Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Myth Busting: Fact Checking Some Conventional Running Wisdom

I just finished watching the presidential debates. While most of you know where I stand, this isn't a forum for political debate. It's a running blog, but I have to admit that Hilary's repeated request for fact checking inspired me to do some fact checking of my own--not on politics, but on running myths.

Just log onto Facebook and the running advice abounds. I'm no expert but I know enough to be dangerous. There's good advice, mediocre advice, and bad advice. As a medical provider, I base my decisions on evidence. Anecdotes and stories are great, but "correlation doesn't mean causation.

But then there's that advice that keeps appearing. Similar to urban legends, these running "tips" keep showing up on social media. For today's Wednesday Word, which is wisdom, I thought I'd put on my professor cap and try to dispel some commonly accepted running wisdom which isn't quite so wise.

Myth Busting: Fact Checking Some Conventional Running Wisdom


Myth busted: Running is bad for your knees: I've been running for 25+ years. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that running is bad for my knees, I'd be able to retire. Actually, my feet are the body part that suffers from my miles, not my knees. Research actually supports me here. The most recent study demonstrated that running is NOT associated with a higher incidence of osteoarthritis. Interestingly, the runners in the study reported less knee pain overall than the non-runners. Other studies have shown similar results. Of course, there is always the alternative..not running...


Myth busted: Stretching before a run is beneficial: Back in the day when I first started running we "warmed up" with toe touches, side stretches, runners' lunges... you know the drill. If you are still doing these "warm-ups", you may want to stop. Research shows that stretching cold muscles before a run is not only NOT beneficial, it may also lead to greater risk of injury. Oops! If that isn't enough to deter you, another study demonstrated DECREASED performance and greater perceived effort after pre-run stretching. If you feel the need to stretch before you run, do some easy running drills to warm up your muscles first, then stretch them.


Myth busted: The 10% rule: The rule of thumb for increasing mileage has always been not to increase more than 10% per week. Why? Believe it or not, there is NO research to support this. It's just been a guideline. Back in 2013, this study demonstrated the futility of the 10% rule yet it still continues to be perpetuated. You know I'm all about knowing your limits. But in case you need some guidance, here's an article to help you.


Myth busted: Breaking in new running shoes: Ok, so I couldn't find ANY research to support or oppose the need to break in new running shoes. What I did find was plenty of advice about how to break in new running shoes. I've never ever "broken in" a pair of running shoes. When it's time for new shoes, I just go for a run. And I've never had an issue. While I will admit that "my" research is far from scientific, you can't argue with success. Bring it on, science!


Myth busted: Carb loading for a marathon: The proof is here: It's all in the taper. The taper prior to a marathon reduces the need for carbohydrates, which causes glycogen stores to improve without any diet changes. Less running burns less calories. Another study showed that runners with low glycogen stores prior to a marathon but consumed carbs during a race actually performed as well or better than those with high glycogen stores and carb consumption. In other words, don't sweat it.


What are your favorite running myths that you want to see busted? Me? I'd like to see more research on post running stretching, high mileage vs low mileage training, and benefits of strength training for runners. 

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word, as well as Debbie, Susie, Lora, and Rachel for Coaches Corner.


78 comments :

  1. Myth busting: running is bad for crohn's. I SAY NAY

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    1. FACT: Running does make you poop. Crohns or no crohns....

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  2. I am always honest and transparent :-) I had to leave many of these until right this very moment.

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  3. The 10% rule has been floating around for a long time. I usually just add a mile each week when I am training for a long race. Who has time for math? lol

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    1. That 10% rule makes me crazy. Seriously. But I guess it's a good way to keep people from adding up the miles too fast.

