The 6-week Routine to Run a 6-minute Mile

The 6-week Routine to Run a 6-minute Mile
 

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. [RELATED7]

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! 

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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!

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