Carl Lewis was a 9 time Olympic gold medalist who was known as a slow starter but master finisher.
He began races 2nd to last but usually ended up finishing first.
It came to be known that he wasn’t performing at max effort. He was going at 85% the entire time.
When an athlete is told to run at 85% they run faster than if they’re told to run at 100%.
Here’s why it works:
When you have your best performances you’re not trying your hardest. At times it feels like you’re not even trying at all.
You’re in a flow state where your abilities meet just enough intensity to bring out your best.
Also, going at 100% is the quickest path to burning out.
If you want to get into great shape, it’s best to avoid maximum effort and instead focus on stacking small and controllable exercise wins over time.
In addition to the obvious benefits of injury avoidance, improved recovery, and motivation, the 85% rule, popularized by the 8X gold medalist sprinter Carl Lewis, actually improves performance.
The 85% rule is about consistency, pacing & finishing. You have room to think, focus & adapt.
Here’s how to apply it to your fitness:
1) Your diet
Instead of trying to be perfect aim to get 85% of your food choices right. This takes the pressure off of you and gets you away from an all-or-nothing mentality.
If you’re feel deprived that’s when you’re most likely to go off the rails.
You want to be adaptable to any situation and hitting 85% is enough to get your body in shape.
2) Your workouts
Aiming for 85% intensity allows you to focus on your form while keeping yourself injury-free.
We have a rule at One Life to always keep 1-2 reps in the tank when lifting and this fits perfectly into it.
You should always leave the gym feeling like you could have done a little more or gone a little faster.
This is repeatable and sustainable long term.
Keys to the 85% rule:
2) Focus on form
3) Lower expectations by 15%
4) Work just below your maximum threshold
5) Stop when you feel close to 100% of your capacity
Instead of putting the pressure on you to go 100 try aiming for 85% today.
This might help you unlock new levels of performance and it will be more fun.