Running With a Six-to-Seven-Minute Mile Pace: My Simple Approach

(Note:  the following is *not* health or fitness advice.  It is simply my personal account of how I achieved a greater level of fitness.  You should consult your physician before starting any fitness program.)

I accidentally discovered that I can run a mile in less than seven minutes and maintain that pace for the duration of the run. I’m not a competitive runner; I run for health, fitness, and “speed hiking.”  I also have a talocalcaneal coalition in my left foot that was set off by an ankle sprain in junior high and that prevents any serious aspirations about running.

I don’t keep track of distance, only of time and relative speed, so I don’t keep track of how quickly I run a mile. However, inclement weather forced me to run indoors recently, on a treadmill, and I realized I can easily run a mile, on level ground, in well under seven minutes (something like 6:30 to 6:45).  More importantly, I maintained this pace for more than twenty minutes (the gym closed at that time) without fatigue.  At thirty-five years of age, that’s not bad.

For most of my life, I wasn’t nearly this fit at all.  Residency’s long hours made it difficult to work out, so I constantly had a middling level of fitness during that era.

After residency, I started running more seriously, but still didn’t attain a high level of fitness.  Finally, I decided to take my father’s advice (he’s been a very successful competitive runner for decades) and adopted the following, simple approach:  run once a week for distance, run another day for speed, and run a third day at an average pace for only a half hour.

This approach revolutionized my cardiovascular fitness.  Within a couple weeks, I felt fitter, running became easier, and then I accidentally discovered, many months down the line, that my mile pace is less than seven minutes.

In summary, I run three days a week, each separated by at least a day of rest (I do upper-body strength training on “rest” days, taking one day completely off):

1. I run once a week for distance, at an average pace, increasing the prior week’s maximum running time by no more than 10%.

2. I run once a week for speed.  This run usually lasts about thirty minutes.  I warm up and then run at an average pace.  At the 18-20 minute point (this point starts earlier as I gradually become fitter), I start interval training:  I run as fast as I can for one minute, then slow down to an average pace the next minute, and repeat this cycle until I reach thirty minutes.  (Note:  when starting a practice of interval training, one should not run as fast as possible during the speed intervals.  One should run just slightly faster than one’s average pace.  Over subsequent interval training sessions, one can slowly increase this “faster” speed until one is eventually running as fast as possible.  If one advances too quickly, one will get injured, won’t be able to run for a long time, and will lose any achieved fitness.)

3. I run once a week at an average pace for thirty minutes.  Because of my weekly interval training sessions, my average pace becomes faster and faster.  (Otherwise, it would stay the same and I wouldn’t become fitter.)


5 thoughts on “Running With a Six-to-Seven-Minute Mile Pace: My Simple Approach

  1. This is largely the system I used over a decade ago to get from being a non-runner to my first 5K race in 27:23 and then 3 years later my fastest 5K race in 20:37.

    It’s also what I’m trying to do now to regain fitness after many years of decline. The “long run” for endurance, the regular easy run, and the interval training run. (Except I’m not doing intervals yet, just two easy runs a week while starting out this year.)

    1. During residency, I could never really do the long runs because the call nights would throw me off and I felt it was unsafe to stress my body by running too much. Other residents ran half-marathons and even marathons, though.

  2. Interesting. I’m glad it is working for you! I’d like to up my endurance and fitness level. I’ve never been athletic, and my activity level has varied over the years. I have asthma, and osteoporosis runs in my family, as does fybromyalgia. I suspect i have that too, but at a level cotrolled with diet. If I get lax with my diet, I ache and get hit with fatigue. I haven’t bothered to ask a Dr for diagnosis, b/c like w/gluten intolerance there’s nothing they can do.
    My main goals are to improve and maintain cardiopulmonary health and reverse and then prevent the muscle loss that occurs with aging. I’d noticed loss of muscle in my upper body. I never had much, so it was time to do something. I’ve been making a serious attempt to increase my muscle strength and tone for several months now. I began with a beginner routine which works to strengthen your core. I’ve switched to an interval program that starts with an 8min jog as a warmup and goes into 4 whole body exercises (I.e. plank crawls or jumping lunges, etc) which are both strength and cardio workouts. I tried the interval program once before, a few moths ago, and I wanted to curl up and collapse after that 8min “warm-up jog”. Now, as long as I use my inhaler beforehand, I realized I could do more. I ran 10:35 last week. I didn’t push myself, b/c I wasn’t sure what I could manage. I’m fairly certain I could do 10min, but not faster yet.
    My upper body is still meh, but improving, and I no longer feel like running is simply one if those things I can’t do.
    A hurdle I always have to deal with is pain. Anything that falls into the moderate-high aerobic activity category tends to make every muscle involved hurt like a b@tch for the first 5-8 minutes. I’ve tried stretches, and warm-ups…they don’t help. Nothing works short of simply doing and going until the pain stops. I don’t think this a normal thing. Do you know? Everyone always talks about aching after a workout. If I fail to follow up a workout with a protein shake I will hurt so badly I can barely move (even if I did the same workout before). With a shake, there’s normal tenderness where I’ve worked muscles enough that my body knows to repair/build.
    In your experience, after consistent exercise (months) is it common to always hurt when you first begin (nowhere near max capacity, but simply over regular everyday level)? I expect it now, but it is one of those things that psychologically can make you feel tired before you even begin.

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