Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who lived over a hundred years ago, made the observation that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The further he looked into various events the more he learned that 80% of the results came from 20% of the time and effort. Or that 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. While everything is not 80/20, that was observed to be the minimum in most cases and in many situations the ratio is even more skewed. So what does an old Italian economist have to do with making athletes faster and stronger?! Good question…
Let’s start by taking a look at how most endurance athletes approach their training. When we first swing a leg over a bike or lace up some running shoes all we have to do is put in some miles and we start seeing a noticeable difference in every workout. After a few weeks go by our improvement starts to slow and we figure we need to up the hours again. After all, if we could just quit our jobs and ride all day we would surely go pro in no time, right?! So we keep pouring on the miles, training as hard as we can on every ride. We become very efficient in squeezing in as much training time as we can. Even adding in an extra hour at lunch and eating at our desks. And what do we get from all this work? We get tired… There is a huge difference in efficient and effective. We can become very efficient at burning calories and pushing super hard on every ride but if the end result of that hard work is making the 20% of the training that truly matters a sub-par effort, than your shooting yourself in a very tired foot.
So I can hear what ya all are saying, what is the 20% that really matters? That is probably the most important question and it varies with each athlete. What are your goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How long have you been training? Did you wear parachute pants in the 80s?
If you are self coached it can take some real soul searching to determine what is the 20% that really matters. Here is a hint: you know that workout you tried before that you really hated? Yep, that one. That is the one that you should probably be doing. We hate doing what we are really not good at and hence, really should be doing. I am not saying you can’t do what you really want. Just 20% of the time do the really hard work that makes the biggest impact in your fitness and don’t let the other 80% of the fun stuff jack up your ability to do that 20% really friggin’ hard.