It’s that time of the year again—the beginning. We’ve traded last year’s calendar for a fresh, clean slate, and many of us are busy negotiating our ticket back onto that wagon of good health after a brief layover in the land of indulgence and lethargy. It’s a good time to take a deep breath and start things anew. The world is our oyster.
If this sounds familiar and you’ve had more than just a couple weeks off during the holiday season, or you are new to this game (welcome!), you might be considering the best way to start running (again), especially in order to keep from getting hurt. To many, it would seem that easing into a running program might be the wisest move, to let our bones and muscles get used to the new exertions and pressures slowly. It’s almost common sense—going all out, eager beavers that we are, straight off might be a painful disaster waiting to happen.
A group of scientists in the Netherlands started out with a similar idea. When designing a study around novice runners and the occurrence of running injuries, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands expected a graded training program, utilizing the generally known 10 percent rule, to lead to fewer injuries than a standard training program. (The 10 percent rule states you shouldn’t increase your training mileage or intensity more than 10 percent each week.)
However, in their study recently published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, the scientists discovered that the graded 13-week training program did not, in fact, lead to fewer running-related injuries than the standard 8-week program. Both groups sustained the same incidence of injury.
In the study, novice runners were divided into two groups to train for a 4-mile road race. One group, the active control group, followed a standard 8-week training plan, while the other group followed a graded training program, one lasting 13 weeks and based around the 10 per cent rule. Even though the participants in the graded training program had a more gradual increase in the amount of time they spent running, this program did not have an impact on the occurrence of running-related injuries—those affecting the lower extremities or back that stopped the participant from running for at least one week. The incidence of running-related injuries in both groups was about 20 per cent.
Having said all this, it seems prudent to point out that it will take more than only these results to convince many in the running community that the widely accepted 10 percent rule is unnecessary. This was one study, with one set of participants training for one type of event. I’d be curious to see if the same results would present if the participants were to train over a longer time period for a longer race—maybe a group of novice runners aiming to complete a half or full marathon? If nothing else, these results show training by the 10 percent rule can’t hurt.
But, enough talk about injury. If you train smartly, safely and listen to your body, there’s a year, not to mention a lifetime, full of running fun ahead. So go on, lace up your shoes and make a start, however short or slow it may seem. There’s no day like today!