The 10 Percent Rule: How to Make it Work for You

Open any running book and flip to the chapter on mileage. You'll inevitably find that the 10 Percent Rule is recommended for runners who want to run more.

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The 10 Percent Rule states that you should only increase your weekly mileage (or volume) in increments of 10 percent. So if you are running 30 miles this week, you should only run 3 more miles next week.

There are smarter ways to increase your volume.

Unfortunately, the 10 Percent Rule is too general and doesn't apply to many training situations. It brings up a lot of questions:

  • Are you being too conservative with your mileage?
  • Are you being too aggressive?
  • Where are you in your training cycle?
  • Does your training program have the right ancillary exercise to help you prevent injury?

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Four Smarter Mileage Rules

1) If you're a beginner, forget the 10 Percent Rule.

As someone learning how to start running, your main priority is to run consistently and allow your body to get used to running. Two or three days of running 1 to 4 miles works well depending on your fitness level. Don't increase your mileage every week; instead, keep it consistent for two to three weeks to allow your body to adjust. When you're comfortable, then you can run more.

If you run three days per week for 2 miles, 3 miles, and 3 miles and you're ready for more mileage, you can add another day of running.

Simply add another 2 miler to your schedule. Even though this is a 25 percent increase, it's entirely safe provided you were comfortable with your previous volume. Stick with your new running schedule of 10 miles for another two to three weeks, and then consider an additional jump.

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2) Determine your mileage sweet spot.? 

Runners with more experience will find that they have a mileage sweet spot. This particular volume will be comfortable for you but running more will be a challenge. You may find yourself overly tired, prone to injury, or running poorly in workouts.

Let's take a hypothetical runner who finds 25 miles per week easy. We'll call her Meaghan. She can jump up to this volume quickly and get in fairly good shape.  

But to reach big goals in longer races, like qualifying for Boston, Meaghan may need to run 35 or 40 miles every week. This is where she may run into (pun intended) problems. The injury potential beyond her mileage sweet spot of 25 per week is much higher.  

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To help Meaghan stay healthy, more conservative mileage increases of only 5 percent are more appropriate. She should also maintain her volume for several weeks instead of running more every week.