The 10% Rule for Running

During a recent webinar on the Running Renaissance, sport physiotherapist Wendy Epp and professional runner Justin Kent, gave us their perspectives on the 10% Rule.

Justin: The 10% rule is a term that is used to provide guidance for increasing your mileage in your running program.  It means you are supposed to increase your mileage by 10% each week.

I tend to advise people that it’s more important to listen to your body and learning to be a bit more in tune with your body. The 10% rule is a guide so you don’t go overboard from 5K to 50K from one week to the next. I recommend stepping up in small increments. Eventually you'll get to a certain sweet spot with your mileage. Just listen to your body and you’ll know when you get there.

For me, consistency is more important than a rule. I'd rather you run three times a week for 20 minutes than run an hour or two one week and nothing the next.

Wendy: Over the years, the science of physiotherapy and sports medicine has identified that your connective tissue – whether it's your Achilles tendon or your muscles or your joints – has a tolerance to increase by about 10% per week. Many of you may be quite happy with a 20-minute or a 30-minute run. But if you want to see mileage or pace increasing, we don't want you to go over 10% increments per week. Also, each week you need to pick which one you increase: mileage or pace. It doesn’t work to increase both at the same time.

It’s a fantastic mathematical equation and how it’s applied depends on who is using it. For example, when I treat engineers, they have it down on a graph and they know to the second what's 10% per week. When I treat artists, they have an approximate timeline depending on the shape they’re in and the terrain they’re running on. I don't really care what your schedule looks like as long as you’re recognizing that that tissue tolerance is rarely more than 10% even in an Olympic caliber athlete.  

Ultimately, both of our experts agree that when it comes to increasing your mileage, consistent, small increments from week to week is the best way to reach your goal.

To learn to run safely, try our Run Clinic or join the Oak Street Run Club (hopefully starting again summer 2020).