Dream Big: Run Three Miles in 30 Minutes

Hey speedy, ready to increase your running pace to a 10-minute mile in four weeks? This plan has you covered.

by Carey Rossi Senior Editor

Are you a runner? Have you been stuck at that 14 minute-mile pace and yearn to go faster? Do you want to be the one passing others on the path? If so, this super simple plan is for you. And if you’re not a runner, this program could help you start if you have a solid walking or jogging base. Wherever you're starting, it's time to lace up!

Week 1: Establish Your Training Baseline

Here’s the science: When it comes to the benefits of running, scientists have found quite a few. From boosting heart strength to increasing lifespan, pounding the pavement is one of the healthiest forms of exercise you can do. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that those who run leisurely had a 30% and 45% lower risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively.

If you’re already running on the regular, increasing your speed can help increase your body’s ability to be more efficient at things like pumping blood and using the oxygen you breathe. Consider the next four weeks a time to fine-tune your body’s systems…and get faster as a result.

Move-the-Needle Monday: On day one (that’s today!) run for 10 minutes. Afterwards take note of how much distance you covered running at a normal or moderate pace. “Knowing where your start line is helps you appreciate where you finish at the end,” says our virtual running coach for the month, Andrew Watkins, director of strength and conditioning at Sports Performance Lab in Middletown, New Jersey.

A note on pace: An easy pace is one where you can easily carry on a conversation without being breathy. If you were to rate your effort on a scale of one to 10, it would rank a two to three. A moderate pace is one where that conversation starts getting breathy and it ranks four to six on the effort scale. Finally, a hard pace makes talking difficult and the effort ranks at seven or above.

The plan: You’ll be running three days this week. But, whatever you do, “don’t skip the warm-up,” says Watkins. “Countless athletes jump right into activity and never think about a potential injury until it's too late. We don't just want to be faster; we want to have healthy ranges of motion throughout every stride we take.” Having a solid 10 to 15-minute warmup helps make your muscles and ligaments more mobile, which in turn helps prevent injuries as you increase the speed and intensity of your runs.

  • Monday: Running workout #1

    • Warm-up by walking for five minutes, then jogging slowly for five to 10 minutes.

    • Run for 10 minutes at an easy pace then walk for one minute.

    • Finish your workout by running 10 minutes more at a moderate pace.

  • Tuesday: Cross-training

  • Wednesday: Running workout #2

    • Warm-up by walking for five minutes, then jogging slowly for five to 10 minutes.

    • Run for 12 minutes at a moderate pace, then walk for one minute.

    • Finish your workout by running 12 minutes more at a hard pace.

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Running workout #3

    • Warm-up by walking for five minutes then jogging for five to 10 minutes.

    • Run for 13 minutes at a moderate pace, then walk for one minute.

    • Finish your workout by running 13 minutes more at a hard pace.

  • Saturday: Cross-training

    • Do 30 minutes of swimming, cycling, or yoga.

    • Do 10 minutes of stretching.

  • Sunday: Rest

Top tip: Hydration is just as important as your training. Make sure you’re drinking water during the day. Doing so will help prevent cramping, encourage stronger muscles and better tendon elasticity that aids in speed and injury prevention. To make sure that your body has enough fluids, try to avoid feeling thirsty. Remember, thirst is a latent predictor of hydration needs. If you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated.

Make it harder: Don’t shy away from inclines. Hills are your friends! Running up hills helps improve your cardiovascular fitness and eventually makes you faster on the flatlands.

Week 2: Push Your Speed

Here’s the science: A study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that when long distance runners incorporated short bouts of sprint work into their training, their 1500-meter run pace was a bit quicker. As a result, researchers suggested sub-elite runners try the strategy to increase their pace during endurance runs. Double knot those laces because this week you will put this science into practice.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Get ready to run faster for short bouts this week (you’ll be doing five-minute sprint repeats). “Pushing your pace and tempo will take you out of your comfort zone,” says Andrew Watkins, director of strength and conditioning at Sports Performance Lab in Middletown, New Jersey. But, remember—out of your comfort zone is where progress happens. Watkins suggests “attacking the distance.” In other words, try to cover three miles during each run workout. You may not reach the three-mile mark but by focusing on covering the distance instead of trying to go faster, you will naturally (and probably unknowingly) speed up.

As for your other two runs this week, you’ll be running at easy and moderate paces. Both are conversational paces with an easy pace scoring a 2 or 3 on a 10-point scale of perceived effort and the moderate pace scoring between 4 and 6.

The plan:

  • Monday: Running workout #1

    • Warm-up by walking for 5 minutes then jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.

    • Run as hard as you can for 5 minutes then walk for one minute. Repeat five times.

  • Tuesday: Strength-training (or rest)

  • Do 10 minutes of stretching.

  • Wednesday: Running workout #2

    • Warm-up by walking for 5 minutes then jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.

    • Run for 15 minutes at an easy pace then walk for one minute.

