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Shave a Minute Off Your Mile

It’s been 60 years since medical student Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister broke through the four-minute mile wall with an unthinkable race time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. And even if you never come close to Bannister’s achievement, you can work toward setting your own personal record.

“Chipping away even a few seconds in a race for a new personal best is generally recognized as a substantial feat,” says Jason Chuhay, a running expert and One to One Fitness Gym running club director in Cleveland, OH. Incorporate some of these strategies into your running plan, and your miles will soon fly by faster.

Insert Intervals
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Intervals require the body to use both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, which over time enables you to exercise harder for longer periods of time. Chuhay recommends using a treadmill and a 1:1 to 1:3 low-intensity:high-intensity ratio such as 30 seconds of each or 30 seconds low-intensity and 90 seconds high-intensity for five sets.

Begin your initial set at a high-intensity speed slightly slower than your average comfortable pace, and increase your high-intensity pace by 1 to 2 tenths per mile for each consecutive set. “Attempt to meet and exceed your typical running pace by the third set, and continue to increase your speed for the latter portion of your workout,” Chuhay says.

To avoid injury, mix intervals in throughout the week between long endurance runs and cross-training.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Become a Better Runner Without Running

Here’s an example of a workout for a 6-mile-per-hour (10-minute-mile) runner.

TIME (mins)MILES PER HOUR
0-25.0
2-65.6
6-85.0
8-125.8
12-145.0
14-186.0
18-205.0
20-246.2
24-265.0
26-306.4

 

Hit the Track
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“Running consistently on its own makes you faster,” says Tom Holland, a marathoner, triathlete, and author of numerous books including 12-Week Triathlete. He suggests running on a track and alternating hard and easy laps, following this plan.

1. Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running.
2. Run eight laps
3. Sprint one lap
4. Jog or walk one lap

Repeat steps 3 and 4 four more times, then cool down with 5 to 10 minutes of easy running.

Note the time it takes you to sprint the one lap and try to beat your time each sprint. As you repeat the sprint, each lap should be the same or slightly faster than the previous one, Holland says. “You should see a difference in about a month, depending on your fitness level—if you’re already fast, it will be harder to see a difference.”

Work on Strides
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“Becoming a faster runner is tied to being a consistent runner, which essentially translates to showing up, running, staying healthy, staying committed, being persistent, and being patient,” says Susan Sotir, Ph.D., of the Cybex Research Institute. She also suggests incorporating strides, which Sotir describes as “almost sprints.” [Tweet this tip!]

Start by accelerating to an effort that is fast yet below an all-out sprint for you, and go for 20 seconds. Do three to four strides at the end of every run with 60 to 90 seconds rest between each one.

“The focus is quick legs, quick feet, and feeling speedy as you keep your eyes on the road ahead of you,” Sotir says. These efforts teach your body to move all the parts swiftly and in a coordinated way.

Add Hills
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Hills strengthen the calves, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus, muscles important for the propulsion in running, Sotir says. “Stronger muscles produce more force.” Try using a treadmill for hill work so you can control your pace.

RELATED: 6 Strength Exercises Every Runner Should Be Doing

Week 1:

TIME (mins)WHAT TO DOINCLINE
0-10Warm up: Easy run0%
10-13Steady run0%
13-14Steady run3%
14-26Repeat minutes 10-14 three times0%-3%

Week 2: Repeat minutes 10-14 four more times.

Week 3: Repeat minutes 10-14 five more times.

Week 4: Increase your speed 0.2mph each time you increase the incline, then return to your normal speed for your flat runs.

Week 5: Increase your speed 0.4mph each time you increase the incline, then return to your normal speed for your flat runs.

Week 6: Increase your speed 0.6mph each time you increase the incline, then return to your normal speed for your flat runs.