Looking for a simple running workout that can make you a better runner? Running repeats could be just right for you. And if you really want to keep things simple, mile repeats are the way to go.
Today’s article explains mile repeats, looks at their benefits and shows you how to run them properly. We also feature variations of running repeats so you can adapt them to your running goals and get the most out of them.
Let’s get down to business.
What Are Mile Repeats?
So, what is a mile repeat in simple terms? Mile repeats are one of the most popular types of running repeats.
They work like this. First, you warm up and run hard for a mile at your desired pace. You then recover for a short while. You run a few more repeats, alternating intense running for a mile with a period of recovery after.
Is it really that simple? Yes, it is. And the beauty of mile running repeats is that you can adapt them to your needs.
By varying their pace and the number of repeats you do, you can use them to train for various races, from 5k to marathons. Or simply build them into your workouts to become a better runner or achieve your fitness goals.
Mile repeats are nothing new. They became popular in the late 1970s and have remained attractive for long-distance runners ever since. Their simplicity and structure give them a lasting appeal.
Benefits of Running Mile Repeats
Why run mile repeats? Not only because they are fun, but because they can help you build stamina and speed, adapt your body to race pace, and become tougher mentally.
With mile repeats, you can reap the same benefits just as you would with hard tempo runs but with less fatigue. Let’s take the benefits of running mile repeats one at a time.
Build Physical Stamina
When you run mile repeats, you activate your slow-twitch muscles, which will help you build stamina. At the same time, you will train your body to get more oxygen to your muscles.
With mile repeats, you can improve your VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during runs. You will also increase the stroke volume each time your heart pumps blood into your body. This helps it deliver more red blood cells to your tissues.
Grow Mental Toughness
Running mile repeats means sustaining running hard for a reasonably long distance. It’s the kind of training that trains your mind to get used to not feeling comfortable during long runs; not just about running hard, either. It’s about pacing yourself and maintaining focus. The mental toughness you develop from running repeats will prepare you for running long distances.
We’ve seen that a mile is long enough to help you build stamina. But at the same time, it’s not long enough to help you build speed. When you run mile repeats, you also engage your fast-twitch muscles.
These muscles play a key role in helping you become faster. And you’ll also boost your VO2 max, which will also help you run faster for a given effort.
Get Used to Race Pace
You can run mile repeats at your desired race pace. Even better, you can run them at 10-20 seconds or faster to prepare for race day.
How to Run (Structure) the Mile Repeats
If you feel that run repeats are for you, it’s time to get practical and build them into your running workouts. Start with a classic mile repeat structure to get a feel for it.
1. Warm up with an easy pace run of 10 to 15 minutes or the equivalent of 1–2 miles.
2. Run a mile at 10–20 seconds faster than your goal race pace.
3. Recover with a slow, easy pace run or walk of up to half a mile (not more than 5 minutes).
4. Repeat the mile run and recovery up to six times.
5. Cool down with a 10 to 15-minute easy pace run, up to 2 miles long.
How many mile repeats you do depends on your fitness level and running goals. You also want to factor in your other running workouts and strength training.
Note: Running repeats correctly means knowing your goal pace. If you haven’t given it much thought so far, try this pace calculator provided by the University of Washington.
Mile Repeat Variations
Once you feel comfortable with the classic mile repeat, you can try out some variations of it. Depending on your race goals, you may find some of these variations more enjoyable than the basic one. They may also bring you better results.
Here are some 1-mile repeats you may want to try.
5k Pace Mile Repeats
The first 1-mile repeat variation comes with a comfortable rest period but is challenging nevertheless because of its pace.
1. Warm up with 1 mile of running at an easy pace.
2. Run your first mile repeat at your 5K pace.
3. Recover with 4 minutes of running at an easy pace.
4. Repeat the mile run and recovery three more times, for a total of four repeats.
5. Cool down with a 1 mile run at an easy pace.
10k Pace Mile Repeats
During the 10k pace mile repeat—as during all the other variations we’ve shared—it’s important not to slow into a walk but keep on running.
1. Warm up with some easy running for 1 mile.
2. Run the first mile repeat at your 10k pace.
3. Recover with 2 minutes of running at an easy pace.
4. Repeat the mile run and recovery four more times, for a total of five running repeats.
5. Cool down with easy running for 1 mile.
Half Marathon Pace Mile Repeats
Half marathon pace mile repeats are great for getting your body ready for longer workouts, races or boosting your training volume. They come with a shorter rest interval than 5k or 10k pace mile repeats.
1. Warm up with 1–2 miles of running at an easy pace.
2. Run your first running repeat for 1 mile at your half marathon pace.
3. Recover with 1 minute of easy running.
4. Put in five more repeats with recovery in between them for a total of six repeats.
5. Cool down with 1 mile of running at an easy pace.
Simple, fun, and easy to adapt to your goal race pace – that’s mile repeats in a nutshell. Here are a few key things to remember:
- Mile repeats can help you build running economy, stamina, and speed at the same time.
- Running repeats not only accustom your body to long-distance race paces but also prepare you mentally to deal with discomfort.
- You can adapt running repeats to your fitness level and race pace.
- During running repeats, always warm up and cool down with an easy run of 1–2 miles.
- You have to know your target pace before running repeats effectively.
- It’s important not to stop during repeats. At most, slow down to a walk. But make it brief.
Enjoy your first mile repeats, and remember not to push yourself too much too soon. Start with a few repeats and gradually work toward increasing them. That way, you’ll accustom your body to running repeats without exhausting it or risking injury.