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10 % per week rule for running does not prevent injury

Non evidence based exercise axioms are a dime a dozen, but most are believed and promoted as gospel.

I remember giving a talk to a group of recreational runners at a local running shoe store running club. I told them the 10% rule, where runners increase running time by 10% each week, is completely bogus and had no basis in fact, and that there was a better way to increase running endurance.

That caused a lot of contorted faces and "harrumphs" from the group. It's hard to overcome old myths and axioms. I explained that simply increasing total running time by 10% every week doesn't account for fluctuations in fatigue, muscle imbalances, poor running mechanics, the rate at which each individual can adapt, and the current fitness of individuals.

Of course all that sounded too involved for the group of runners who had been mislead into believing that running is a simple exercise that is executed by merely putting on a pair of running shoes and heading out the door. Reversing this type of belief is challenging, even with good evidence, so strong is the belief in common myths.

I wanted to help people realize that to get the most out of their recreational running program they need to address much more than just meeting a few times per week to walk and run with a group.

This has been known for decades, but has now been more discreetly identified by a study comparing an equally ineffective but standard 8 week program to a 13 week running program with a 10% per week increase. The study was looking for repetitive strain injuries that caused a person to take one week of running.

Both groups increased running volume from 30 to 90 minutes over either an 8 week or 13 week period. About 20% of runners in each group became injured.

Although research has shown over and over the importance of a graduated approach to exercise that is governed by measured improvements in specific areas before adding more exercise, the process is typically oversimplified and people are accelerated too quickly through exercise routines.

What to do? Avoid making increases in your exercise routine simply because time has passed or when you feel stale. Only increase your time and intensity when you have evidence your body is ready to tolerate greater loads.

  • Have your smaller synergistic muscle groups increased in strength?
  • Have you corrected biomechanical errors?
  • Is your heart rate lower for the same running speed or exercise workload?

If you can't answer these questions, you need to learn more about managing exercise. Go to your local sports organization and ask a coach to help you with your activity. A running coach will be better at teaching you running than a personal trainer who doesn't have running specific knowledge. That being said, there are still plenty of certified coaches and personal trainers who believe in the 10% rule and other urban exercise myths, so choose your trainer carefully.

Consider visiting a massage therapist or physiotherapist for preventative purposes. Ask them to assess you for common muscle imbalances, and mechanical and postural errors. You might be surprised at what they find. They'll also be very happy to see you for preventative measures rather than seeing you after you're injured.


No Effect of a Graded Training Program on the Number of Running-Related Injuries in Novice Runners
A Randomized Controlled Trial
Ida Buist, MSc, Steef W. Bredeweg, MD, Willem van Mechelen, MD, PhD, Koen A. P. M. Lemmink, PhD, Gert-Jan Pepping, PhD and Ron L. Diercks, MD, PhD


2008 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness

Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca