The 10 Percent Rule: Fact Or Fiction?

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Oct. 30, 2013
  • Updated Nov. 2, 2013 at 8:10 PM UTC
One study has debunked the 10 percent rule that runners often follow while training for a race. Photo:

Mileage Progression Doesn’t Always Have To Be Linear

Driven and dedicated runners always want each training week to be better than the last. Whether that means more mileage or faster times, we want to see the trajectory continually climbing. However, to get fitter each week, your mileage totals don’t necessarily have to follow a linear progression.

Many experienced competitive runners and coaches follow a “3 week up, 1 week down” philosophy, whereby they increase mileage slowly for three weeks and on the fourth week they take a step back and bring their mileage total back to the number at week 1. For example, weekly mileage totals in this situation might look like this: 50, 55, 60, 50, 60, 65, 70, 60 until they build to the maximum amount of mileage they want to maintain.

This is just one example of how you can uniquely structure your mileage buildup. I call the weeks you step back in mileage “down weeks.” Some runners respond well to down weeks every five weeks, while some runners need them every three weeks to stay healthy. The beauty of the system isn’t in the exact formula, rather the notion that mileage progression doesn’t have to follow strict linear increases.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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