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  4. I know that static stretching is not good for you before running because of the very fact that you state: stretching cold muscles before a run is not good; however, I've been doing these dynamic stretches, and only these, for as long as I was running. As an experienced runner,medical person, and trusted friend, I'd love your take:

    http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-coach-jenny/a-runners-guide-to-warming-up

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    1. P.S. I love the illustration for "bad knees." Ha Ha Ha

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    2. I should have mentioned dynamic stretching as ok for runners. There's a few runners today who have some great dynamic stretches on their blogs: Happy Fit Mama, VITA Train for Life, This Runner's Recipes.

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  5. I have never broken in running shoes either! But then again, I have worn the same kind for basically my whole "real" running career. I suppose if I got a brand new model I wouldn't go take them out for a 10 miler right away. Just to be on the *safe* side since I have been wearing the same shoes forever. Not sure if that is a scientifically sound reason but oh well. I hope I never have to change my shoe!

    Okay, this is what annoys me... when people seek and believe the advice they WANT to believe. We are all guilty of that in our lives one way or another, I am sure. I would love your opinion on this because it is not something I can talk about on my blog (you will get why in a minute) but you are the perfect person to tell this story to and get your opinion!

    I have a friend/coworker/client who I have written running plans for to train for races. She gets the normal niggles and passing injuries that plague us all. I always give her the advice- rest up, ease back, be cautious... STOP WEARING HIGH HEELS! She wears high heels all day long and I don't get it. Now, I am not saying the heels CAUSE her problems. And while I rarely wear heels, I would NEVER wear them while nursing a good or knee injury or something like that. I harp on her for it but she gives the excuse that flats don't go with her clothes, etc. Okay, fine. You asked for my advice and I gave it.

    So a few weeks ago she got a pretty bad case of PF. She actually had to drop out of the half marathon she wanted to do and I felt bad for her about that. I know PF sucks. I gave her my normal advice about what to do and said WEAR SNEAKERS TO WORK!! Well, she did wear sneakers like two days in a row, and I was proud of her. Then the next day she came to work in heels and I thought, oh good, she must be feeling better. Well, she sought me out with this big grin on her face and said, "Oh guess what my podiatrist told me? I should wear heels if it makes my feet feel better." I was skeptical. I cannot imagine a podiatrist telling someone who even has healthy feet to wear heels. He said to her, "Who told you not to wear heels? If they make your feet feel better then wear them!" Then she pointed to my shoes (dr scholls sandlas) and said I was actually wearing something worse for my feet than heels. Okay. I was not going to argue with her. My thinking was she WANTS to be right, so it doesn't matter WHAT I say.

    So of course I had to go home and google PF and heels. Well, what I found said sometimes wearing heels makes it hurt less in the moment. But a lot of women GET PF from wearing heels to work all day and shortening the muscles, and then going home and putting on running shoes and going for a run. (My friend to a T)

    So Wendy, medical professional, runner, PF expert, tell me what do you make of this story???? You can tell me I'm wrong if you think I am. I can take it.

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    1. I'm with you on this one. I can't imagine any podiatrist telling a client to wear heels, but high heels are good for business. And who knows what she said to him? My sister loves her heels and is actually considering surgery on her big toe so she can wear them. Come on, man!

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    2. Okay now I don't feel like I am crazy! :) "High heels are good for business" hahaha for sure! I definitely like how high heels LOOK and some of them are comfortable- usually the wedge kind. But I try to only wear them on special occasions. Luckily, the kids at school don't care WHAT kind of shoes I wear, so it's flats and boots for me at work.

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    3. I have to chime in lol sorry comment dropping...
      back in the day I had a Doc tell me to wear wedges or things that were not flat (but cushioned) when my PF would act up, but he didn't mean high spiked heels. I found gel pads helped...

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    4. That is true! A low heel helps keep the plantar fascia from stretching too much. Flats really bother myy PF.

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  6. I had a client who was a doctor who ran 10k to/from work every day who totally defied the running is bad for your knees myth. As for shoes, if you're switching brands/styles I think it's smart to start with shorter runs in case they cause issues but otherwise I just lace up and go.

