There are lots of “rules” when it comes to running. “You have to stretch.” “You have to wear proper shoes.” “You have to cross train.”
I’ve heard all of these and more. I’ve also heard every one of these rules debunked at one point or another. It can be confusing at times to know exactly what we are supposed to do to ensure optimal running performance and health.
Recently another long standing “rule” of running was challenged in the news. The New York Times reported that the 10% rule was put under the microscope to see if its tenure still holds true or if it ever deserved its position as valid advice in the first place.
The 10% rule states that a runner should not increase their mileage more than 10% each week. The idea is that this gradual increase will prevent the body from succumbing to injury. This rule was put to the test, and studies found that it didn’t hold up: Just as many runners sustained injuries who followed the rule as those who did not.
So, what does this mean? Can a runner start out at a 10 mile total one week, and then jump up to 30 the next week? Will this increased distance and stress play no role in promoting an injury?
Karl Glick, a physical therapist with Physical Therapy Services in Wichita, KS, had some great insight into the 10% rule. As a runner himself he does advise a gradual increase, but only allowing for a 10% rise in mileage seems impractical.
“I have never honestly used the 10% rule, but I try to never increase distance more than 4-5 miles a week,” said Glick. Glick also explained that while he didn’t see any validity to the old rule that he sees many injuries due to runners overdoing it. “One of my most notable patients stress fractured both femurs by doubling his distance in one week.”
Another expert weighed in on this topic as well. Both he and Glick saw eye to eye on several aspects. Kevin Granato, a running coach with Granato Racing in Chicago, IL, mirrored Glick’s sentiments about training.
“A strategy I like to use is increase the mileage one week and then go slightly less the next.” Both of the professionals agreed that a rise and fall in training miles is probably the best way to train and recover properly.
Granato feels that the study lacked information, as the study did not include any statistics regarding the intensity of the runner’s workouts, just the frequency.
“The harder someone runs, the greater the impact their legs and feet have when they hit the ground, the deeper the breakdown of the muscles and deep tissues and the more recovery needed. If you put two days in a row where the runner runs hard, the chances of injury are much greater in my opinion. This is because they haven’t given their muscles and deep tissues enough time to fully recover from the previous workout,” said Granato.
After reading the study and hearing what the pros had to say, I feel that it’s safe to say goodbye to the 10% rule. However, it’s obvious that the proper way to train is much more complex than just a simple math equation that involves moving the decimal one place. A combination of varied weekly miles and varied levels of intensity seem to be the prescription for a healthy runner. Runners are best suited by following a training plan that matches their skill level.
As Glick concluded his thoughts with the reminder that, “We all want to be faster and train harder, but we are not invincible…we do break.”