The 80/20 Rule for Fitness

Fitness Top Stories

Utilizing an economist’s principle for fitness can fuel your growth…get the double meanings?

Those bad guys were on to something with the whole “Dark Side” thing. The allure of taking the quick and easy way out appeals to most of us. If you’re reading this on a phone, congratulations, you’re one of us! The point is, life is already hard, so it’s in our nature to cut corners in the name of efficiency, laziness, apathy and whatever mood our brains direct us to feel.  Lucky for you I have an inside track on an ancient technique that people have been using for over 200 years. It’s called the 80/20 Rule, or if you’re a fancy economist, Pareto’s Principle (that explains the thumbnail of a rapping Pareto). The idea is basically that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. You can apply this directly to your fitness regimen, and why not? Who wouldn’t want to cut 80% of the crap out of their health routine? Find what’s working the best for you, and cut all the BS. Streamline yourself, baby, like a freshly greased streaker, running breathlessly across a soccer field, chased by police. Let’s take a look at how I’ve streamlined my fitness routine and diet to give me the most bang for my buck in terms of diet and exercise.

A wise theme song once said, “The world don’t turn to the beat of just one drum.”. Everyone is different, particularly when it comes to our bodies. This is as annoying as unskippable video ads because it means that what works for me, an overweight dad who paints Warhammer miniatures, might not work for you or that dude who prattles off his Crossfit WoD scores to you while you’re just trying to grab a cup of stale coffee from the rec room. Diet wise, I’ve tried everything. In college, I did the Atkins Diet and everyone said my heart was going to explode because I ate bacon instead of Raisin Bran. I lost 70lbs. When the documentary, Forks Over Knives came out on Netflix I went vegan for 6 months…and gained 20lbs. My wife went vegan and lost 15. See what I mean about individuality being a kick in the ass? This would never happen to an ant colony.

Protein desserts and Birthday Cake QuestBars are great, but they didn’t exist when I was a college boy.

After years of trying just about every fad diet out there, including the no food diet (hello intermittent fasting!) I can boil it down to two main, simple ideas that seem to work for me. I don’t eat sugar and I don’t eat after 8 pm. I’m like a pre diabetic Mogwai. If I don’t eat sugar, don’t pig out at night and exercise it’s like I’m getting the benefits of low carb, intermittent fasting and calorie deficit dieting all at once. If I slack on exercise, I have to be “keto induction phase” strict on my carbs. These two rules; avoid sweets and stop eating at night like some kind of fat vampire who sucks on bread loaves, keep me losing weight and increasing my energy without the hassle of diet journals, carb counting or not getting to eat bacon.

For you, things might be different. My wife, the most beautiful woman in the world, loses weight by eating a vegan diet full of fruits and vegetables. If I look at a banana a second chin sprouts. Figure out what your diet success all had in common and try to boil it down to a couple simple changes that work for you.

I’ve gone through the same rigamarole with exercise. Growing up as a fat kid, I spent the last two months before summer trying whatever trick I could to lose enough weight to take my shirt off at the beach. Maybe the worst year was the summer my mom came home with a present about a week into my summer vacation. It was a VHS tape of “Sweating To The Oldies.” I was the envy of literally no kid on any block…Anywhere. Still, I reluctantly tried it because I needed a new weapon in my battle.  I wish I could tell you that I fought the good fight, and my chubbiness let me win. I wish I could tell you that – but weight loss is no fairy-tale world. I failed relentlessly at losing weight. That ended up actually being a good thing because I learned through trial and error that only a couple of things work for me. I’ve done marathon training, swimming, the Shake Weight (for real), karate, 80’s aerobics with my best friend’s mom, Tae Bo with my girlfriend’s mom, yoga with MY mom, rollerblading with a lady who would later be arrested for attempted murder, you name an exercise that people convince themselves is fun, I’ve tried it. Name an exercise that people HATE and I, for sure, have tried that.

By far my favorite weird workout is barbarizing an inanimate tire with a giant hammer.

There are two things that work for me: lifting weights and walking. That’s it. If I walk 20 minutes to an hour I lose weight. If I lift weights, I notice my body looking tighter and more muscular almost immediately. For the best results, I have to do both. There’s something about muscle building with light cardio that seems hit the sweet spot for my fitness goals. Walking is easy because I keep forgetting to cancel my “free” subscription to audible so I have like 80 fantasy novels to chew through. Weights are easy because I secretly always wanted to be Conan The Barbarian. One of my exes could only lose weight by jogging an hour a day. I dated a girl that kept herself in shape just by rock climbing twice a week. My wife is super into Spin Class. Your ideal exercise might be different but start asking yourself some questions: when I work out, what makes me feel the best? When I work out, what seems to get my body in the shape I want it to be in? You might be the type of dude or dudette who has to launch tractor tires around the yard of a gym that’s so badass it doesn’t even have a sign on it. Or you might be the type who gets in shape by punching the hell out of one of those armless torso doofus dummies.

Let me be frank with you: no one likes to do things that suck. If something is oppressively hard you’re at risk for giving up. People can prattle on about willpower and determination but maybe stuff is just easier for those types of people. Making a single healthy or responsible choice makes me exhausted. That’s why I take a nap after I do the laundry like I’m Winston Churchill winning WWII. If you have trouble sticking to a plan, maybe that plan is too hard. KISS, keep it streamlined, sexy. Life is a game, but you don’t have to play fair.


Andrew DeWitt