Marathon and half-marathon training can start to feel a little monotonous after many weeks of hard work! Mile repeats can be a fun way to shake up your training, and be a valuable addition to your training routine.
They may seem simple, but don’t underestimate this training tool. You can include them in your training routine for a marathon or a 5k because they’re a great way to enhance your training.
What Are Mile Repeats?
Repeats are a type of workout in which you run at a fast pace for a specific distance—then, recover with a slow jog or walk, before repeating it.
The pace, distance, recovery, and number of reps can vary depending on your current fitness and what you are training for. Generally, shorter repeat distances are done at a fast pace with less recovery but higher reps.
Mile repeats are simply a type of repeat in which you run a mile at a time, then recover then run another mile.
Usually, you try to run a consistent pace for each mile and try to maintain that pace for each repeat. In other words, you want a steady pace for each repeat – not speeding up or slowing down throughout the workout.
The pace is often your race pace for a half or full marathon. This means you are running fast but not all out. This is important because one of the goals for mile repeats is to get your body used to running your race pace.
So while mile repeats build stamina, endurance, and increase your overall fitness – they also train your body to run at a specific pace.
Repeats and Intervals: What’s the Difference?
Repeats and intervals are very similar to each other. However, they’re not entirely the same. The difference comes down to the time and intensity of each.
How Repeats Work
Repeats are a form of interval training but tend to be done for longer distances and less intense efforts.
For example, mile repeats require running a full mile as a single repeat, which can take 6 to 15 minutes, depending on your fitness and experience level.
They’re done at your goal race pace, so it’s a matter of sticking to that pace throughout the entire distance.
How Intervals Work
Intervals are usually shorter and more intense than repeats. This means you can do more intervals in the same period of time than you’d be able to do repeats.
Intervals typically last 5 minutes or less, and they’re separated by short recovery periods. While repeats are done at race pace, intervals are typically done at 80 to 90 percent of the runner’s capacity.
You can get quite creative with intervals, depending on your own goals. Keep in mind that repeats are a type of interval, but they’re not your average interval type.
Benefits of Mile Repeats
Incorporating mile repeats into your workout routine offers plenty of benefits. These include:
1. Builds Physical Stamina and Endurance
Every time you repeat, you’re training your body to run at an increased pace for a longer period. The slow-twitch muscles are also activated during mile repeats, which primes your body for endurance.
2. Improve Your Speed
Mile repeats also activate your fast-twitch muscles. These prime your body for explosive speed, so mile repeats can also improve your speed over longer distances.
It’s important to note that your overall speed will improve as you improve and your race pace gets faster. So over time, your goal race pace should be increasing too, so you’ll always strive for something when you do mile repeats.
3. Builds Your Mental Toughness
Mile repeats are not easy! Maintaining your race pace for a mile can be tricky and uncomfortable. You may start to feel like you’re running too slowly, not pushing yourself enough.
You’ve got to constantly fight the temptation to speed up, which is much harder than it sounds! It’s also important that you maintain your focus because it can be easy to accidentally speed up if your mind is wandering.
All of the discomfort associated with running mile repeats helps you to build mental toughness as you train. This serves you well when you hit competitive situations!
4. Gets You Used to Race Pace
Sticking to race pace can be tough, as mentioned above. But doing regular mile repeats at your race pace—or even 10 to 15 seconds faster than race pace—can help you to turn your race pace into “muscle memory”.
You’ll begin to get used to how it should feel to run at your race, so you’ll be able to maintain it with less effort. The more you run at the same pace, the more you’ll get used to sticking to it.
5. Improves Running Economy
The fact that mile repeats use both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles and builds both speed and endurance means that they’re effective workouts. These properties help to increase stroke volume, which is how much blood your heart pumps with each beat.
This means that each beat sends more oxygen and nutrients around the body to the muscles. Increased stroke volume means your capacity for exertion is greater, so you can up your performance without fatiguing too soon.
In other words, mile repeats can improve your running economy—the amount of oxygen you need to maintain a certain level of performance.
6. Increases VO2 Max
This goes hand in hand with running economy. Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of O2 your body can actively use during exercise. The more your stroke volume increases, the more blood gets pumped around your body with each beat.
Each beat, therefore, delivers more oxygen to the muscles. A higher stroke volume equals a higher VO2 max, as it delivers more red blood cells to the cells throughout the body. The more oxygen gets delivered to the muscles, the more is available to use.
It takes time for VO2 max and running economy to improve, but if you’re consistent with your mile repeats, you’ll notice it over time.
7. Increases Lactate Threshold
Mile repeats have you running at a pace just a little above your threshold pace, keeping you at your lactate threshold. This is when lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it can be removed.
Mile repeats allow you to do a large training volume at this pace, while minimizing your fatigue. Ultimately, this improves your lactate threshold, meaning you can maintain this state for longer and longer.
