Want to boost your cardio cred? No better way than to earn it by knocking a 6-minute mile out of the park. It’ won’t be as easy as the breeze you’ll feel while breaking that sweat during those 6 minutes, but it’ll definitely be worth it.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a regular runner or whether you never plan to toe the starting line of a major marathon – every man should aspire to run a six-minute mile, or at least see how fast he can run this classic distance. Running hard for a mile requires speed, stamina and grit. And then there’s muscle. “People often forget that you need strength to run that distance that fast,” says Ryan Lamppa, founder of Bring Back the Mile, an advocacy group trying to restore the race to its pre-80s glory (that is, before track and field’s conversion to the metric system).
“Look at all the great milers: unlike distance runners, they’re muscular.” Much of that strength comes from the training required to clock a decent time. “You need to run intervals – repeated bouts of all-out effort and rest – to target slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibres,” says Ben Rosario, head coach of the Northern Arizona Elite running team. That’s why a six-minute mile is such an accomplishment. “It shows you have power and a strong aerobic base, both of which translate to better performance in any sport,” he says. Follow these steps to achieve it in just four weeks.
1/Set a Starting Point
A week before you begin the programme, head down to your local sports field and, after a warmup, run a mile as fast as you can. (A mile on a typical track is four 400-metre laps in the inside lane, plus about 10 metres.) Note your time. This is your baseline for deciding a reasonable goal and for measuring improvement. If you’re new to milespecific training, you can reasonably expect to run the mile 10 to 15% faster after this four-week programme. So if you run a 7-minute mile, you’ve got a good shot at hitting that magical 6-minute mark after a month. In this preliminary week, if you do another cardio workout (in addition to regular workouts), make it an easy distance run.
2/Accelerate Your Training
Once a week for the next four weeks, head back to the track to run intervals. (Use the chart below to guide your sessions.) Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of light jogging and four to six “strides”. To complete one stride, accelerate from a jog to a sprint over 50 metres. Rest briefly and then begin your intervals workout. Two other days a week, jog for 30 minutes. These cardio sessions should be in addition to (not to the exclusion of) your regular gym workouts. Just be sure to perform each workout on a different day.
3/Time Your Mile Again
Did you finish in 6 minutes or under? Congratulations! You’re faster and fitter than most men on the planet. If you missed your goal, no worries; just repeat the four-week training cycle. “But this time, also run hills once a week to strengthen your quads and boost your explosive power,” Rosario suggests. Find a moderate hill: something challenging but not so steep that you need to walk up it. Sprint uphill for 20 to 30 seconds. Walk back down to recover. Repeat six times. Then go back to the track and try again.