The 10% Rule

There are so many rules to running — some more common than others.  The two I’m most familiar with is the rule where your long run should be no more than 30% of your total running mileage for the week (something I always struggled with, but intend to strive to achieve as I train in the future) and the 10% rule.

I used to follow the 10%-ish rule, as I’ll call it.  Put yourself in my shoes (or anyone else who’s running low miles).  You just ran ten miles last week, split into 3 runs.  If you’re increasing 10% next week, it’s just a mile… and that’s so measly, right?  Where are you going to put it in?  Add it to just one run?  Eh, I suppose you could.  Spread it out over three runs?  Eh, that seems even more stupid.  Or, just maybe, you can increase 2ish or 3ish miles.  An extra half or full mile onto each run isn’t that crazy, right?  Then you actually do the math during the first run and you realize you’re increasing more like 20-30%, but whoops, you already committed by putting it on the calendar and that means you have to do it.  Bad choices!  

I’m not doing that this time.  I always tried to do 10%, but in the beginning it was always so hard.  Just adding a mile for what seemed like weeks (because at 11 miles, you’re still adding just. one. mile.) didn’t ever get me where I wanted quite fast enough… but I learned the hard way, you cannot rush into adding miles.

Up until today, I had orders from my doctor on how to progress into running and I kind of combined the two.  My physical therapist told me to start out running just twice a week for a while and the sports medicine doctor told me to do my intervals 3x a week, increasing each week as my ankle felt up to it.  I was running twice a week with intervals, but completing them three times before advancing.  Now I need to figure out how the heck I’m safely increasing my tolerance to running and not ending up back in the doctors.  I refuse to pay another copay to a doctor for a running related injury… unless it’s because I’m badassedly (c’mon Merriam Webster, you know you want this!) running on a trail and I clumsily trip over a tree root during my kick ass trail race.  That’s a copay I’m willing to accept.

Listen, it's a little hill but it completely killed the little endurance I have!
Listen, it’s a little hill but it completely killed the little endurance I have!

I’ve never been one to train using minutes.  The thought used to invoke fear, uncertainty, and give me an all over uneasy feeling.  Miles used to be the only way I could sense accomplishment.  “I ran xx miles in xx time.” It was a concrete accomplishment.  The heart rate thing didn’t stick with me long (I wish I had that patience) and to me, minutes didn’t prove anything.  Once it took me almost two hours to run a half marathon, but the next time it took me about an hour and forty minutes.  It’s still thirteen miles, time means nothing.  Or at least that was the way I thought.  Now that I’ve been running for no more than thirty minutes and I’m used to seeing my mileage fluctuate, it doesn’t bother me as much.  In fact, I kind of like the minutes approach to training for building a base back up.  I’m not training for any races, I have my eyes on some future races that I’ve always wanted to run (CoughDirtCheapStageRaceThirdTimeIsACharmCough) but we’ll see — I am not putting any pressure on myself to meet any certain deadline or goal.

I had a very successful 30 minute run yesterday from a pain perspective.  I anticipated some pain, as every time I experienced a little discomfort when I increased something, but I had none of that.  I did feel like death running on the tiny hill the half mile to my apartment, and I was immediately reminded what racing shape does not look like.  I expect to run thirty minutes nonstop again on Saturday — it seems Tuesday/Saturday works perfect for my current recovery needs.  Maybe in another couple of weeks I will space it out into three shorter runs to get that additional day in, taking away the 10% volume increase that week due to less recovery time (keeping it smart).

Looking at this week, I will run 60 total minutes (30 + 30), about 6.5 miles, based on what I hammered out today.
2nd week of August with 10% increase will be 66 total minutes (33 + 33) , probably about 7.15 miles.
3rd week of August with 10% increase will be 73 total minutes (36.5 + 36.5), probably about 8 miles.
4th week of August with 10% increase will be 80 total minutes (40 + 40), probably about 8.75 miles.

That final week of August might be a good time to take away the increase and run three sets of 25 minutes instead, and then increase from there to 80 minutes in September (30, 25, 25).

When I write that all out, it feels like I’m moving at a snails pace.  I guess I am, but in the long run (pun totally unintended) this will all be worth it.


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Just a 20-something homegrown Buffalo sports loving, distance running, gin drinking kind of girl.

6 thoughts on “The 10% Rule”

  1. I honestly think you are upping smartly. It’s hard to increase by 10% when you are at 10 miles. Why not even hold it where you are at that point. It all sounds smart to me and keep on keeping on. I love to see you able to increase your mileage and run painfree. Have you run in the Newtons yet?


    1. I ran in them once! I liked them but I have been sticking with the Saucony because they are a little more supportive and I wanted to wait until I was comfortably running 30 minutes. I want to start adding them to my rotation over the next month!


    1. It’s SO hard. I hear ya! Changing a schedule is not fun at all.

      I’m such a big picture kind of girl that I want to see my next three months on paper. Where am I going? How long will it take? It’s so hard to see progress in the small gains but when you want to be that 80 year old marathoner, I suppose 4 months isn’t that long to wait!


      1. That’s right. In it for the long haul. My left leg is bothering me this time around. I’m not calling it an injury.
        I ran 4 tonight and I want to run 8 before work tomorrow morning. But…


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