10 Tips To Improve Your Average Mile Time

Do you have an average mile time that you are working to improve on? Do not get discouraged if you are not yet as fast as you would like to be.

average mile time

Your overall focus needs to be on aerobic capacity running so you can recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Everyone can go out and run easy for a specific amount of time but it is a whole different animal to run fast.

The current world record for the outdoor mile for men is 3:43:13 by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj.

The world record for women is 4:12:56 set by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia.

The mile has been the only recognized non-metric running event recognized by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) since 1976.

The world record for the indoor mile was recently broken by Ethiopias’ Yomif Kejelcha who ran an incredible 3:47:01 just a few weeks ago.

Furthermore, the women’s indoor mile world-record is 4:17:14 set in 1990 by Romania’s Doina Melinte.

So, we have clearly seen what the elite of the elite can run the distance in. Everyone is different and there are many ways to improve an average mile time.

How Long Does It Take To Run A Mile?

What is an average mile time for us sedentary mortals?

Well, relatively speaking the average man or woman can run a mile in 9 to 10 minutes, respectfully.

We all can work on their overall leg speed.

The majority of middle to long distance runners have more slow twitch muscle fibers than fast twitch muscle fibers.

I always had the dream of breaking the 4 minute mile but never had the overall leg turnover to achieve the feat. My best mile time as a senior in high school was 4:25:51.

Later, I improved it slightly to 4:22:14 in a time trial at the University of Florida while attending Malone University. My overall goal with this post is to help shed some light on some specific tips to help you run faster and improve your mile time

Think Long-Term To Improve Your Mile Time Standards (Tip 1)

Focus on making this a long-term goal.

Improving an average mile time to a stellar time takes effort, extreme focus and delayed gratification.

Few athletes have the patience to see their true potential through. In addition to that, running takes non-stop determination and focus.

The mile is a highly anaerobic event which means you need to teach the body to handle lactic acid more economically.

The hydrogen ion which is within lactic acid is the real culprit as to why we slow down when trying to run fast.

Running faster at the mile distance does not come overnight. Sure, you can make short-term goals to work on your mile time. That being said, to go from a personal best of 7 minutes for the mile to 5:30 may take a year or more.

It took me 15 years of running to break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier. I know of only a handful of men or women who want to train that long to achieve such a goal.

So, you have to have the mindset first that this is going to be a long-haul. There are no short cuts when it comes to improving your mile time.

Focus On High-End Sprints (Tip 2)

Do strides

I wrote an extensive posts about strides where I explain how doing these short sprints can help improve your leg speed.

The key to improve mile time is to really focus in on high-end, aggressive running. Do not expect this to be easy. Remember, everyone can run easy for at least a few minutes even if they are not in great shape.

Few people can run fast at heart rates above 170 beats per minute for very long. There is a reason for this. Oxygen-debt.

As we run faster our bodies need more oxygen carrying capacity. This is why I have been a user of Cellgevity for the past 6 years.

I have known of not one runner in my 27 years of running who has ever heard or brought up Glutathione to me.

Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. Every cell of the body produces it and its main role is to detoxify the body. That being said, it directly focuses on ensuring our cells are transporting oxygen throughout the body as effectively as they can.

Fast running burns up oxygen and demands more out of our musculature. So, strides can help with this despite the sprints being only a few seconds long.

Track Intervals (Tip 3)

The beauty of improving your mile time is that you can see, over time, your improvement.

You may start your training block running repeat 400’s at 90 seconds each.

16 weeks down the line you may be running 4x400m in 74 seconds each with only a minute or two recovery in between.

This is why focusing on track intervals will help you improve your mile time. Now, track intervals can vary in distance and time.

Do expect your splits to be slow in the early phases of your training. This is to be expected. It takes the body around 21 days or 3 weeks to adapt to any stress load you place upon it.

Anaerobic running is also very painful and cannot be sustained for very long. Again, long-term thinking is essential. Physiological adaptations do no occur overnight, not with the mile or shorter distances especially.

No one goes from running an 8 minute mile to a 6 minute mile in a few days or weeks. It my take a year or two to improve to this level.

It is not uncommon for runners to drop 10 minutes up to even an hour of their marathon time. Not so, with the mile.

That being said, if you focus on implementing short to long sprint workout into your regiment you are going to improve.

