Train to Run a Mile in Just 4 Weeks

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As a new runner, the first big milestone is to run a mile without needing to stop and walk. Depending on your fitness level, it might seem like a daunting goal or something easy to achieve.

Whichever camp you’re in, it does take some work to get there. But if you’re willing to train hard, you can run a mile in just 4 weeks… Which also happens to be just the right amount of time to build a new habit.

If you’re ready to become a runner, this plan will help to get you off to the best start. All you need to bring is determination, consistency, and the right attitude. Let’s get into it!

How Long Does It Take to Run a Mile?

This depends on many factors, including your fitness level, age, and gender. Because of this, mile times can vary significantly. The easiest way to get a good idea of the average is to look at the data logged by everyday runners on Strava.

According to Strava’s data, the average mile pace is 9:53. This is across all ages, genders, and fitness levels, so it’s a good benchmark. Complete beginners should be happy to run a mile in 12 to 15+ minutes, edging closer to—and past—the 9:53 mark as they improve.

The Benefits of Running a Mile

To some, running a mile might not seem like a great achievement. But to a complete beginner, it’s a great milestone! Here’s why being able to run a mile without stopping is an excellent goal to reach.

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improving fitness levels
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Excellent running foundation
  • Stronger leg muscles

What You’ll Need to Get Started

Anyone can run a mile, but you’ll need a few things to start. At a minimum you’ll want this gear.

Comfortable Running Shoes

Shoes are the most important thing you need to be successful. You don’t need to spend a fortune on running shoes, but you do need to make sure you get the right shoes for your feet.

The first step is to figure out your arch type. A wet foot test is the best way, aside from getting your feet professionally assessed.

You’ll need a piece of thick cardboard—preferably in color, not white. Wet your feet and stand on the cardboard, as you would normally stand on the floor, just long enough to leave footprints.

Step off and assess your footprints. If your footprint is almost solid, with very little “empty” space in the arch area, you’re most likely an overpronator or have flat feet.

On the other hand, if your footprint has a wide empty space and only a thin wet line on the outside of the foot, you most likely have high arches. If there’s an equal “empty” and wet space in the middle of your foot, your foot is neutral.

Choose a shoe that matches your arch type. Trust us—this is key not just for your comfort but for injury prevention as your foot will be properly supported.

Running Clothes

Be selective about your running clothes. Choose synthetic fabrics that have moisture-wicking properties and are soft on the skin. Avoid cotton, which holds onto sweat and can easily lead to odor and chafing.

You want to be comfortable. Your clothing shouldn’t chafe anywhere, and you should also consider the weather in the area where you’ll be running.

A Water Bottle

Hydration is extremely important. Invest in a water bottle that’s easy to hold. You can use a hydration belt if you don’t want to carry your water, or choose a water bottle with a hand strap to take the strain out of holding it as you run.

Where’s the Best Place to Run a Mile?

Ultimately, the best place to run is wherever you can! The local running track or a treadmill might be best for tracking your mile as closely as possible, but it’s perfectly possible to do it on the road right outside your front door.

Here’s what you should look for when searching for a place to run your first mile.

Convenience

There’s no need to go out of your way to find a place to run. You can run in the streets right outside your home, at a nearby park, or on the treadmill at the gym.

Find something easy to access—the more complicated it is to get to your running spot, the more difficult it becomes to stay consistent.

Terrain

It’s best to find flat terrain, as this will give you the best, most predictable surface to train on. Hills are great for training, but they’re better for more advanced runners, so do your best to avoid hilly or uneven routes.

The road is a little hard on the joints, so if you’ve got joint trouble, you may want to opt for a trail or park setting instead. This ground will be easier and more forgiving on the joints.

Safety

Your safety is important, so make sure your route has no dangerous hazards along the way. Try to choose somewhere with little traffic, but that’s still public enough to be a safe place.

How to Measure a Mile at a Park or on the Road

If you don’t have a track or a treadmill, you can do your mile training anywhere if you know how to measure a mile. Here are some easy ways.

Use a Running App or GPS Watch

Most of us have a smartwatch or a smartphone that can track distance. A watch may be easier because it’s easy to carry and refer to, whereas a phone could be a bit cumbersome.

However, some apps may have preloaded routes you can choose from. This makes it easy to choose a route near you that’s the perfect distance, but it may take some time to become familiar with it.

Online Mapping Tools

You can check map tools like MapMyRun or Google Maps to plan your own route. This will allow you to pick a route you’re familiar with but measure it out exactly. Remember that the distances may vary slightly as these distances are estimates.

How to Plan Your 4-Week Training Program

Ready to start training to run a mile in 4 weeks? Here’s how to structure a training program that’s effective for you.

Start With a Realistic Goal

It’s important that you cater your training plan to your own ability. If you’ve got a good base level of fitness already, you can expect to be ready for your mile run in 4 weeks no problem.

But if you’re obese and can’t walk for more than a minute or two without stopping to rest, it’s unrealistic to expect to run a mile in 4 weeks. You need to spend 4 to 8 weeks before this program just building up your base fitness before even attempting this kind of program.

Create Your Running Schedule

Your next step is to put together your running schedule. Decide which days will be suitable for running. You should have 3 running days per week, with a day’s break in between each.

You can choose to run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, or another combination. Here, you can also decide what time of day would work best for you.

It’s wise to choose one and stick to it rather than chopping and changing depending on the day. This will help you to stay consistent and develop a habit.

Include Cross-Training Activities

Cross-training is an excellent way to boost your fitness. First, it’s a great way to keep your cardiovascular fitness up on your “non-running days.”

But if you choose your cross-training activity wisely, you can also boost your leg muscle, improving your running performance.

