Is 10% a real thing?

20+ years ago, I wrote about the 10% myth (and I republished to the blog 10+ years ago). After republishing to the blog, I also wrote a follow up.

However, there hasn’t been a lot of research on that. Until now.

An interesting study took groups of runners and had one increase by less than 10% per week, another by 10-30% per week and another by more than 30%. What were the results?

Novice runners who progressed their running distance by more than 30% over a 2-week period seem to be more vulnerable to distance-related injuries than runners who increase their running distance by less than 10%. Owing to the exploratory nature of the present study, randomized controlled trials are needed to verify these results, and more experimental studies are needed to validate the assumptions. Still, novice runners may be well advised to progress their weekly distances by less than 30% per week over a 2-week period.

Note what isn’t mentioned: no greater risk in the 10-30% group. Does this mean the 10% “rule” should actually be a 30% rule? Of course not but this goes back to the point I’ve been making for decades: don’t have a numbers based rule. Pay attention to your body and let it set your limits.

Lifting: how many sets? This is an interesting strength training study for two reasons.

First, we have long known about non-responders, people who just don’t improve from training. Well, 60% of these study subjects were non-responders with one set of strength training (by muscle size, more coming on that in the second point). With 4 sets, that number dropped to 19%. Maybe it’s not that many people are non-responders as much as these individuals need to do more.

Second, for the runner: the difference between 1 set and 4 sets was in muscle size. Muscle strength did not improve with more sets. As a runner, I’m thinking of possibly the reverse lesson of what many people might take. If I can do 1 set and get the strength gains without increasing muscle size (and weight) that sounds like a win as a distance runner. Just some food for thought that I’m certainly contemplating.

Speaking of lifting: does it reduce injury risk? Maybe not. There is reason to be at least a little skeptical but the general idea holds that there isn’t a lot of evidence that strength training does help reduce injury risk. However, there are still other benefits so I’d still suggest keeping it in your routine (or adding it if you don’t currently have it in your routine).

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