The first time I ran the mile as a high school freshman I ran 5:30 at the start of the track season finishing the season with a 5:09. Below is my improvement over time.

1992 – 5:09

1993 – 4:38

1994 – 4:32

1995 – 4:25.5

1996 – freshman year in college – 4:22.14

Needless to say, I never broke the 4-minute mile but found a love for long distance running.

I was better suited for the 10K to marathon distances. That being said, I still, to this day, work on my leg speed to keep me sharp.

Example Track Intervals I Used To Improve My Mile Times

Here are a few key track intervals that I routinely used to work on my leg speed.

16x200m at 35 seconds with a 200m float recovery

16x400m at 65-72 seconds with 1 minute recovery

12x300m in 1:45-53 with a 300m jog recovery

3 miles on the track sprinting the straight aways jogging the corners

20x100m in 13-14 seconds with full recovery

Did you notice anything about any of these workouts? Most of them were run faster or very close to my goal mile pace.

How can workouts like these help you?

They teach you to pump your arms and lift your knees like you will have to do in an all-out mile.

You have to get used to doing more volume within your intervals and still be able to run them fast.

Don’t Get Discouraged (Tip 4)

One of the biggest mile time killers is athletes selling themselves short. Your average mile time is going to vary. I had many races where I wanted to set a new personal best but quickly realized the mile is not like the marathon.

The shorter the race the more leg speed is essential. You have more time to make mistakes in the longer races.

The mile is only 4 laps of the track so the key is to work on your leg speed often but let your fitness come to you.

One day you will be struggling to hit 8, 400m repetitions on the track in 95 seconds each. The next week you may feel terrific and hitting 86 seconds per rep with no problems.

You have to keep in mind how important patience is with the shorter events. Leg speed takes time to develop.

Lastly, don’t think since you have a slower mile personal best that you cannot be successful at other distances.

Some of the best middle to long distance runners I know didn’t have great mile times but could run national to world-class times in other events.

Focus On The Hills (Tip 5)

If you want to improve on your mile time doing hill repetitions all out will do the trick.

These hill reps should range between 200m to 600m in length. These efforts really challenge the anaerobic system. Your heart rate is above 175 beats per minute and you are building up a great deal of lactic acid.

Remember, you want to teach the body to handle ever-increasing amounts of lactic acid. The better your body can clear it from the blood stream the better off you are going to be.

I improved my mile time from 5:30 to 4:22 by doing a lot of these types of workouts. They are extremely painful to say the least. Remember, the shorter the race the more anaerobic the event.

Hill repetitions ask you to run at maximum effort. They also increase your body’s oxygen carrying capacity after you have adapted to the stresses of these types of workouts.

Additionally, they also help you to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers helping you to slow less in the race.

Pete McGall did a great write up on what fast twitch muscle fibers are you may want to check out.

Start A Strength Training Regiment (Tip 6 )

One of the best ways to work on your speed is to start a strength training routine.

Remember, the goal is not to get in the gym to bulk up or gain muscle mass.

Your job is to lift light weights and do high repetitions.

Weights create resistance and force you to focus on proper running form. My strength and conditioning coach while with the US Army World Class Athlete Program had me pulling sleds with weight attached to them.

He had our sprinters doing the same workouts so the marathoners were no exception. Workouts like pool running are also great resistance-style workouts that will help you work on your leg speed.

The resistance of water, like weights, provide that additional stress on the body that will prepare you to race the shorter distances.

Remember, the shorter the race the more anaerobic the training will have to be. You will have to train totally different for a mile race as compared to a half marathon or full marathon.

The mile is an extremely short race so you want to focus on the types of workouts mentioned in this post. Your job is to really focus on high-end running at or even above your maximum effort.

Do expect this style of training to test you physically and mentally. If you want to go from being a 7 minute miler to a 5:45 miler you are going to have to put in some heavy work.

Don’t Make Excuses (Tip 7)

There are no short cuts when it comes to training for the mile or any distance. There is trained and there is un-trained, period. You either do the work or you make excuses.

I was on pace for 600 meters but…

I passed 15 miles at goal pace but…

You either achieved the goal or you didn’t. The rest is excuses. I, like you and everyone else, had to earn the times I have run.

It is not the coaches fault, your momma or your friends. You either did or did not achieve your goal race time.