Opt for low-impact cross-training wherever possible. Cycling, swimming, plyometrics, rowing, and the elliptical are good choices. Weight-lifting is also a great option, especially focusing on the legs and core.

You should go for one to two days of cross-training per week. It’s best to do this on the days between your runs, although be aware that you may suffer from some muscular soreness the day after.

Prioritize Recovery and Rest Days

Take at least two full rest days per week, three if necessary. That means no running and no cross-training. These days, you can do recovery activities like yoga or foam rolling.

Part of effective recovery is getting enough sleep. Make sure you’re getting 7 to 9 hours of good quality rest every night, as this will set you up for the best performance.

Plan Your Route

You should already have thought about where you want to run. As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need to choose a safe, easy, and convenient route that you can access for at least the next month.

The treadmill is a good option if you can only run before dawn or late at night. Otherwise, choose your route carefully and make sure it’s a good enough route to work with you and not against you.

Stay Hydrated

Make good use of your water bottle! Even if you only run a short distance daily, proper hydration is key to performance. Make sure you’ve got enough water—rather have too much than too little.

If you’re lucky, you can structure your route near a water fountain where you can refill your bottle. This means you won’t have to carry as much water with you.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

You can train to run a mile in just 4 weeks, but the process will be much harder if your nutrition is unhealthy. Before and during your 4-week training program, maintain a healthy diet of good carbs, protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Set Rewards for Reaching Mini-Goals

Setting yourself rewards is an excellent way of motivating yourself to push hard to reach those goals. Your rewards don’t have to be huge—something as small as a chocolate or an extra episode of your favorite show is enough. It’s up to you to stick to it, though!

Tips On How to Start Running

Now let’s get into the practical details. Here’s what you need to know about starting to run, and the things you should focus on when training to run your first mile.

Warm Up Properly

Warming up might not seem important, especially if you aren’t going to be going fast. But there are two reasons you NEED to be warming up before starting your workout.

One, it gets your muscles and blood flowing, priming them for the more vigorous movement ahead. This goes a long way toward preventing injury during your exercise session.

Two, warming up every single time before you run as a beginner is the best way to build a habit. Get into the habit now, and you’ll thank yourself later.

Use the Run/Walk Method

You don’t need to run the whole mile immediately. The best way to start is to use the run/walk method, where you run for a certain interval period and then walk for a “recovery period.”

This will get your body used to running without overdoing it to the point where you get injured. Every time you run, you can increase the “run” sessions and decrease the “walk” sessions, and eventually, you’ll be running the full mile.

Practice Your Breathing

Your breathing can make or break your run! Most beginners fall into the trap of breathing too shallowly, which means less oxygen is getting to your muscles to help you perform.

It’s worthwhile working on your breathing as you walk/run. Focus on breathing deeply into your belly through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.

Try to match your breathing to your stride. One breath in can take two to three steps, and the same for one breath out. This is an excellent way to stay focused as well.

Start Slowly and Gradually Increase Your Distance

Working on distance is the best way to start. But start slow and work your way up slowly. Rather start too slow and take some time to reach your goal than start too fast and injure yourself due to overtraining.

Track Your Progress

Tracking your progress is an excellent way to stay motivated. You can use an app or a running journal, and tracking your statistics every time you run will help you to see how you’re progressing.

When you struggle to find motivation, you can go back a week or two and see how far you’ve come!

Listen to Your Body

If you feel pain, don’t be tempted to run through it. Regular DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness—is to be expected, but if you feel joint pain or a sharp pain in any joint or muscle, you should stop.

Listen to your body. Pain usually means something is wrong, so take a break if hurt. Rather lose a day or two of training now than train through the pain and lose a week or two recovering from an injury.

Cool Down After Your Run

Cooling down is as important as warming up. This gives your body time to lower your heart rate and relax your muscles, flushing lactic acid out of the body. All you need is 5 to 10 minutes or moderate to easy-paced walking for an effective cool-down.

Celebrate Your Wins

When you reach a milestone, celebrate and reward yourself. Every milestone is an amazing achievement, even if it’s small. Celebrating these things gives you motivation and helps make the journey interesting!

Example of the 4-Week Training Program

Still not sure about putting together a 4-week training program? Here’s an example of a training program that would work. Make it your own, or use it as inspiration to create your own one!

Week 1

  • Monday: Run/jog 1/16-mile (¼ lap on the track), then walk 3/16-mile (¾ mile on the track). Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Tuesday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Wednesday: Run/jog 1/16-mile, then walk 3/16-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Thursday: Full rest day.
  • Friday: Run/jog 1/16-mile, then walk 3/16-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Saturday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Sunday: Full rest day.

Week 2

  • Monday: Run/jog ⅛-mile (½ lap on the track), then walk ⅛-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Tuesday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Wednesday: Run/jog ⅛-mile, then walk ⅛-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Thursday: Full rest day.
  • Friday: Run/jog ⅛-mile, then walk ⅛-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Saturday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Sunday: Full rest day.

Week 3

  • Monday: Run/jog 3/16-mile (¾-lap on the track), then walk 1/16-mile (¼-mile on the track). Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Tuesday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Wednesday: Run/jog 3/16-mile, then walk 1/16-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Thursday: Full rest day.
  • Friday: Run/jog 3/16-mile, then walk 1/16-mile. Repeat 3 to 4 times.
  • Saturday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Sunday: Full rest day.

Week 4

  • Monday: Run/jog ½-mile (2 laps on the track).
  • Tuesday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Wednesday: Run/jog ¾-mile (3 laps on the track).
  • Thursday: Full rest day.
  • Friday: Run/jog 1 mile (4 laps on the track).
  • Saturday: Cross-training (30 minutes to an hour) or rest.
  • Sunday: Full rest day.
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AUTHOR

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.