T Nation

Conquering the 5-Minute Mile


#1

By no means am I a body-builder, power-lifter, cross-fitter, or marathon man. I am a recent university graduate, competitive rugby player, and exercise enthusiast. Last fall I sustained two gnarly concussions which forced me off the field and out of the gym for months. I am only now back into a structured training routine. I want to continue building explosive strength through resistance training (shout out to Wendler and his 5-3-1 programming) but have an aerobic goal in mind as well. I want to run a 5-minute mile. I am not going to stop weight-training and no program I can find suggests or encourages high-intensity resistance work while training for a 5-minute mile.

Does anyone know of any resources (articles, programs, or whatever) that can suggest a program structure appropriate for these goals? I currently train 5-6 days/week. I have 4 dedicated weight-lifting days, and on two of these days I perform AM/PM 2-a-days where the second workout is either a windgate interval session or continuous aerobic session.

Any help and advice would be appreciated.


#2

Ask Alpha for ideas in his log -now does strongman but trained has for pretty crazy SF selection/running tests while continuing to lift heavy…


#3

What’s your mile time right now?

I would say a 5 minute mile is like a 500lb squat or 600lb DL. It’s going to take a tremendous amount of training and discipline, especially as an adult (as opposed to a HS or Collegiate runner).

That being said, next June I’m going to try to run a sub-45 minute 10k and DL 450 lbs on the same day (my 45th B-day) so I wish you nothing but luck.


#4

Funny, I had a track coach who had a goal of running a marathon and benching some amount of weight in the same day. Maybe it was 315 he wanted to bench. I never found out if he did it.


#5

I ran a 7 minute mile with relative ease this week. I have not tested myself in a true time trial yet but would estimate my pace is between 6:40 to 6:30 if I were to go all out. My plan is to run 1/2 mile work intervals with active recovery for the next 2 weeks with a session of windgate cycling and continuous aerobic training to supplement (for a total of 4 cardio sessions per week). This will go along with my 5-3-1 programming as I do not want to quit on the program. I’m gathering as much info as I can regarding concurrent training programs and have not finalized a schedule. If you have any resources send them my way! Good luck to you too mate.


#6

A five minute mile is not easy , going from 6:40 mile to sub five minute mile is like going from 315 bench to 405 bench, great goal though.
And yeah their used to be a comment from a coach, that you will never see a guy bench 500 and run a 5 minute mile same day.
Their are several articles on running online, go for it.


#7

I am 44, run and lifted my entire adult life. (ran a 10:29 in a 2 mile Army test). I definitely advise dropping down to Wendler’s simplest 3 day a week program where you are doing no more than 3 exercises per session( cut the curls out for now). You can even make progress in Squats, deads, bench and press on even 2 days a week, which you may want to do as you approach test day for your 5 minute mile.

As far as programming

  1. 5 to 10 mile distance run once a week on a non lifting day.

2.On other non lifting days try to program a tempo run. The tempo run can be a 4-5 mile run where every 3-5 minutes you run at the pace of your timed distance goal, for you that is a five minute mile pace. I would start the tempo interval a 30 seconds and work up to a minute.

3.You should also have a track day of mile runs and shorter sprints preferably on a non lifting day, too.

4.Fartleks can be called play runs where maybe you are running 4-5 miles, but instead of steady state cardio you randomly pick short running goals: ie. sprint a short distance between telephone poles, run a few hills, sprint over some hurdles, etc

I Would definitely include the Tempo and track days If you do not have time for all the above. If you have to run on a lifting day; keep the runs short and simple, like a short 3 mile fartlek or an extra “easy Track day.”

The distance run is important, but can be replaced with a long weekend hike.

I would not worry about going for a mile test day for 6 weeks, preferably 12, though you will probably need most of the winter to get close to a 5 to 5 1/2 minute mile. If you can average 7 minute miles over a 5-10 mile run then you can definitely get very close to you goal. Good Luck.