That being said, there is no need to get discouraged about it. Man or woman up, move on and keep putting in the hustle.

Eventually, your time will come. The best middle distance runners I have trained with just did the work. I have trained with and know 4, sub-4 minute milers personally.

They don’t get bent out of shape over a bad race. There are other things in their lives aside from running.

A common mistake many runners make is they let a bad race or two get the best of them. The problem is they didn’t put all the pieces together.

The key to running a fast mile time is doing all the other things throughout your day effectively. You ran a great workout, awesome. Did you hydrate and eat well after that workout was done?

Did you get enough rest or did you choose to stay out and party? You can’t be successful at the mile distance or any distance for that matter half-assing it.

Find Your WHY (Tip 8)

Remember when Mike Tyson fought Buster Douglas? Tyson got lazy and complacent. He still fought a great fight but anyone who watched it knew he was not hungry to win.

Buster’s mother had just passed away and it was a promise he made to her that drove him to win. His WHY was so strong not even Mike Tyson could beat him on that day in Japan.

To turn a so-called average mile time into a stellar time you have to remind yourself on why you are doing the work.

What is driving you to get out the door when you don’t want to? How can you do the types of workouts you have been doing by yourself?

I have been fortunate over the years to have world-class athletes to train with. That being said, I didn’t always have that luxury. It was a total commitment I made to myself that I was going to succeed in this sport.

What is your WHY? The milers I have trained with over the years were white-hot focused on running at the elite level.

Now, your goal may not be to be a sub-4 minute miler. I completely understand that. We all have various backgrounds and capabilities. That being said, you can listen to these tips and start implementing some changes in how you do business.

If you are not getting the results you want ask yourself if you are fully committed or just interested.

Get Some Racing Flats On Your Feet (Tip 9)

If you are training to improve your mile time you need some light weight shoes on your feet.

This doesn’t just go for the race. I have training shoes and flats that I wear for different types of workouts that I do.

If I am focusing on my leg speed and have a road workout scheduled I’ll wear training shoes to warm up, racing flats for the workout.

Additionally, if I have a track workout scheduled where I am focusing strictly on mile training I’ll wear either spikes or racing flats.

You don’t wear training shoes while doing mile, 200m, 300m or 1K repeats on the track or road.

If you have a fartlek or track interval workout scheduled wear the appropriate shoes. How does this help improve leg speed? It gets you mentally prepared to have that feeling of running fast in your workout.

Furthermore, if you try doing a hard road workout or track session focused on speed while wearing trainers it will weigh on you. You’ll start questioning yourself because you weren’t hitting your goal splits.

Remember, this is a mental and physical sport. You have to also train the mind to prepare to run fast over the mile distance.

Sometimes the smallest changes in your routine will make the greatest impact on your performances. Make sense?

Find Athletes Better Than You To Train With (Tip 10)

I get no satisfaction being the fastest marathoner at a local or national event. I always seek out the most competitive races for a reason.

Competition will always bring out the best in us so always seek it out. Find groups to train with in your local area. There are milers in your area right now who can humble you on the track or roads. Seek them out.

You want to get tested and if getting beat will make you better in the long run than so be it. This is what you want.

Always seek out opportunities to get pushed to your limits. You are not always going to find out what you are capable of training on your own.

Seek Out Mentors

That being said, sometimes we have make the best of what we have in our training.

There were many years I trained on my own. I always ran my best at the mile to marathon distances when I was pushed physically and mentally in training.

I’ve been humbled so many times in training and races I’ve lost count at this point. I remember doing mile repeats at Cheyenne Mountain high school track at 6400 feet elevation with John Mickowski.

Mickowski was one of my mentors because he taught me to run fast you can’t be merely interested. Additionally, you cannot rely on your talent either.

John was a 3:58 miler and very talented. That being said, he was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known.

We did a 6×1 mile workout together. I was hitting 4:45 to 4:48 per rep with a 2 minute rest recovery. John was hitting 4:28 to 4:32 per rep.

He simply had the wheels I didn’t have but it was that association that pushed me to my limits at that altitude.

Seek out those that are better than you and you watch to see the massive changes in your overall leg speed and performances.

I hope this post on improving an average mile time has been helpful to you.

Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what has caused you the biggest headache when it comes to the mile.

What is causing you issues with this distance?

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