The 85% Rule
The 85% rule is a strange rule, and we want to tell you about it. We are sure that this article will be useful for running and sports in general, as well as for everyday life.
85 is not a big number, is it? When we talk about physical activity or performance, we always think of 100: 100% effort, 100% result, you have to give 100%, etc… So, it is strange to think that, on the contrary, 85 is the key number.
To explain this rule, let us bring in none other than the Son of the Wind: Carl Lewis.
1. Carl Lewis
For those who don’t know, Carl Lewis was one of the best sprinters in our history: for years he held the world record in the 100 meters, won 9 gold medals and one silver medal in the Olympic Games in 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump. In short, a giant of athletics between the mid-80s and mid-90s.
If we go back over his races and analyse them, one particular situation will stand out: Carl Lewis rarely led from start to finish of a race. Far more often he would find himself at a disadvantage in the middle of a race, then recover and go on to win.
A lot of people thought he was just someone who started slow, sprinting in the second half of the race. But that was not the case.
If you look closely and with data on hand, it’s easy to see that Lewis ran from start to finish in exactly the same way, more unique than rare: Carl was always relaxed and did not change his style or his parameters. In other words, while the others slowed down in the second part of the race because they were running out of steam, he overtook them by proceeding steadily. And, above all, it was evident that he was very relaxed.
Lewis didn’t seem to give it his all, he didn’t seem to give 100%. It was as if he was only expressing 85% of his strength. The difference was that he did it steadily, from start to finish, without letting up.
2. Is 85 better than 100?
Paradoxically, not always giving your best can help you give your best. The reasoning seems irrational, but there is a reason for its effectiveness.
Constantly giving 100% means automatically exposing yourself to burnout (talking about work) or overtraining and then injury, talking about sport. And then, let’s be clear, it is also humanly impossible to always give 100%. Trying to achieve it in any way, if you are a particularly motivated person, will lead to dissatisfaction when the goal is not reached. Besides, giving it your all means inevitably getting to the point where you have to slow down.
But beware: the 85% method does not say that you will always get the maximum results by not going 100%. The real meaning is something else entirely: it says that the best method in terms of energy is to normally give 85% of your energy, so that you are prepared to give 100% when you need it. And it really works like that.
The 85% rule works on continuity and not on peaks, as Lewis teaches. You have to produce a fair performance in terms of consistency of power delivery and not based on the initial sprint or the final sprint.
3. Not just running
As we said at the beginning, the good thing about this method is that it is not only useful for the world of sport, but it is also great for work: How can we always hope for the best? It’s the best way to burn out, because each of us has a limit. Even car engines burn out if they always go at their maximum, but only those that are constantly kept below the limit maintain the energy to go to the maximum, when it is necessary.
To do anything less than what mentality and conscience impose on us seems like a betrayal of ourselves. But it is not.
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