pace—around a 1min 28sec effort, but no faster.

“The athlete will figure that desired pace feels slower than expected and will assist in creating the correct pace on race day, avoiding the PR-killing mistake of going out too fast—a fatal error in the mile.”

Cool down for 5-10 minutes.

Now, go kill that 6-minute mile!

8 Ways to Beat Pre-Race (or Event) Anxiety >>>

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Nick Willis runs the men’s 1,500 meter semifinal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images

While a masochistic segment of the running community continues to push the boundaries of human suffering in ultramarathons, another group is returning to the basic mile to test their mettle. Just about anyone who’s ever run one — in junior-high gym class, on the high-school track — can rattle off their best time, and a resurgence of mile-long road races is inspiring weekend joggers to take another shot at their personal record. In fact, the number of road-mile events across the country shot up from 730 in 2010 to 1,350 in 2015, according to Running USA.

Two-time Olympic medalist Nick Willis happens to be one of the fastest milers on the planet, with a personal best of 3:49.83. A few years ago, when his wife, Sierra, a recreational runner, was logging long, grueling runs training for a half-marathon, she got jealous watching her husband divide his week between hill repeats, track intervals, and long runs. “She asked me, ‘Why is this kind of training reserved for elites?’” Willis says. “So I shaped a training plan for her and her friends, and they fell in love with it.”

In what eventually became a 30-person training group, some runners not only dropped their mile times by a minute or two, they also lost six or seven pounds. “Training for a mile is a more holistic approach to running,” says Willis. “It’s like the running version of CrossFit. You don’t get bored and your performance doesn’t plateau like it does when you’re running the same pace mile after mile.”

Now the husband-and-wife team have started a six-week boot camp called The Miler Method to help runners chase their times, which all happens online thanks to technology (everything except the running, that is). Whether they start out doing 5- or 15-minute miles, Willis says, his students emerge from the training running significantly faster times — and faster road races of every length.

We asked him to share a few pro tips for shaving the seconds off:

Photo: Crdjan/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buy a pair of lightweight running shoes
Cushioned shoes are good for long-distance training, but too many of us are heel strikers with short, shuffle-y strides. To run the mile, we need to run like children, which means getting off your heels and onto your toes. Less-supportive and lighter-weight shoes create a better running form and eventually help you to develop a powerful push-off as you run.

Photo: Hans Berggren/Getty Images/Johner RF

Run hill repeats once a week
This is the best way to trick yourself into using better running form. Running uphill forces you to lift your knees high, create a powerful stride, and stay on your toes for a good foot plant. Plus, hills provide resistance training and a way to get your heart rate up without the impact on your joints and other negative side effects that come with running on the road.

Photo: Ines Bazdar/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Develop a stable core
The shorter the race, the more important your core strength. You need a rigid foundation from ankle to head for the moment your foot pushes off the ground. When a runner’s core is weak and they get tired in the second half of a mile race, it looks like they’re sitting down at the waist. A strong core allows you to utilize your legs, prevent your body from twisting around, and push against the ground so that your whole body moves forward and not up-and-down.

Photo: Aleksander Kaczmarek/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Build leg strength, especially glutes and hamstrings
No amount of jogging can produce the leg power you need in the mile. Without leg strength, you’ll find that you can’t pick up your legs in the last quarter of the race. You need to be able to recruit the muscles that run from your toe to your hip, and single-leg exercises like single-leg glute bridges and single-leg squats can target the whole muscle chain.

Photo: Masterfile Productions/Getty Images/Radius Images

Practice pushing through pain
Running a hard mile gets very painful in a short amount of time. People who are used to running long-distance races never learn that particular kind of discomfort, and it’s hard for them to embrace the pain. Track intervals with short recoveries do that. You never fully recover before you start the next interval, and you’re never comfortable. You have to hurt during the race to get the time you want. It’s a different kind of runner’s high. You finish, you hurt, but you’re like, “Wooo!”

I was watching the 1,500-meter Olympic final last summer at a bar, a few months before my 35th birthday, when I first wondered if a middle-distance runner lurked within. It was a strange thought. At six-foot-three and 175 pounds, I have the look of a runner but not the legs. In my early thirties, some half-assed training led to an unimpressive 22:39 5K, a 1:49 half marathon, and an almost four-hour marathon. Usually, it was a girlfriend who’d goaded me into racing. Now, in my mid-thirties, I was managing bad back pain.

Still, the mile in­trigued me. It ­sounded short, simple. Train­ing would take much less time than distance racing (or so I assumed). And everyone runs a marathon these days, right?

I’d never run a timed mile. Never even been on a track. My personal best in the 5K suggested that a 6:30 mile was possible, but that time would be nothing to brag about.

Sub-six seemed too pedestrian, 5:30 too random. Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:43 world record, set in 1999, was safely out of reach. I decided to go for a sub-five-minute mile. More than 23,000 high-schoolers break five minutes annually. But at twice their age, I’d be OK with that company.

