Resolution Tip: Don’t Increase Training By More Than 10% Per Week

By Dr. David Geier, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

As 2014 begins, people all over the country are trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Many of them pursue goals to get in shape or start new fitness programs. While all of these exercise goals are admirable in helping to improve their physical health, they should also set realistic goals in order to avoid injuries.

Sports medicine orthopaedic surgeons see a surprisingly large number of runners injured as they train to run marathons or half-marathons. Or they might be overweight people trying to lose a few pounds in extreme weight-loss competitions. They might even be people preparing for beach season.

The underlying factor in their injuries almost always involves trying to reach a fitness or athletic goal too fast and increasing training too quickly. When they ask what they could do differently to avoid injuries next time, we often recommend setting realistic goals and increasing their training slowly to achieve those goals.

This tip is easiest to explain for jogging, but the concept can be implemented with almost any form of exercise or training.

For example, if you haven’t jogged in two years, running a 10-K race six weeks from now might be a bad idea. Likewise, if you run 10 or 15 miles per week, you probably won’t be able to safely increase your training to complete a marathon two months from now.

Similarly, people who want to lose weight quickly or get in shape often hire trainers or join boot camps but start far too aggressively. If you haven’t lifted weights in years, doing large numbers of reps and sets many times a week could lead to shoulder or arm injuries.

Instead of doing too much too soon, increase training in a way that doesn’t overly stress your body’s ability to heal and get stronger. If you run 20 miles per week now and want to increase that amount, aim for 22 miles next week. If you want to run a marathon in 12 months, determine the mileage you need to reach. Then use the 10% rule backwards to figure out when you need to start training.

Increasing mileage, frequency of workouts and intensity of workouts can follow the same principle. Increase them a little bit at a time.

When selecting and pursuing exercise goals, remember that they are are marathons, not sprints. Increase your training slowly to avoid injuries and reach your goals.

How do you plan to achieve your resolutions?