    • Finish your workout by running for 15 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Thursday: Cross-training

    • Do 30 minutes of swimming, cycling, or yoga.

  • Friday: Running workout #3

    • Warm-up by walking for 5 minutes then jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.

    • Run for 15 minutes at an easy pace then walk for one minute.

    • Finish your workout by running for 15 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Saturday: Cross-training (or rest)

    • 30 minutes of swimming, cycling, or yoga

  • Sunday: Rest

Top tip: Tech can be one of your best accountability partners by helping you keep track of distance, splits, and pace. If you don’t have a wearable such as a Fitbit, Apple Watch, Whoop or Garmin, there are running apps that turn your phone into a running log. A few apps we like include: Nike Run Club, Map My Run, and Strava.

Make it harder: “Running harder paces and pushing tempo is difficult,” Watkins says. But if you really feel the need to challenge yourself, sprint the last five-minute interval during Friday’s workout.

Week 3: Build Your Endurance

Here’s the science: There are benefits to running longer distances but one of the most important to your overall health might be improving your VO2max. V-Oh-What? You ask. VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume while exercising. The more fit you are, the stronger your cardiorespiratory fitness is, and the more efficient your body is. According to a research review published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, moderately trained healthy individuals saw improvements in their VO2max after five to 13 weeks of endurance training. While we may not be training together for that long, you can still be on your way to a stronger, better-functioning body.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Track your progress on the first run of the week. You'll be running for 20 minutes, so how close to reaching two miles are you? Using this check-in as a measurement can help you determine how to run during your other workouts this week. For instance, if you’re feeling good and finishing strong after 20 minutes of running, try running slightly faster during Wednesday’s run. If 20 minutes was difficult to complete, consider resting on Tuesday so you go into Wednesday’s run with fresh legs.

Just like the prior two weeks, you will be asked to run at easy, moderate, and hard paces. As a refresher:

  • An easy pace is one where you can carry on a conversation easily without being breathy. If you were to rate your effort on a scale of one to 10, it would rank a 2-to-3.

  • A moderate pace would be one where that conversation starts getting breathy and you would rank the effort between 4-to-6.

  • And, a hard pace makes talking difficult and the effort ranks at 7 or above.

The plan:

  • Monday: Running workout #1

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 20 minutes at an easy pace, walk for one minute, and then run as fast as you can for five minutes.

  • Tuesday: Cross training

    • Swim, cycle or do yoga for 30 minutes.

  • Wednesday: Running workout #2

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Running workout #3

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 25 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Saturday: Cross training (or rest)

    • Swim, cycle or do yoga for 30 minutes.

  • Sunday: Rest

Top tip: This week’s rest days are non-negotiable. Next week, it’s time to hit your goal so you want to make sure your body is healthy and ready to do so. “Listen to your body,” says Andrew Watkins, director of strength and conditioning at Sports Performance Lab in Middletown, NJ. “I have seen many athletes suffer from long-term injuries just because they didn’t take care of their bodies and take a day off.” If you don’t rest, you may be at-risk for overreaching. This occurs when you push your body too hard and it takes a few days to recover. When this happens, your body stops adapting to training stimuli. Your speed and distance workouts don’t help you getter faster or go longer; instead, these workouts just place more stress on your body.

Week 4: Run Your Fastest 3 Miles

Here’s the Science: To run faster, visualize yourself running faster. Sit in a quiet place and picture in your mind what you’re wearing, where you are jogging and then eventually running. What are the sights and sounds? How does the ground feel under your feet? Imagine the wind on your face.

It is this imagery that professional runners tap into before training sessions and races. And decades of sports psychologists have found that psyching-up before an activity improves your performance. A series of studies published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that when male sprinters used imagery right before their sprints, they ran faster than when they didn’t. So, this week, before each run, imagine yourself running three miles in 30 minutes.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Over the past three weeks, you might have found a rhythm to your running. It could be that you do best when you start slower for the first half and then progressively get faster through the last half of your run. Today, use your fitness wearable or running app to plan your goal run. Where will you run it? Where on the route should you be to make your goal at 10 minutes? 20 minutes? What is the plan if you’re slower or faster than planned? Once you have your plan, practice it during Wednesday’s run and reflect afterward. Specifically, visualize what you need to do to run your goal on Sunday.

The plan:

  • Monday: Running workout #1

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 27 minutes.

  • Tuesday: Rest

  • Wednesday: Running workout #2

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 30 minutes.

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Running workout #3

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 20 minutes.

  • Saturday: Rest

  • Sunday: Goal Run

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

  • Run for 3 miles.

Top tip: Keep your eye on the 3-mile goal. During your final run, keep an eye on your pace. Check-in after 10 minutes and adjust your pace accordingly. “If you feel like you won’t complete the 3 miles in 30 minutes, that’s okay—all runners have good and bad days,” says Andrew Watkins, director of strength and conditioning at Sports Performance Lab in Middletown, NJ. “Take note of your time and pace, and try to beat it another day.”

Carey Rossi
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Carey Rossi