5 of The Best Mile Workouts

best mile workouts

Following on from our best: 5k workouts, 10k workouts and Half Marathon workouts articles – we thought we’d tackle the mile. By the best mile workouts we also mean the best 1500m workouts. In the UK it is more often for the 1500m distance to be competed. However, in the US you’re more likely to compete in the mile. For those of you who didn’t know, the mile is 1609m (4 laps and 9m on the track).

As with the other workout articles, we have altered these workouts so that you do not need a track to complete them. Again, this is because of the lock-downs in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have converted the suggested distances into times which will create the same amount of intensity. The benefit will be the same, it will just be easier to replicate on the roads, grass or paths.

Please ensure you complete a proper warm up before each workout, and a sufficient cool down after each workout. 15-20minutes easy running should suffice. However, with these workouts requiring you to be pretty fast, it is probably best to include some form/mobility drills in your warm up. A couple of fast strides should also be completed before starting. All this insures that your body is ready to handle an intense effort, thus reducing the chance of injury.

Workout 1: 5x90seconds

As you’ll find with all of the best mile/1500m workouts, they’re not that long. The point of them is to only cover 2-3 times the mile/1500m distance in regards to volume. However, this volume has to be attempted at your desired mile pace, or just under. The running theme – as you’ll experience trying these workouts out – is long rests and jelly legs.

Running for 90seconds doesn’t sound like much. However, I can assure you that running for 90seconds close to your max effort is a very intense stimulus. All of these workouts are designed to develop your speed endurance, which is vital to middle distance running. These workouts can also act as prediction workouts. By this, we mean the average pace you achieve during the intervals should be your current mile racing pace.

The full workout is: 5x90seconds with 2minutes walk/jog recovery. The intervals should be completed at your mile race pace. If you are far out from competing, it’s good practice to add in 4-6x100m at the end of this workout. This is a good way to get a bit of speed work in at the end of a workout.

If you are working up to this workout, it is best to keep the amount of intervals the same. Try starting with a 3minute walk/jog recovery then slowly cut the recovery down as you get more accustomed to this kind of work.

Workout 2: 10x1minute

This is a staple workout for runners looking to improve their 1500m/mile speed. Running these kinds of distances at these kinds of speeds will be a weird sensation if you haven’t done them before. After a couple of intervals you will start to feel a little bit of lactic in your legs. However, your job is to remain on pace. This teaches your body to hold your speed during the accumulation of lactic acid.

The full workout is: 10x1minute with 90seconds walk/jog recovery. Again, the intervals should be attempted at your target race pace. If you’re working up to this full workout then perhaps start off with 8x1minute with 2minutes walk/jog rest inbetween. Bump your quantity of intervals up to 10 before cutting your recovery down.

As well as being one of the best mile workouts, this workout can be great for longer distance runners. 5k runners can use this as an under-pace workout within their training week. After all, if you can improve your mile speed then your 5k race pace will start to feel a lot more comfortable.

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Workout 3: 4x2minutes, 4x30seconds

With the 4x30seconds being at under-race pace, this workout can be very fun (in a twisted kind of way). The purpose of this workout is to get in some volume at race pace, tiring the legs out, then burning some faster intervals. This will teach your body the ability to pick up the pace when you’re already tired. This is a huge advantage no matter what distance you’re running. You can often tell who the 1500m/mile runners are in a cross country race, because they’re usually the ones who are sprinting faster at the end. Thanks to these kinds of workouts, they can do just that.

The full workout is: 4x2minutes with 3minutes walk/jog recovery, then 4x30seconds with 2minutes walk/jog recovery. The recovery period for this workout is pretty long – in comparison to workouts for longer distances. It is hard to maintain mile race pace for several intervals if you don’t have a long enough rest. The long rests allow you to stick to the right pace during the intervals, giving you the full benefit of the workout.

If you’re trying to work up to the full workout, perhaps try 3x2minutes and 3x30seconds to start off with. When you’re comfortable with hitting race pace for these intervals, bump it up to 4 a piece.

Workout 4: 4minutes, 2minutes, 6x30seconds

The very definition of a lactic stimulus. This workout, if attacked hard enough, will definitely leave you with wobbly legs. However, that isn’t a bad thing. You want to experience lactic during mile workouts. You want to learn to focus on your turnover and form whilst fatigued. This session gives you the opportunity to do so. The recoveries will be pretty long for this workout, which just means you have to run pretty hard during the intervals to reach the desired intensity for this session.

The full workout is: 4minutes, 2minutes, 6x30seconds with 3minutes, 2minutes and 90seconds walk/jog recovery respectively. By the end of the 2minute interval you should be pretty heavy with lactic. The purpose of the 30second intervals is to try and maintain your mile race pace. If you can do this, then you are teaching your body to become much more efficient under fatigue. When it comes to a mile/1500m race, the winner is often determined by who slows down the least during the last 100m. This workout provides you with the tools to be that person.

There shouldn’t be much variation to this workout if you’re trying to work up to it. There isn’t a lot of volume and the rests are rather long. Perhaps try 4x30seconds at the end and work it up to 6 if you feel like you need to start off a bit easier. Whatever it takes to allow your body to adapt to this kind of training before upping the intensity.

Workout 5: 3minutes, 2.5minutes, 2minutes, 90seconds, 1minute

A step down session. This is a workout where you take the time to work into your mile pace. The first interval is most likely going to be slower than your mile pace. The 2 minute interval should be completed bang on mile pace and the 1minute interval should be pretty much flat out. This is a great stimulus for people who are racing any distance. If you teach your body to speed up throughout a workout, then it’ll be ready to speed up throughout a race.

The full workout is: 3minutes, 2.5minutes, 2minutes, 90seconds, 1minute with matching walk/jog recovery. ‘Matching’ recovery means your recovery is the same duration as the interval before it. Basically, your recoveries will be 3minutes, 2.5minutes, 2minutes and 90seconds. Again, there aren’t too many variations of this session. Perhaps split the last interval up into 2x30seconds with 60seconds walk/jog recovery if you’re struggling – but it’s best to attempt the full workout.

Add these workouts to your training schedule and see an improvement in your mile/1500m time. This kind of work can be done by people training for most distances. As your mile personal best increases, it should become easier to hold your race pace for other distances. Teaching your body to operate under lactic conditions can be beneficial for any distance.

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