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    1. I should have been more specific on the myth about shoes. Yes, if you are switching shoes, it's a good idea to road test them! I wear the same model always. Yes, they do change them from year to year. And I wouldn't race in brand new shoes. But breaking them in? I don't think that needs to happen no matter what. Just go.

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  7. Great minds...! I missed the 10% rule and breaking in shoes. So many running myths! I do think the 10% rule has a bit of merit. One shouldn't be adding on huge mileage each week, so it can help prevent that. I've seen too many runners get injured from too much too soon.

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    1. I agree with you on that--it's a guideline which may be helpful for some runners.

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  8. I bought a new pair of Hoka Cliftons at an expo and wore them the next day for my half marathon, so obviously I don't subscribe to that "breaking in" of shoes theory, LOL. To be fair, they were the same model as my old shoes...

    I didn't know the 10% thing was a made up fact. But I bet it keeps some people from overdoing it, so maybe it's a good myth?

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  9. I've never adhered to the 10% rule myself, but maybe just because I've been running so much mileage for so many years that my old body doesn't really feel the difference. I do use it when I'm giving new runners advice, not because it's a special formula or anything but just to kinda drive it home in their brain that they can't just start piling on the miles all of a sudden out of nowhere or they'll get injured. Each person is different and it's up to them to listen to their own body, but sometimes it's hard for a newbie to differentiate between sore muscles from working out and sore muscles from doing too much.

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    1. That's my thought too, but it's not a rule I follow!

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  10. For a second there I thought you were sitting on the pot in that first pic. Maybe the 10% rule is a stretch but I think its wise to err on the conservative side when building mileage. I see way too many injuries from too much too soon. I'd also be careful if you're breaking in a NEW TO YOU MODEL of running shoe. I had the peroneal tendon strain to show for that mistake.

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  11. I've hears so many of these time and time again! I've especially heard the one about running being bad for your knees. Thanks for setting the record straight!

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    1. We know the truth...it's too bad that non-runners don't!

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  12. Very interesting post, Wendy! I have read that the 10% rule applies for injury prone runners and newer runners. I keep it in mind, but I've been known to jump a little bit forwards . . . sometimes.

    Most running shoes I don't need to break in -- except Mizunos, which I do like, but I find them to feel too stiff at first. I don't do anything special, I still just run in them, but I find it takes a while for them to feel comfortable while Brooks feels comfortable right out of the box.

    I'd love to see research on Paleo/fat adapted running (not that I plan to do it, but I'd love to see if it really does help -- my guess is like most things, it helps some runners, not others).

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    1. I do better with a higher fat/protein diet. Carb loading just doesn't work for me.

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  13. My favorite myth to bust is that running is bad for you. Ummm, no it isn't, and I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life now that running is a big part of it.

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    1. I have to laugh when I think that one of my physician partners told me marathon running is bad for you--this was before I ran Chicago a few years ago. Um, ok...

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  14. The knees one really has to stop! I get that one very often!

    I know you don't talk about this one, but I often read of people going to chiropractors and getting the "one of your legs is longer than the other" story to fix knee pain, hip pain, leg pain, back pain. I have read at least 8 of those stories! What is your take on that? I have found that all those pains get fixed with weight training and Yoga, have you hear those stories?

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    1. Very few people have a leg length discrepancy that causes issues--it's usually hip weakness or posterior chain issues (ie the glutes aren't firing). I had a patient come to see me after his chiro told him he had scoliosis. But he did not have scoliosis, just some muscle weakness for which I sent him to PT.

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  15. Thank you for this! I am one who believed the knee one I must admit, but that never stopped me anyway. Glad to see you and some other assuring me through experience that it is just a myth. These are all great.

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    1. Oh, the things I hear...both on and off the road!

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  16. Whoa wait the 10% and the carb loading ones I did not know! That's crazy! Thanks so much for writing this!