#8

Ha! Dr. P, we share a similar mission. My fitness goal for 2017 is to run 10 miles and deadlift 500 (although I was not planning on “same day” but more like “same week” - just near enough to convince myself that I was fit enough to pull off both at the same time).

Anyways, back to the topic at hand…

Yes. A 5 minute mile is fairly normal at a strong track/XC program, but for an adult that has never competed in long-distance running it is a lofty goal, and not something that most people can do without some serious training (and some time).

OP, you mention that you’ve been a university rugby player, so we may have some similarities in our path. I played football (American) in college. After my senior season, I started running a lot; at first just to lose weight, but soon I took the idea of running and racing semi-competitively, and that became a primary fitness focus for about five years.

PRO: I actually found races tremendously fun and satisfying. Great way for a former college athlete to satisfy some competitive juices. Even local 5K races can be really cool.

CON: it’s probably a lot harder than you think to make that much progress, lol.

Just to give you an idea of what one regular schlub can do, I was capable of about a 7-minute mile when I started running. Over the first year of running 4-5 days per week, that came down to about 6:00ish (but I also lost about 40 pounds during that time…) and I ran my first few races, including a 20-minute 5K. Over the next 4 years, progress became significantly harder to come by, and in my last year of serious running, my best times were an 18:20 5K and a 4:56 in the 1500 meters (the only thing I ever ran close to an all-out mile; that would translate to about a 5:15 mile). Mind you, that was with virtually zero weightlifting (save for an occasional P90X workout with my ex-gf) and while losing a little more bodyweight. The first little bit of running progress will come to you easily - I would not be surprised if you bring your mile time from 6:40 down to 6:00 within a couple months. Going from 6:00 down to 5:00 is going to take more time and, most likely, losing some weight.

ScrawnyMoose has made some excellent points. You’re not going to achieve this with a couple of 1/2 mile interval sessions shoehorned into 5/3/1. Running volume is important, even for fairly short races like the mile (which is still much more aerobic than anaerobic). You’ll need a longer run and a mid-distance tempo run.

By no means do I think training with 5/3/1 and doing some simultaneous distance running is an impossibility; however, you should be advised that going from 6:30 to 5:00 in the mile is a long-term undertaking that will require serious training and discipline, and tbh the desire to carry on with your strength training (which probably means you will not lose any weight) is going to be a hindrance to the running goal. I ran with a very competitive group of local runners, the kind of guys and gals who win local races and sit on the fringes of the Olympic Trials. They all really respected me and we had some great times, but I knew that a) I was never going to be as fast as they were unless I lost even more weight and b) I was not willing to lose ANOTHER 20-30 pounds just for the sake of a few more seconds per mile.

So. Anyways. TL;DR version:

  1. You can do this, but be advised that a 5:00 mile is probably a lot harder than you think and is likely to require a lot more time dedicated to running than you are currently putting in

  2. If you’re really serious about hitting 5:00, it may become necessary to (temporarily, down the line) scale back the strength training and/or lose some body weight

Good luck!


#9

like 7 hears ago, I got close to the sub 5, but never break it. I followed Ross Enamaits Infinite Intensity, but added a 3 mile run into the program on day 5. I credit intervals and the intense cardio sessions.


#10

Thank you for the advice. By no means do I expect this to be easy and this is certainly a long-term goal of mine. Thank you for the bit on volume, this is pretty helpful and I will keep researching and adjusting my plans. My hopes in completing shorter duration/volume runs at higher intensities is to enhance my glycolytic system. I clearly need to increase my VO2max significantly and expect that by working in the mid-high range of my VO2 can achieve this (perhaps longer than the traditional lower intensity aerobic training). I will be 23 in March, and would be stoked if my time trial performance reaches sub-6 minutes before I turn 24.

Thanks again for the thoughts.


#11

Yeah, you seem to have a good perspective, and I do expect that sub-6 within a year or two is well within your capacity. It’s just that the road from 6 minutes down to 5 minutes is a lot longer than most people think, especially if that’s not your primary focus (i.e. you’re also lifting weights with serious intentions of progress). Most people cannot run a 5-minute mile unless that becomes the front-burner fitness issue and other things are put on the back-burner, or even temporarily ignored entirely.


