The 80/20 Rule for Achieving Fitness Efficiency

Check your social media notifications. Do you notice that roughly around 80% of like buttons that you received come from only 20% of your friends? Or that only 20% of clothes in your wardrobe are worn 80% of the time? What about this: can you spot the 20% of people in your life who are most important to 80% of what you have achieved so far?

This unequal distribution between output and input was first introduced by an Italian Sociologist and Economist named Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) who found out that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. This concept became known as the Pareto principle, and while debatable to many, provides a good tool to improve efficiency. By definition, efficiency is achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. That means we are looking for ways to make the 20% more efficient to achieve that 80%.


CrossFit as an alternative to HIIT

Same goes to your fitness regime: 20% of your time spent for exercising is responsible for 80% of the results. For example, in order to lose 5% body fat in 8 weeks (2 month), I am able to allocate 8 hours a week to exercise. According to the Pareto principle, I can achieve 80% of my desired body fat by exercising 2 hours a week (20% x 8 hours). What types of exercises that would yield the highest return on your invested time of 2 hours a week? My answer to this is HIIT or High-intensity Interval Training, which is simply alternating periods of short and intense exercise with less-intense recovery workouts.

Consider this: instead of a steady-paced 30 minute run, you can alternate by sprinting for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. Follow this with 3 minutes of exercise for 15 minutes. You can also opt for the Tabata workout, which consists of 20 seconds of intense training followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes). There are hundreds of Tabata workout ideas that you can get online and for free. CrossFit also falls into this type of workout if you are eager for challenge.

From the Pareto principle’s point of view, there are at least three benefits of HIIT:

  1. Time efficient: rather than spending 30-45 minutes on the cardio machines, you can get your workout done in 20 minutes. Now you have that extra 25 minutes to get yourself a cup of coffee or put some make up on.
  2. No equipment needed: This is again efficient since you can do the workout at home, in the gym, or in your hotel room while traveling.
  3. Burns more fat: Researchers found that HIIT produces excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means that the fat-burning process continues for hours after you stepped out of the treadmill, take a shower, get dress and put that lipstick on. Shorter duration and burns more fat equals to efficiency.

Like any type of high-intensity workouts, do not ignore the importance of a proper warm-up and cool down. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water before, during, and after the workout. Most importantly, you should pay attention to your nutrition. That 20% of sugary stuff you consume each week may be responsible for 80% of what you see in the mirror. At least remember that the next time you are about to down a huge bowl of brownies ice cream.