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    1. That 10% rule is an oldie but a goodie. Like several commenters said tho, it's not a bad idea to help people hold back from doing too much too soon.

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  17. I am so sick of people saying "I'd run but I have bad knees!!"

    I don't break in my shoes.

    I don't use training plans. I usually just a 1 mile each week until I reach 12.

    How about the myth that you are gong to slow down as you get older.

    I hope that is a myth (at least for a while.)

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    1. I think it's a myth for now! I haven't slowed down yet.

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  18. Nice! I have never broken in a pair or running shoes either! Never carb loaded either:)

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    1. I used to carb load...I thought it was what I was supposed to do but it never worked for me.

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  19. Yes to non-carb loading! I've just read that the constant intake of high carbs for runners may be a myth and what we need more of is to eat more fat to stay trim, and healthy. I have really upped my fat intake (eggs, cheese, butter, bacon, etc) and cut way back on carbs. I have not gained any weight, I hardly snack anymore and I feel fantastic. As for strength training, I read an article about how Galen Rupp cut way back on his upper-body strength training prior to the Rio Olympics. I think it was so he could get lighter and not carry unnecessary/heavy muscle while racing. He finished 3rd in what was his second marathon ever, so maybe he is onto something! I cutback my upper body workouts to three times a week, and might go down to two. I haven't suffered a running injury since I incorporated strength training into my routine, so I'll probably always do some lower body workouts even if they come out with a study saying it doesn't really help!

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    1. That makes sense, cutting back on weight lifting prior to a race. My coach has me do the same. It's like having money in the bank that I get to spend on the course!

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  20. I've lost track of how many times I've heard that running was bad for my knees. And carbo loading (actually any large meal) the night before a race is a really bad idea for me.

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    1. I don't eat a big meal the night before a race but it's usually pizza...

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  21. I love that you busted the myths and added the research to support it! I've never done any of these things. I "broke in" my new running shoes (same brand and size) on Sunday by doing a 14 mile run. And I've NEVER stretched before a run...I just feel like the muscles will "stretch" as I go. As for carb loading? I'm not much of a breakfast eater...literally had a cup of coffee and some almonds before my first marathon. And the knee thing...aye aye aye!

    Great post!

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    1. Coffee is my preworkout! I feel like eating breakfast makes me bonk. I know that's crazy but it happens to me.

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  22. Yes!! I hardly ever stretch. Never have.
    And let me tell you every single time my mother in law tells me that running is bad for my knees I have to restrain myself from pouncing her!

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  23. I'm with Marcia I thought you were taking care of business on the pot! Bahahaha, maybe that a myth to bust or fact check: Does reading help you poop faster? I may be guilty of the carb loading thing, even for a 5k, but it's my excuse to allow my self guilt free carbs at night!

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  24. ha ha ha ...in agreement with some of the others in that I thought you were sitting "elsewhere" in the first pic ;-) I have noticed my Brooks have felt great right out of the box, but often times I feel the need to do a few easy runs with other shoes to "break them in." It's probably one of those old-school things that is just ingrained in my mind. I'm doing a lot more dynamic stretches these days before my runs...I think they are helping with those first few miles that most of us dread on our runhs LOL

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    1. I just use my first mile as my warm up. There's nothing better than that feeling of loosening up and getting into a groove.

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  25. I cringe when I see the pre- stretching! MY PT drilled it into my head to never do anything but dynamic warm ups...

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  26. Interesting about the 10% rule... I never "warm-up" before a run. I just start out slow and am warmed up by mile 2-3. I plan to continue to carb load, whether I need to or not. I don't just pre carb-load, I also post carb-load... BTW, it's apparently #NationalDrinkBeerDay ...so cheers

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  27. Love this! I am about to do some crazy scientific research on carb loading, so I'm excited to see if it is substantiated. Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I'm interested in what you learn! Please share!