#12

OP,

I recently began training again with almost the same goals (increasing strength while training for 5 min mile). I will give you my what I’ve done and the progress I’ve seen over the past 6 weeks (that’s when I began) and what my plan is going forward.

  • strength train 2 consecutive days in the week (similar style to 531- usually Mon-Tues)

  • one day of conditioning work with a kettlebell (hardstyle kb swings- usually Thurs)

  • one day of 1-mile sprint (usually Sat)

In 6 weeks I’ve progressed from a 295 deadlift to a 385 deadlift, and I have progressed from a 7:28 mile to a 5:50 mile. A lot of this progress is from me beginning to exercise again after not doing so for awhile.

My plan after December is to change a little bit about my strength training days (change rep scheme to more 3x3) and to add a 3 mile run in during the week-probably on a Wednesday.

The hardstyle kb swings have been really beneficial. They complement both my deadlift training and mile training. I started with 5x10 EMOM and added a set each week. If you haven’t begun these, I would definitely suggest doing so. I feel like I’ve drank the koolaid on this one haha


#13

This is the type of goal I like to set, as well. I can run ~5:30 minute mile, but getting down to a 5 min mile is going to be tough. For example, running a 6 min mile is challenging, but easily doable for me.

Here’s some of how I train:

  1. Run 0.25 miles at a 5 min mile pace (1:15 around a track). Rest fully, and repeat. Once you can get 4 in, even with rest, you are preparing yourself to do it.
  2. Run 0.5 miles at a 5:30 min mile pace. Rest fully, repeat. Keep dialing this down until you can do 0.5 miles at a 5 min mile pace.
  3. Run 0.75 miles at a 5:30 min mile pace. Rest fully, repeat. Dial down to a 5 min mile pace. Once you can 0.75 miles at a 5 min mile pace, it’s just going to be some conditioning and having a “good day” that will allow you to get a 5 min mile.

This is something I would like to try to do, as well, so keep me posted.


#14

I know absolutely nothing about running but you should make a log here detailing your training. It’s a different goal to most people here and I’d personally find it very interesting.


#15

Every once in a while I run a mile in the sub 5 minute range just to prove to myself that I still can. Somewhere between 4:50 and 5:20 is usually where I end up. Contrary to what a lot of people here are saying, I think it’s almost entirely mental. My conditioning is not great and the mile just about kills me, but it’s possible.


#16

Hard interval days are going to wreck your legs just like a heavy leg will so your best bet is follow the tempo ideas as put forth by other posters.

This is all assuming you already have an aerobic base because if you don’t you’re just going to be spinning your wheels and killing your recovery deficit (general comment and not directed at the OP).


#17

Interesting goal, especially for your type of athlete. Curious, are you still playing or did the concussions put you off the field for good?

My recommendation: 1/4 mile repeats instead of 1/2 mile. When I originally started using this plan, I was doing front squats with 185 for 8 reps immediately before jumping on a Woodway treadmill for the quarter mile (had no way to do it outside, and the Woodways accelerate a lot faster than your typical fitness treadmill). I would do 4 repeats, with 90 seconds rest in between, and I would do them 2-3 times per week. They sucked ASS, but this strategy took my 1.5 mile PRT time from mid- to high-10s, down to right around 9:30. I still use them periodically for a good cardio sesh, but I’ve since dropped the front squats. Might add them back in some time.

Used them last winter to prep for a job interview PT test, consisting of a 1.5 mile run with a 50m dummy drag at the halfway point (dummy weighed 185). I did it in 11:19 (I think?), not the fastest but not the slowest by a damn sight. When I did them this time around, I started out with HR recovery between repeats (hadn’t been doing much cardio at the time). After a couple/few weeks like that, I shortened my rest to 90 seconds. After a couple weeks at 90 (all on the treadmill), I started doing them on the track outside our gym, then started using the high school track when I found out the gym’s track is not a full 1/4. Progressively shortened my rest periods every week or so from 90 seconds down to 45 seconds, and did a couple practice test runs the week (or two) before I left for the interview. Was cutting about a 10:30 with the dummy drag in practice, but our dummy (local fire department) was only 150.

