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Mile Repeats – The Best Way To Add Them Into Your Workouts

No matter what you are preparing for as a runner, variety is the key to an effective fitness routine. While most of your runs should be at an easy pace, challenging workouts, such as intervals and tempos, are crucial.

There are a variety of ways to do this. Whether you are training for a 5k or a marathon, mile repeats are one of the most popular and effective hard workouts. We’ll cover everything that you need to know about mile repeats in this article, discussing what they are, how to do them, and the benefits of doing them.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to add mile repeats into your workouts depending on the length of your race and the level of your running ability.

What are Mile Repeats?

Mile repeats are a specific type of interval training, meaning that you run a specific distance (in this case, one mile) with several repetitions including rest intervals in between. In other words, it is a type of speed work that matches your pace for a longer race (i.e., 10k or half).

Depending on your running ability and current level of physical fitness, you will repeat the process at least two times and work up to six repeats or so.

Mile repeats are especially useful for marathon training because you get a good combination of speed and endurance. With shorter distances, it’s easy to push hard because it will be over quickly. But there is no way to fake mile repeats. They require stamina and hard work.

What Are Some Benefits of Mile Repeats?

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a mile repeat workout is that it is straightforward to remember and execute. Run a mile, spend several minutes recovering, run another mile, and so forth. However, mile repeats will also help you improve your performance on race day. Here’s why.

Build Physical Stamina

By executing mile repeats, you will build your physical stamina by improving your running economy. You’re drawing on both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles, which in turn builds both speed and endurance.

You’re also improving your VO2 max. This workout tests your body’s capacity to get more oxygen to your muscles. Over time, the result is increased capillary and mitochondrial density.

In other words, by alternating between pushing hard and resting, you’re not allowing your body to get comfortable and therefore not experience the maximum benefit. Instead, you’re keeping your body guessing, which is where you’ll see the greatest improvement in speed and endurance.

Build Mental Toughness

Running hard in a long race is not just a physical task. It’s mental, too. Speaking from experience, it’s easy to get your body to do ¼ mile or ½ mile interval training, because I don’t have to sustain it for very long. A mile is a different ball game – not to mention a 10k, half-marathon, or marathon. You have to pace yourself to your level because otherwise, you’ll burn out too fast.

Mile repeats will get your mind trained on focusing on the miles that you’re in for on race day. You want to properly pace yourself and teach your brain that it’s okay if you’re not comfortable. You just have to get through that mile, and then another mile, and so forth.

Get Your Body Used to Your Race Pace

One of the best pieces of advice a running friend gave me when I got back into running was training at race pace so that my body was prepared for that pace come race day.

Obviously, if you’re hoping to PR, you have to work up to that pace. Mile repeats at your PR pace, or even a touch faster, are a baby-step toward that greatness. You need to do some training at or above race pace. Mile repeats can be run at race pace or even 10-15 seconds faster so that your body is prepared. And as your training goes on, you’ll be able to carry that pace longer.

How to Run a Mile Repeat Workout

Now that you know what mile repeats are, let’s talk about incorporating them into your routine so that you get the maximum benefit.

Warm-Up

Although warming up is always important, you definitely want to make sure that you do so before starting a mile repeat workout. You need to give your legs and body time to wake up and get the blood flowing.

Start with a light jog or walk of 5-10 minutes or even up to 1-2 miles. Or, do some dynamic stretching to get everything going. The key is to not overdo it here. You’re just trying to get things moving, so don’t be aiming for any speed goals.

Keep a Consistent Pace

Once you start the repeats, keep as consistent a pace as possible. After you’ve been running for a while, it should be pretty easy to stay roughly around the same speed. But if you’re new to running, you might need to be more aware of this.

If you start to feel your body lagging or slouching a little bit, chances are that you’ve slowed down, so check your GPS watch or phone app to see if you’re still going at the same pace.

You might want to check at what seems like the halfway point if you’re running outside to make sure you’re still on track. If you’re on a track, just check after every ¼ mile, or roughly every lap.

There’s a saying: “Anyone can do the first half of a workout.” If, halfway through, you find yourself struggling and your pace starts to really drop off, it might mean you ran the first few repeats too fast. Back off the pace a bit next time so that you can maintain the same effort throughout. You should finish your workout tired, but probably able to do one more repeat if push came to shove.

