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Train to Run a Mile in Just 4 Weeks

If you want to start running, but training for a 5k sounds too daunting, we have the plan for you! In four short weeks, you’ll be able to run a mile without having to stop at all to walk.

This article will begin by explaining the training plan and some of the concepts behind it. Then we’ll move into some basic tips for new runners. We’ll conclude with a week-by-week guide for how to train to run a mile in 4 weeks.

man running a mile

The Training Plan

Your training plan, which you’ll find at the end of this article, has three different components—run/walk interval days, cross-training days, and rest days.

Before we get into some tips and then the actual plan, we’ll go through the different components, beginning with the run/walk method itself.

The Run/Walk Method

The whole point of this plan is to ease you into running. You’ll have to run for 30-second intervals during the first week. We’ll gradually add more running time while subtracting some walking time.

The rationale behind the run/walk interval method is that it’s a great way for new runners to get started. It will improve your endurance consistently and gradually, it will increase your incentive and desire to run, and it will help you to avoid injury.

Additionally, because your heart rate is lower when you’re walking, your body will use fat stores for energy instead of carbs, which burn faster. This means that you won’t run out of energy as quickly, which is great news if you’re just getting into running.

Some newer runners think this run/walk method somehow amounts to cheating, or that it’s not a real workout because you aren’t running the whole time. Nonsense! You’re out there putting in the work and building up your ability, and run/walk is a common way to train, even for marathon and ultramarathon distances. When I got back into running in December, I had to do my own version of the run/walk method because, even though I am in my 20s, I couldn’t run one mile without any walking breaks. I needed time to build up my endurance.

Different Types of Cross-Training

The great news about cross-training is that the options are endless. This means that on your cross-training days, you can choose from a variety of options—yoga, strength training, bicycling, swimming, and even walking.

Cross-training with another activity besides running is important because it helps you deal with boredom—especially if the idea of running every day overwhelms you! Your body will be able to better resist injury because you’re not stressing your body in the same way every time you work out.

In fact, your body uses oxygen in a similar way in the activities of cycling, running, and swimming, as a University of Tennessee at Knoxville study found. That means that you’ll still be improving your body’s VO2 max, or your maximum capacity to use oxygen during exercise, even when you mix it up.

So take full advantage of your cross-training days to try new exercises and activities. The workouts I gravitate toward are ab, core, and dumbbell workouts. If you have a strong core and strong muscles and joints from strength training, you’ll run faster and be less prone to injury.

The Importance of Rest Days

When you first start, rest days are probably going to be your favorite days! I know they were for me although now it’s hard for me not to be able to run or workout. But don’t skimp on rest days.

It’s okay if you want to do some gentle yoga or stretching, but don’t do anything more than that. If you want to get better at running and give your body time to heal, you need to make sure that you rest on your rest days.

Running, and actually any form of exercise, causes extremely small tears in your muscles, which need time to heal. This is the process by which you become stronger. If you don’t take the time to rest, you’re risking injuries from overtraining and mental exhaustion.

Give yourself a break at least once a week—our training plan includes two rest days a week—to allow your body and your mind to relax. You’ll be fresher and more ready to go on your next run or cross-training day!

Basic Tips for New Runners

Okay, now that we’ve explained the plan, let’s discuss some basic tips for beginner runners. Before you start this program, you need to make sure that you have comfortable shoes and clothing.

While you don’t necessarily need to go to the store and purchase running shoes, you’ll want to make sure that the shoes you’re planning on using fit well and aren’t super old. In terms of gear, comfortable shoes are the most important item for runners.

Next, you can’t forget to warm up and cool down properly before and after runs. It’s tempting to skip this part to save time. But properly warming up helps prevent injuries and improves performance, no matter what your level.

Make sure that you go through a couple of dynamic stretches before you start your workout. These can include stretches like Frankensteins, leg swings, high knees, and butt kicks. Then make sure that you walk for 5-10 minutes to get your muscles moving before starting your workout.

When you’re done with your run/walk, don’t immediately rush inside and plunk down on the couch. Instead, walk it out for about 5-10 minutes so that your muscles don’t get stiff. Your body will thank you later.

Finally, you need to make sure that you’re properly hydrated. How much should you drink? This varies quite a bit on a number of factors, but a good starting point is to divide your weight in pounds by two, and drink that many ounces of water on your running days.

Don’t push yourself too hard right at the start. You can find what pace is comfortable for you by seeing whether you can talk in complete sentences while running. If you’re along, try reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or a poem you know. If you can’t hold a basic conversation while running, you’re pushing yourself too hard.

Week-by-Week Guide

Now that we’ve explained the rationale behind it and some basic tips, here’s the plan. We don’t have it listed by days of the week so that you can begin whenever you’re ready. Within 4 weeks, you’ll be able to run a mile! Good luck!

Week 1

Day 1 – Run/walk for 12 min (run 30 sec, walk 60 sec)

Day 2 – Cross train for 15 min

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 30 sec, walk 60 sec)

Day 5 – 30 min easy walk

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Run walk for 20 min (run 30 sec, walk 60 sec)

Week 2

Day 1 – Rest

Day 2 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 60 sec, walk 60 sec)

Day 3 – Cross train for 20 min

Day 4 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 60 sec, walk 60 sec)

Day 5 – 30 min easy walk

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Run walk for 20 min (run 60 sec, walk 60 sec)

Week 3

Day 1 – Rest

Day 2 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 90 sec, walk 30 sec)

Day 3 – Cross train for 20 min

Day 4 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 90 sec, walk 30 sec)

Day 5 – 30 min easy walk

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Run walk for 20 min (run 90 sec, walk 30 sec)

Week 4

Day 1 – Rest

Day 2 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 3 min, walk 30 sec)

Day 3 – Cross train for 20 min

Day 4 – Run/walk for 15 min (run 5 min, walk 30 sec)

Day 5 – 30 min easy walk

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Run for 15 min (or 1 mile) – no walking

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner