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Fitness · January 2, 2015

How to Take Two Minutes Off Your Mile Pace

Run in Short Bursts

Study after study has shown that intervalsshort bursts of all-out effortcan make you significantly faster by increasing stamina and strength. The problem is that most guys avoid interval training because, well, its difficult, and it seems counterproductive to running a long, steady race. However, adding this diversity to your workout can actually make it more engaging, and youll notice quantifiable results both in your mile pace and in how easily you'll recover from each sprint. To start, jog for two minutes, then run as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

Ditch Unnecessary Weight

We probably dont need to tell you that losing your gut will make you faster. But, surprisingly, the same rule goes for excess muscle, according to a study conducted at the University of California, Fullerton. The researchers found that guys with bodybuilder-type bodies were much slower that skinnier guys, despite no differences in body fat levels between the groups. The simplest way to lose unwanted fat or muscle? Take in fewer calories than you burn.

Lift Heavy Things

Shooting for a lighter frame doesnt mean that you should avoid the weight room. In fact, lifting heavy weights during your training program can help reduce your time, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Thats what the scientists determined after they found that guys logged significantly faster marathons when they did heavy squats and other lower body moves concurrent to their normal running program. The key: Lift a weight heavy enough that you can only complete up to six reps. Big weights increase your strengthboosting efficiencybut dont cause you to gain muscle.

Find the Right Kicks

Having the wrong shoesones that dont work for your foot type or strike patterncan set you up for injury and also slow you down. But choosing the right shoe should be simple: Researchers in Norway found that picking the shoe that feels most comfortable is the best way to avoid shoe-caused running injury. Your move: Before you buy new kicks, make sure to actually run in them (most good fitness stores have a treadmill). You can also ask the specialist to examine your foot type and strike pattern, and then suggest a pair for you to test.

Just Run

Setting a goal (like taking two minutes off your mile) is a great way to progressbut be aware that goals can often set an artificial mental boundary. Thats why you should take a break at least once a month from your rigorously scheduled training plan and just run. A study from Ohio State University found that runners pace themselves when they know the endpoint of a run. Thats why just going out and seeing how far you can gowith no end in sight, and perhaps on a new routecan help you push past your current cardiovascular and mental limits.

Race Against a Frenemy

Sure, it's annoying when that chump you work with brags about his seven-minute miles at a local 5K. But, you can use him to your advantage. A recent New York University study found that running in the same race as someone you consider a rival can help you log a faster time. So invite that guy to the next race you enter, and let him think hes got you beat. Youll show him otherwise.

Michael Beck

This article is part of the Birchbox Man 31-Day Challenge for January 2015. Click to see all daily challenges and to learn how you can win sweet stuff all month.