Workouts to improve your Fitness Test Timed Runs (1.5, 2, 3 mile runs) are plentiful, while some may work great for you and others do not. Over the years, experimenting with different running plans to either increase speed, weekly volume, or distance, I have found that there is NOT A BEST running plan that works for everybody. As with a diet, we are all different, come from different training backgrounds, have different issues with bone and soft tissue pain, and have different stride lengths. These are just a few of the many issues we all individually face when it comes to selecting a running plan to improve our running.
What follows are a few of my favorite running plans.
This one is my personal favorite go-to run and leg workout when I am trying to drop mile pace significantly for premium fitness test scores. There are two things you need to work well when you are running faster for medium / longer distances: Your lungs and your legs. This works as a two for one deal for a leg day during a running cycle. I am not a fan of lifting heavy legs while trying to drop your mile pace. Sure, you may be able to hit the minimum standards on a run, and some can do well with lifting legs and running fast, but I was never one of those people. When I lift legs heavy and get stronger 1 rep maxes (1RM) in squats and dead lifts, I gain weight. That makes me slower with my mile pace, but faster with sprints. Here are two leg calisthenics (non-weighted) and running workouts that focus on both faster pace runs and sprints to push the lungs:
Repeat 6-8 times ¼ mile at near sprint pace Rest with 20 squats & 10 lunges / leg
Repeat 6-8 times ¼ mile at goal mile pace Rest with 20 squats & 10 lunges / leg I like to do this one at least 2 days a week in place of leg days in the weight room. If your workout during the week has you running big hills, you can replace the ¼ miles with steep hills, or skip the leg PT and just do big hills for your run and leg day.
Running long fairly steep hills has been a group "favorite" for the past few years. We noticed many of the local cross country teams train on about a 40-degree hill that is about a ¼ mile long. Repeating the hill 5-10 times by sprinting / running up and easy jogging or walking down has helped countless members of our group crush running tests -- many in the sub 6 mile pace. This obviously is not a world class pace, but it is above average in military and even special ops circles, especially for 200+ pound non-running athletes.
If you know running, you have used this term. It is Swedish for “speed play”. A Fartlek workout is a fast pace run following by an easy paced recovery distance or time. Most people like to run fast for a period of time like 1-2 minutes at or faster than goal pace. Then take the same amount of time or less to recover. You do these types of interval (fast / slow) runs for a particular distance or time.
If you are running an 8 minute mile and want to drop that to a seven minute mile, you have to get used to running faster and learn your new pace. We do that with intervals at your goal pace and recovery jogs or walks. Here is a good goal pace workout for any distance. However, the longer your test for an event, the more sets you will want to do with this to at least match the test distance:
Repeat 6-12 times (for prep of 1.5-3 mile runs) Run ¼ mile at new goal pace (1:45 for 7 min mile) Walk or jog 1/8 of a mile recovery pace
Repeat 3-6 times Run ½ mile at new goal pace (3:30 for 7 min mile) Walk or jog ¼ mile recovery pace
There is nothing wrong with adding all of the elements of your PT test before you run, as that is how you will be doing it on "game day." Everyone runs faster / better when having not done other events like swim, pushups, sit-ups, or pullups. Most of that is due to not transitioning to the run like a triathlete transitions to the next event. If your PT test does not have other events before it, then I would not worry. The goal here is to mimic how you will feel after you have done the previous part of the test.
Sprint / Pace Combo Pyramid
A challenging running workout requires you to repeat your ¼ miles at an ever-faster pace each set. Here is a running workout that will push you to your complete max effort:
Running Pace Pyramid: ¼ mile or 400m repeats Run ¼ mile at 2 minutes (120 seconds) Run ¼ mile at 1:50 (110 seconds) Run ¼ mile at 1:40 (100 seconds) Run ¼ mile at 1:30 (90 seconds) Run ¼ mile at 1:20 (80 seconds) run ¼ mile at 1:10 (70 seconds) run ¼ mile at 60 seconds or less * rest for 1 minute each set If you can handle it – repeat in reverse order
Running 1 mile over and over again is a tough workout, especially if you can match your goal pace each set or even try to push yourself and get your fastest mile ever attempted. As you progress and ¼ mile and ½ mile run intervals are getting easier, this is the next progression to push your goal pace at longer distances.
Depending upon your sport you play and how often, you can stay is good enough shape to max and score well above the minimum standards on military fitness test. Sports like soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and even some martial arts program are tough enough to keep you in passing running shape for 1.5-3 mile timed runs.
If you are susceptible to running injuries, you can stay in cardiovascular shape and keep your legs strong and durable in the gym. Doing cardio machines and workouts like elliptical intervals, bike pyramids, rowing, and swimming can keep the lungs and leg in shape to pass a bi-annual fitness test. Depending on your intensity and volume per week, you might be able to push maximum levels too.
Schools of Thought
There are a few schools of thought about the methods to become a faster runner. Some are as simple as getting out and running more. Some are more into sprint intervals. Some are more into running longer distance runs like cross country to make timed runs easier. Some even recommend playing sports like basketball and soccer year-round to stay in shape so that running timed runs is never an issue of not passing. Whether you are looking for a plan to help you just reach the minimum standard, or you want to crush the maximum score possible, there is a plan for you out there. Perhaps one of these will help you. Give them a try or create a week of a few favorites and add some variety to long, slow, distance (LSD) runs every day.