Anyway. Long story short, try 1/4 mile repeats because you can keep more intensity all the way through, and increase that intensity by decreasing rest times in between. I would at least start that prior to doing the 1/2 mile repeats if that is still your plan. That’s something Buddy Morris talks about, guys jumping into longer sprint distances for training (specifically American football) without doing any shorter distance training.

Good luck bro.


#18

couple of thoughts on a 5:00 min mile.
you are getting in the range where not only conditioning matters, but athletic ability does as well.

assuming that you are fairly athletic since you played a college sport, but I would give some thought to going back to your university, and asking the track coach to give you some help.

would be great if he could watch you run, and maybe help with your form, could also help design a program to meet your goal.

i played football in college, and it seemed like all the athletes/coaches were part of a family. take advantage of that brotherhood. im sure the track coach would love to help out.


#19

I/4 mile repeats, as opposed to 1/2 mile repeats, are more applicable to the 1.5 mile run than they are to the 5k and 5 mile. I would do both but keep that in mind.

For 5 mile races one mile repeats are a common.


#20

My first post to t-nation in a very long time, fun. 8|

Lots of good advice given already.

One thing people never mention is “using races as a training tool”. If you want to run a sub-5 minute mile, you’ll want to enter some 5k races and try to keep up with the fastest people for as long as possible. Local 5k’s usually have someone in the ~5-5:30 min/mi pace (definitely sub-6) for the first mile. You can do some research first to see “how fast the race normally is”, it usually holds up. You might be surprised how much more power you have in a race setting, so this is a great tool to help you progress faster. Just don’t do this until you’ve started incorporating speed work at those paces though. You’ll want to be able to at least run 400’s at low to mid 5 min/mi before attempting to keep up with those people. One thing you’ll notice about them when they are running, is how relaxed they are. Focusing on relaxation is not addressed enough. In all of your speed work, whenever you push the pace, you should not be doing so with the “complete the rep!@@!” mindset. You need to always stay relaxed; tightening up to produce extra force leads to a quick death.

I used this technique several times and PR’d my mile several times as well - in the first mile of the race. I’m obviously pretty dead trying to keep up with people significantly faster than me, so you just end up hanging on for dear life to finish the race. What’s funny is, you’ll end up PR’n your 5k too usually. As an example, one of my races I PR’d my mile at 5:15 and then ran 2.1 more deathly miles at 6:05 and 6:20.

You should also enter 1-mile races if you find any of those - they are usually held at the end of the year. Those races are usually extremely fast, it’s still pretty fun trying to keep up with those guys.

The most fun race I did was a recent 1-miler where I just decided to go full throttle from the start. Ran 4:10 min/mi pace for the first 400m, then 4:40 min/mi pace by 800m, 4:54 min/mi by 1km, and 5:20 min/mi by 1 mile. After ~800m, my stride frequency was still good but my legs couldn’t produce force, it was a fun experience. lolz.

Doing “ballsy/aggressive stuff” and racing more will help you improve considerably faster than simply training by yourself.

FWIW, as of today my watch timed mile is 5:06 and official race time is 5:12… So i’m not sub-5 yet, but close.

As for training, at least one long run a week is needed to maintain/build your base. But most people don’t do enough speed. For most people, 2x/week speed sessions & 1x/week long run is probably a good start. Eventually some really light running on your off days could be good too, at least as a warmup before you lift etc. Getting to the track is very important. Repeats of 200m, 400m, 800m, 1km with short jog rest are very important. There’s so many protocols, others have already mentioned some effective ones. The most important thing though is that you start to think of speed as a skill. Speed work improves running economy more than longer slower running, and it’s going to take tons of running economy improvements to get sub-5.

Finally, just don’t overdo it. Progress gradually & safely. Injuries can happen very easily in the running game, it seems.

peace.