8. Monitor Fitness Improvements
Mile repeats are a great benchmark for monitoring your fitness improvements. Like the Jeff Galloway Magic Mile, this is an excellent way to see how your fitness is improving because you’re running a set distance at a set pace, so it’s easy to see how your time improves.
Running mile repeats often is a great way to monitor improvement. It’s a good idea to keep a training log so you can compare times from a few weeks ago to what you’re doing now, which is an easy way to see how you’re getting better.
9. Adds Variety
Undoubtedly, training for a race can get a little boring! Mile repeats can add some welcome variety to your training regime and give you something different to work towards.
When Should You Add Run Repeats to Your Routine?
You can do mile repeats at any time to maintain and improve your fitness. If you’re planning on using them as a tool to improve your speed before a race, we recommend starting with them a few weeks into your training program and finishing up just before your taper.
Types of Mile Repeats Workouts for Runners
While the premise remains the same no matter what kind of mile repeat you’re doing, some slight variations depend on your goals.
Mile Repeats for Increasing Speed
These mile repeats aim to run the full mile at or slightly above your race pace. If you’re looking to run a 5K in 30 minutes, for example, you want to aim for 6 minutes per mile in each repeat.
If you’re working on boosting speed, you want a slightly longer break between each repeat. You may want to increase from one minute to two between each mile.
These kinds of mile repeats will also help you get used to your race pace, so you’ll train your body to be comfortable running at this pace.
Mile Repeats for Boosting Stamina
If you aim to boost your stamina, you want to do mile repeats at your threshold pace or tempo pace. This is the pace you can maintain comfortably for an hour—it may seem slow to you, but it helps boost your stamina quite significantly.
Breaks will be a little shorter in these workouts—sticking to a one-minute rest between each repeat is sufficient.
How to Add Mile Repeats To Your Workouts
Want to try mile repeats? Here’s how to add them to your training plan so you can start reaping the benefits!
Calculate Your Goal Pace for Mile Repeats
Your goal pace ultimately depends on the race and fitness levels you’re training for.
The easiest way to work this out independently is to get a good idea of your pace over a short distance, like a 5K. Your 10K pace can be fairly accurately estimated by adding 20 to 30 seconds.
In the same vein, you can add another 20 to 30 seconds to your pace to find an estimation of your half-marathon pace, and the same for marathon pace mile. You’ll adjust this over time as you get a better idea of your pace.
Determining Recovery Time Between Repetitions
You should rest long enough for your heart rate to lower to a relatively normal pace, like when doing a light jog.
However, if you’re training for a 5K, your race pace is going to be faster, so you’ll need more time to recover than doing mile repeats for a marathon, for example.
You’ll need to figure this out based on what pace you’re training at and how long it takes for your heart rate to come back down.
Choosing an Appropriate Terrain for Your Training
It’s best to do mile repeats on the same type of terrain the race will be run on. For example, if your race is flat and fast, train on a track or roads that are flat and fast. If you have a hilly race, train on hilly terrain.
As long as you can measure the distance accurately, you’ll be good to go on almost any terrain. You can add challenge and boost your performance by training on a trail if you’re working up to a road race, but training on a track is the best way to ensure you’re hitting the right distance.
Tips for Running Mile Repeats
Planning on adding mile repeats into your workouts? Here’s how we recommend doing them for the best results.
#1: Warm Up Thoroughly
Warm up with some dynamic stretching to loosen up your muscles. You can do a slow, easy run of a mile or two to get the blood pumping before you get into your repeats.
#2: Run Even Splits
Aim for your race pace, or 10 to 20 seconds faster than your race pace. Whatever you choose, the goal is to run even splits—as close as you possibly can to your goal time every single time. If you’re on-pace, this shouldn’t be difficult.
#3: Keep Moving Between Splits
Although you need to rest between each repeat, don’t stop moving. Take a walk or a light jog during your recovery time. The goal is to slow your heart rate, but you don’t want to be inactive.
#4: Take Your Repeats One At a Time
Mile repeats can be tough on the body and the mind! Focusing on how many repeats you still have to do can be daunting. Focus on one repeat at a time. Ticking them off this way will help you get through your workouts more easily!
#5: Cool Down
Don’t forget to cool down after your mile repeats. You can do something similar to your warm-up, with a few slow, easy miles and some light stretching to finish up.
Can Mile Repeats Help You Run a Faster Marathon?
When done right, mile repeats can help to improve your race pace. Most of the time, the goal of mile repeats is to maintain your desired race pace for the full mile.
It’s important to note that mile repeats can be geared towards improving speed, but they can also be geared towards developing stamina.
Either way, if you incorporate them into your training and stay consistent, they can help you run at a faster pace for your next marathon!