With summer just around the corner, most people have started getting ready for their beach body. You may have taken up any number of sports to achieve this, but certainly, the most common “seasonal sport” is running. Running is a relatively cheap, easily accessible sport, but if you are not careful with how you increase your distance it could turn into a costly exercise…
Most runners have heard of the 10% rule. This states that you should never increase your distance by more than 10% from the previous week. This “rule” has not been validated by science and a recent article published in the Journal of Sports and Orthopaedic Physical Therapy, revealed some interesting findings.
The study followed 874 novice runners for 1 year and gave each runner a GPS watch to track their distance. Based on their weekly running increase, they were placed into one of three groups: less than 10%, 10%-30% and more than 30%. In total 202 participants sustained an injury over the course of 1 year and what will surprise most is that the total number of injuries per group were not much different.
Yes, there was an increase in the number of distance related injuries in the group that increased by more than 30% compared to the group that increased by less than 10%. So injuries like patellofemoral pain (runners knee), iliotibial band syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), gluteus medius injury, greater trochanteric bursitis, injury to the tensor fascia latae, and patellar tendinopathy (jumpers knee) were more common in the group that increased training distance by more than 30%.
A possible explanation for this is that when you increase your distance, your running speed decreases (especially if you get fatigued). If your speed decreases, you have to take more steps to complete a given distance and the increased number of steps equates to increased “wear and tear”.
However, this was not true for all injuries. Injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, calf injuries, hamstring injuries, tibial stress fractures, and hip flexor strains were just as common in all 3 groups. These injuries may be linked to running pace rather than distance, and its only through more research that these answers will be revealed.
So, all that science can presently advise is that you progress your weekly distances by less than 30% per week over a 2-week period.
Article by Rasmus et al, titled “Excessive Progression in Weekly Running Distance and Risk of Running-Related Injuries: An Association Which Varies According to Type of Injury” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014;44(10):739-747. Epub 25 August 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5164