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  28. It was a big eye-opener when I realized that you shouldn't have to "break in" running shoes. Either they work or they don't, imo! Even though I know running isn't bad for your knees, I do fear that it'll become a problem one day. Good to know that 25+ years didn't do any damage!

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    1. I wouldn't wear new shoes at a race, but I have no problem wearing them the day before on a run!

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  29. I can tell you from experience, running has actually HELPED with my knee problems. I used to do team sports that required a lot of pivoting, which ground down my cartilage and gave me horrible knee issues. Running has helped me rebuild the support around the knee cap with more constant motion in a less stressful range. The pain I used to have in most everyday motions (especially walking up or down stairs) has been greatly reduced since I started running consistently.

    It also helps that becoming a more serious runner also encouraged me to learn more about proper recovery, which simply wasn't a "thing" back in my collegiate days!

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    1. That's really interesting, how running helped your knees! My knees sound like rice crispies when I go down stairs but they don't hurt!

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  30. Wow, I didn't know about the "no stretching before a run rule". This is great for me cus I don't do it anyway..lol. Also, I was just asking my PT today about how much to ramp up my miles before race day and as I was doing the calculations in my head I was thinking the entire time "wow, this is more than 10 percent increase" I can't believe he's telling me this.

    What a great pic for the knee myth..haha. Thanks for sharing all this Wendy! -M

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    1. Even in yoga, we do a warm up before we begin our practice!

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  31. These are great. I use the 10% rule for my clients when building up their base. If they've got a great base in place already it doesn't matter as much.

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  32. This is so great because I was thinking of doing something similar with the "fact checking" angle! And, for the record, I never "break in" new running shoes - I just go out and run and I have never had an issue.
    Great memes and animated gifs on this one too :-)

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  33. Love this post and OMG that Office GIF hahahhaha

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  34. Wow I love these! That Carb loading myth is the best one though - I'll never forget when I did the Avon Walk in 2014, everyone was like "we need pasta and bread!" the night before... NO you don't! lol

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    1. I always feel bad after I eat all those carbs!

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  35. Love this!! I'm going to stop all my pre-run stretching! I usually find I need a very slow warm-up jog (even with pre-run stretching) anyway before I can get going. So might as well just make a very slow portion of the beginning of my run my warm-up! What about stretching after the run? I feel like that does help me recover better...

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    1. No pre-run stretching for me either...I count my first mile as a warm up. I stretch after, which helps me, but the research is equivocal--meaning it helps some people but not others.

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  36. Fun post! I always break in new shoes, but only by doing a couple short runs before doing a long run. And who knew about the 10% rule being a myth!?? I've always followed that guideline successfully!

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    1. The 10% rule is a good guideline for runners, but if you have a good base, you can increase your mileage faster than that.

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  37. I still like to use the carbo loading as an excuse to get pasta the night before a race...hubby thinks we HAVE to go out...don't take that from me!! HAHA
    Seriously though, there's a guy from church who is overweight, and has had to have all kinds of joint replacements and never run a day in his life but yet continues to harrass me about how bad running is for my knees. *eye roll*

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  38. I took brand new shoes with me that I hadn't had a chance to "break in" to Big Sur and had no problems since they were the exact same shoes I'd been wearing. I've never worried about breaking in a pair of shoes since then unless I was totally changing up the brand or type of shoe. If I'm making a major change in my shoes, I'll make sure they do okay on a five mile run before wearing them for a half marathon.

    I used to use the 10% rule when writing out my clients marathon training plans long before that rule was disputed. I still keep it in the back of my mind so I don't add too many miles too quickly when helping someone build up their mileage, but every person is different. It's kind of like of lifting weights. If a client is curling 15 pounds and feel they can move up, I'd hand them 20 pounds next to see how they can handle that, not 35 pounds. It's all about exercise adaptation: "The stress should be sufficient to stimulate an adaptation, but not so severe that breakdown and injury occur."

    Thanks for linking up!

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