The 10% rule (10PR), which states you should never increase mileage more than 10% each week has been debated for at least a decade, probably longer. Even still, there are some of us that hang onto it like gospel.
I’m really not one to stick with things if I realize they aren’t working. I cut my losses and move on. Why I have been unwilling to move on from the 10PR is a question I’ve asked myself for the past few weeks.
I have followed the “stay-at-three-weeks-till-it-doesn’t-hurt” plan before – usually coming back from an injury or post-race recovery. The thinking goes that you run the same weekly mileage for three weeks and increase only if nothing hurts. It’s a good plan – but boring as hell.
Much of the debate over the 10PR is in favor of higher weekly increases. It appears there are those runners that are perfectly capable of using a 20 or 30% Rule without injury. I have yet to survive these plans – not to say I will quit trying.
I should have been doing the 3-Week Plan during my 10 weeks of base building, but I used the 10PR instead. Once in the first 5 weeks and twice in the second half I have found myself adjusting the weekly mileage. As I look back, I’ve unknowingly adjusted to the 3WP.
One of the main arguments against the 10PR is that a kilometre, a week and the base-10 number system are human constructs that have no inherent meaning to the body. Overall fatigue level, which takes into effect not only training volume but also intensity, outside life stressors, bodily strengths and weaknesses, and other factors, is a better guide to deciding how to up mileage, most experts agree.
I was beginning to feel my body break down – my left leg specifically. There were other life stressors draining my energy during these past 10 weeks and I have progressively felt the effect ricochet down my leg and to my toes.
Your body is smart though. It doesn’t tell you immediately that something is going wrong. It hangs on just long enough that you get a false sense of security – then it crashes.
My research has enlightened me: there are a million ways to cut the cake. You can vary daily runs each week to keep things interesting. If you run 3,4,5,4,3,8 one week, run 3,3,6,3,3,9 the second week and yet a different combination in week three. A perfectly logical cure for the boredom of the 3WP that I would have seen if not for being stuck in the security of my well-worn 10% plan.
A Running Times article, “Debunking the 10PR”, by Kevin Beck is worth reading. And, Allen Leigh, a 75-year old runner, wrote about the subject. He suggests that we realize that the limits of stress that apply to your body are likely different than the limits needed by others.
The answer we hear over and over – do what’s right for you. Listen to your body.
Sometimes you may handle more than a 10% increase, sometimes less, and sometimes 10PR is just right.