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How to Apply the 80/20 Rule in Fitness

Gone are the days when spending hours at the gym was considered the healthiest and most time-efficient way to build a strong, resilient body, and a physique to die for. Nowadays, we are much more focused on reaching our goals in less time, with less effort, preferably with less fuss over what and how we eat.

Although this sounds like blasphemy to the old-school fitness gurus, the simple truth is that we now understand that the majority of our outcomes and desires are accomplished by a mere fraction of everything we do during the day. Let’s take a closer look at this simple method and how you can apply it to every aspect of your lifestyle to become fitter and healthier.

The Pareto Principle explained

This method, named by its inventor, Vilfredo Pareto, was initially intended for explaining the economic situation in Italy during his time. He noticed that 80% of the country’s wealth came from a mere 20% of the people, leading him to apply the same principle to various aspect of business and life. In sales, that would mean that 80% of a company’s success comes from only 20% of their actions.

In fitness, however, this simple rule has two sides. On one hand, you need to reverse it in order to work for your overall choices, as you should make 80% healthy decisions in order to see major changes, while discovering that 20% of your most impactful decisions will help you distribute them more evenly.

How to 80/20 your diet

The modern way of life has lead to an increase in famous fad diets and changing our perspective on eating. We now consider animal welfare, our planet’s survival, and our own longevity when making eating choices. We’ve all heard of paleo, keto, vegan, Atkins, and the like, but have you ever heard of flexitarians, and wondered what do flexitarians eat?

It seems that this new take on eating is on the rise precisely because it pairs the best of both worlds: 80% of your everyday choices should be plant-based and whole foods, while the remaining 20% are reserved for an occasional indulgence (yes, even unhealthy ones), eggs, dairy, meat, and other animal-based products. However, don’t mistake this mindset for a diet – it’s just a way of balancing your nutrition to tip the scales in favor of plants, and not a strict diet that allows or forbids any particular ingredient.

Hack your training routine

When you have mastered your nutrition to be 80% healthy and conducive to your fitness goals, whatever they may be, it’s equally important to apply this principle to your training routine. Once again, we return to the flip-side of the Pareto mindset, because just like with economy, you should aim to save your time and energy and focus on the movements, exercises, and routines that yield the best results.

Find out what is the 20% of your current training program that leads to the majority of your fitness success – is it the compound movements that allow muscle building, or the HIIT sessions to burn the extra fat? It’s time to trim down the exercises that don’t benefit your goals, such as the hours spent jogging on a treadmill, or mindlessly repeating bicep curls. Also remember, don’t spend 80% of your day sitting down – cycle to work, include regular jump-rope breaks, add other office or home-friendly exercises. Make the majority of your day as mobile and active as possible to maximize your results.

Cutting down on life’s “filler content”

Planning a healthy lifestyle with the 80/20 principle in mind can take some of your time at first until you can objectively discern which of your everyday actions are useless, and which are impactful. Start dissecting your everyday actions into groups and evaluate how much time and effort each of them requires, and how effective they are in return.

Your goal should be to find the actions in your life that make the greatest difference for your health. You’ll see that the eight hours of sitting only slows you down, while that short burst of physical activity such as HIIT combos lead to best results – so, put that principle to work. Introduce mandatory breaks from sitting in front of the TV or the computer and move your body. You’ll be surprised to discover how powerful some of the simplest of your choices can be!