Properly Recover Between Repeats

When you are resting and recovering between repeats, you need to make sure that you are actually recovering. While it’s okay to do a light jog, you want to make sure that your breathing is slowing down, and you’re catching your breath.

Chances are that if you’re a beginner, walking is a better option between repeats so that your body can properly recover. A good rule of thumb is to spend the same amount of time recovering that you spent running. Obviously, you’ll cover a shorter distance walking.

Typically, your walking speed will be ½ of your running speed, so if you ran a mile, you’ll probably want to walk a ½ mile.

If you’re an advanced runner and choose to jog for recovery, you might be okay with a shorter distance recovery than a ½ mile. As long as you spend the same amount of time recovering as you did running, the recovery pace doesn’t matter so much.

Run Repeats on Flat Terrain

Ideally, you should run mile repeats on a track for consistency. Four laps around the track equals one mile at your race pace, and then at least two laps for recovery. If you’re on an inside track, it will likely be eight laps for your race pace and at least four for recovery.

But if you really love to be outside, then you can do mile repeats there. Just make sure that you’re on flat terrain on a measured distance from MapMyRun or a similar website or use a GPS watch.

The advantage of a track, though, is that it’s very clear when you need to run hard and when you need to recover, which can save some mental energy for you since mile repeats are already mentally challenging enough.

When Should I Add Mile Repeats When I’m Training for a Race?

Like many things in running, it all depends on you personally. If you’re new to running, you might want to work up to mile repeats. Start with smaller intervals first.

For longer races, you might want to start with faster mile repeats and then slow them down as your race gets closer.

5k/10k

When preparing for a 5k or 10k, you’ll likely want to incorporate mile repeats into your training routine fairly early, since you don’t have as many weeks to train. You can start doing mile repeats at your current 5k/10k pace and work up to your goal pace.

Alternatively, you could add them in near the end of your training cycle to give you an idea of what race day will look like. However, if you start sooner, you’ll begin training your body to know what your race day pace is going to feel like.

Half marathon

When you’re training for a half marathon, you’ll likely want to start with faster mile repeats and then slow them down to closer to your race pace as you get closer to race day.

For example, if you’re training for a half marathon in 12 weeks, you might do a 5k pace for mile repeats for the first 3-4 weeks, a 10k pace for the next 3-4 weeks, and a half marathon pace for the last 3 weeks.

Marathon

For marathon training, you may want to add faster mile repeats like 5k or 10k pace throughout your training program to give yourself some speed work in the midst of longer runs.

As your race gets closer, though, you’ll want to back off the speed and start doing a race day pace so that you’re training your body for what you’re expecting of it. Instead of doing faster mile repeats, you might consider doing marathon pace two-mile repeats.

3 Types of Mile Repeat Workouts

Mile repeats are pretty easy to figure out, so you can experiment to figure out what works for you. However, here are several workouts you might want to try.

5k/10k Pace

For mile repeats for a 5k/10k pace, you’ll want to do at least three of them and even up to 5-6 for 10k repeats. I personally like even numbers, so I’d recommend starting with a 5-10 minute warm-up, 4 x 1 mile repeats at 5k or 10k pace with 3-5 minute recovery, and then a 5-10 minute cool down.

Half Marathon Pace

For a half marathon pace mile repeat workout, you’ll want to do more since you’ll be going at a slower pace for a longer distance. Again, start with a warm-up. Then do 6 x 1 mile repeats at your goal half marathon pace. Recovery between intervals for 2-3 minutes, and then a cool down.

Marathon Pace

For marathon pace repeats, you’ll want to go a little bit faster (maybe 10-15 seconds faster) than your goal marathon pace. Start with two repeats of one mile, and work your way up to 6 repeats. Incorporate at least one mile repeat workout every two weeks into your training routine.

Concluding Thoughts

I know from my own experience doing intervals and mile repeats that you’ll see marked improvement in your running time. That’s both exciting and motivating. You’ll definitely experience the same as you push your body beyond its normal comfortable routines.

As one parting piece of advice, make sure that your body properly recovers during your rest interval (i.e., your heart rate and breathing have recovered) before starting the next repeat. Because mile repeats provide endurance plus speed, it’s a great workout. Good luck!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner
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