The 10 Percent Rule for Injury Free Running

10 percent rule

Photo courtesy loralitzelman

The 10 percent rule is the simplest of all tricks for injury free running. It’s less relevant once you start running 20 or 30 miles/week, but a critical one when you first start out. In the early days of running, the muscles tend to beef up pretty quickly, while the tendons, ligaments and bones take a while to catch up. This imbalance causes all sorts of problems including shin splints, top of the foot pain, stress fractures, etc. The real trouble is the strengthening muscles give you a false sense of headiness that you can just crank up the distance.

The 10 Percent Rule

One problem with calling this a rule is that it immediately makes it binary. I think of the 10 percent rule as more of a guideline since every body is unique and for some, it might be in that ballpark, but not exact. So what exactly is the 10 percent rule?

Don’t increase your week-over-week pace or distance by more than 10 percent.

Let’s say you run 1 mile the very first week. Next week you can bump it to 1.1 miles, give or take, but no more. For the second week, stay at 1.1 miles and then increase it another 10% and so on. As each week goes by, sticking to the same distance for the duration of that week gives the body time to adapt, adjust and strengthen.

However, one thing that I would highly recommend is to mix up the terrain and the route while sticking to the 10 percent rule. The human body is an amazing feat of engineering, but is incredibly optimized and designed to push repetitive tasks down into muscle memory. If you run the same route around your house every day, the body quickly learns the terrain. By varying the routes, the terrain, adding a little ups and downs, etc. you can keep things interesting, while simultaneously building your lower limbs in a holistic way. Check out these few other tips in making city running a fun adventure.

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Did you stick to the 10 percent rule when you started out running?

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