On an early August morning, at a track near my home in Atlanta, I laced up my cushiony New Balances and managed four very tiring, uneven laps in 6:19. Not bad, I thought, sprawled on the grass. But what now? A former college miler told me to “.”

Atlanta is miserably hot in summer, so I began by running my 400’s (a quarter-mile, usually done as one lap around the track) on a treadmill. I set it at 12 miles per hour—a five-minute-mile pace—and tried to hang on for a minute and 14 seconds. I could soon manage one of those. But it was a couple of months before I could reliably run four in a workout. And that was with rest in between.

By early winter, I’d lost what little fat reserves I’d had and gained some confidence and stamina. I could knock out a tough 2:30 half-mile on the machine. On a chilly mid-November day, I went for it at the same track as my first time trial. My buddy Will, who set our high school 5K record (16:20) 17 years and 30 pounds ago, joined. As did our fit, 28-year-old pal Wyatt, who attempts a sub-five mile annually.

I went out hard, leading the first 400 in 66 seconds (a 4:24-mile pace!) and the second in 73 (still sub-five pace!) before dropping off precipitously as lactic acid filled my over-­eager legs. I fell across the finish line, 16 seconds behind Wyatt, in 5:15. Will lumbered in a half-minute later. I could barely stand ­afterward and coughed for days.

Charles Bethea warming up at a track near his home in Atlanta. (Photo: Amanda Greene)

I’d shaved a ­minute from my mile time in three and a half months, but it was clear that I needed help to get over the edge. ­Luckily, Nick Willis, the two-time 1,500-meter Olympic medalist from New Zealand who won bronze in the very Rio race that spurred my quest, agreed to coach me. He’d just debuted an online mile-training boot camp called Miler Method. He devised a five-week plan for me, involving four weeks of training—two focused primarily on endurance, two on speed—and a final week with two shots at my goal.

There was good news. Racing flats, Willis said, would cut three or four seconds off my time. At his suggestion, I ordered some fancy Adidas Adizero Takumi-Sen 3’s. Willis told me that the blazing first lap of my 5:15, inadvisable as it had been, was proof that I had the necessary speed to pull off a sub-five, assuming I learned how to pace myself. The bad news, he went on, was that I needed to run a lot more, around 30 miles per week to build strength. Running too little is a common mistake that novice runners of all stripes make, but milers in particular are prone to the misstep.

“Do you think I’m too old to pull this off?” I asked him.

“The prevailing wisdom has long been that you’re best in your mid-twenties,” Willis said. “But there’s been a real trend in the last decade of people pushing those boundaries.” In other words, my age was no excuse.

I kept carefully to his plan, which ­included easy five-mile jogs twice a week, a weekly ten-mile run, a three-mile tempo run at a 6:15 pace, hill intervals, and 100- and 200-meter sprints. Despite eating four or five meals a day, I dropped down to 166 pounds. With Willis’s sign-off, I set an early-January goal date.

Buzzed on coffee and feeling nerves, I arrived at a local high school track on a cloudy afternoon. I’d listened to an R. L. Burn­side song with a hypnotic groove that morning, and I tried staying in it as I jogged a warm-up mile. Knowing my tendency to start too hard, Willis had told me to shoot for a more relaxed first lap and steadiness throughout, aiming to make my last lap the fastest.

I contained myself on the first lap. Seventy-six seconds. Then 73, and another 76. By the end of the third lap, my legs felt the telltale weight of lactic acid approaching as I hugged the inside lane. I could taste the metal­lic flavor of blood in my throat. I strained to breathe. But I knew I was just over a minute away from my goal.

Coming into the final straightaway, according to an amused spectator, I was making audible grunting noises and looked “a little deranged.” I didn’t care. With the last of my energy, I lunged across the finish line and pressed stop on my watch: 4:59:4. ­Maybe it was the endorphins, but I swear I heard 23,000 high school kids cheering.

The Fast Lane

Whether you’re trying to run under five minutes in the mile, PR at a half marathon, or just finish your first 10K, most new runners make the same mis­takes. Here, Olympian and coach Nick Willis tells you how to avoid them.

The Problem: Not running enough.
The Solution: If you want to get close to your potential, or at least enjoy race day, work up to at least 30 miles a week. This is true even for relatively short events like the 5K. To be competitive, you need to increase your volume even further, to about 70 miles a week.

The Problem: Too many runs at race pace.
The Solution: To build a strong fitness baseline, do most of your workouts at a relaxed pace. A good rule of thumb: 80 percent of your runs should be easy, and the other 20 percent should be hard tempo runs, sprints, or hill work.

The Problem: Starting too fast.
The Solution: To avoid a spectacular blow-up in the back half of any race, you need to run at a consistent pace. “You have to develop this judgment in training,” says Willis. Come race day, you’ll likely be so eager that you have to consciously hold yourself back.

From Outside Magazine, April 2017 Filed To: Road RunningRacingRunning Lead Photo: Amanda Greene

What is the average time to run a mile?

People who wish to reduce their average mile time can try several techniques to improve their running economy. Running economy is the amount of energy that a person requires to run at a particular pace.

Researchers have identified various interventions that may help people run faster.

Training

People who include endurance, interval, resistance, and plyometric training in their workout schedules may improve their average mile times.

Researchers believe that endurance training causes physiological responses that help people adapt to running more quickly.

Coaches often prescribe high intensity interval training and hill workouts as additional methods of improving average mile times.

Many elite athletes also choose to train in cities at high altitudes, such as Boulder, CO. High altitude training improves oxygen delivery to the muscles and helps them use oxygen more efficiently.

Caffeine

Both elite and amateur runners use caffeine to help improve their performance. Coffee contains caffeine, but this stimulant is also in sports drinks, gels, jelly beans, and other carbohydrate-rich products that are quick for the body to absorb.

A study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance evaluated the effects of drinking coffee before a 1-mile race.

The team of researchers separated 13 male athletes into three treatment groups. One group received 3 milligrams (mg) of caffeinated coffee per kilogram (kg) of body weight, while the second group received an equivalent amount of decaffeinated coffee, and the last group drank a placebo solution.

The researchers noted that the runners who drank caffeinated coffee 60 minutes before the race ran 1.3% faster than the participants in the decaffeinated coffee group and 1.9% faster than those who received the placebo.

However, these results are not consistent across studies. Another group of researchers asked some participants to drink 5.5 mg of coffee per kg of body weight and others to drink an equivalent amount of decaffeinated coffee. All participants then completed an 800-meter race, which is almost equivalent to half a mile.

The researchers found that caffeinated coffee did not improve the participants’ race performance, compared with decaffeinated coffee.

It is important to note that in both of these studies, the participants were well-trained runners, so it is unclear whether caffeine may affect the speed of untrained runners.

Learn more about the possible benefits of drinking coffee here.

Nutrition

Share on PinterestA person may enhance their exercise performance by eating spinach.

Dietary nitrates, which occur naturally in lettuce, spinach, arugula, cress, celery, and beetroot, may play a role in exercise performance and tolerance.

When people eat nitrates, the body converts them into nitrites. The further conversion of these substances into nitric oxide takes place in conditions of low oxygen, which can occur when exercise causes the muscles to become oxygen-deprived.

Nitric oxide has many positive effects on the body that may enhance exercise performance and tolerance.

As the authors of a review article note, several studies have shown that dietary nitrates can improve exercise tolerance and lower the quantity of oxygen that the body needs during exercise.

Other research has tested the theory that nitrates can improve exercise performance.

Researchers found that fit adults performed better on a 5-kilometer treadmill run when they ate 200 grams (g) of baked beetroot, compared with those who ate a placebo. The runners ate the beetroot, which provides more than 500 mg of nitrates, 75 minutes before the run.

Most of the research to date has used beetroot juice. However, researchers are unable to determine the exact amount that people need to consume to perform better.

Researchers agree that athletes can easily include 5–9 millimoles of nitrates in their daily diet, although there is currently a lack of evidence to suggest that this will result in better exercise performance.

Other factors

Researchers have been working with elite athletes to break the 2-hour marathon time. They have studied other factors that may improve running economy, such as:

  • consistent tailwind
  • downhill course
  • specific running shoe designs

Researchers suggest that wearing running shoes that are 100 g lighter, alternating between leading and drafting behind other runners, and racing on a course with a 42-meter elevation drop could make it possible to run a marathon in under 2 hours.

Another study tested the theory that people run faster while listening to music, which can influence both movement tempo and motivation.

In the study, the researchers asked recreational runners to run to exhaustion on a treadmill under three sets of conditions:

  • a control condition, with no auditory stimulation
  • a metronome condition, with beeps matching the runner’s cadence
  • a music condition, with the beat of motivational music matching the runner’s cadence

The researchers believed that motivational music with a tempo equivalent to a faster running cadence would have superior effects, compared with just a metronome beat.

However, the findings did not support this belief, with time to exhaustion being consistent across the metronome and music conditions. Runners ran for more time under both of these conditions than under the control condition.

The results also indicate only a slight reduction in the runners’ perceived effort when they ran to motivational music. However, by boosting mood and arousal levels, motivational music may help people feel less pain and fatigue when running, allowing them to last longer before they reach exhaustion.

The study authors note that previous findings show that the motivational nature of the music is less important than the tempo matching the runner’s cadence.

People can try listening to music during their training to help motivate them to run faster. By choosing motivational music with a beat that matches their preferred cadence, the person may run more efficiently.

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