Why the top 10 fitness hacks are a crock of sh*t
‘Hacking’ in this case is the practice of breaking down the smallest efforts that deliver the greatest results in any area of performance, and in the world of health, nutrition and fitness it is seriously popular. Hence endless magazine features with headlines like ‘top 10 fitness hacks’, all promising everything from chiselled abs to sub-3 marathons and everything inbetween, on around ten minutes work a day.
Huge performance in a short time? It’s a very seductive idea, and one which is well grounded in some pretty excellent theory.
It all begins with the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto’s Pareto principle, better known as the 80/20 rule. This states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.
Applied to training it means 80% of gains come from 20% of workouts, and ever since Tim Ferriss popularised this theory and its attendant benefits - maximise your returns while reducing your effort to send productivity and results into the stratosphere - in his seminal book The Four Hour Work Week, lifehacking has exploded.
Which brings us back to those ‘top 10 fitness hacks’ and why, unfortunately, they are total cobblers.
It’s because there are two small ingredients missing:
Without these, any hack will be just that. A hack. Because when it comes to moving performance mountains from losing weight for good to raising your game to a fast Ironman, sub-3 marathon, running 100 miles, or whatever your choice - without the hard work and the intention to make that work count, you won’t see any results worth having.
Get up, get out, get after it. This is where performance is really built
Take this piece of codswallop from GQ for example where they divulge Laird Hamilton’s ‘6 fitness hacks to stay in great shape and feel great as you age’.
Just in case you’re not into big wave surfing, Laird Hamilton is the governor in this most punishing - and lethal - of surfing disciplines. He’s been surfing since he could walk (as a kid you’ll see him pop up in the surf classic Big Wednesday) and has been pushing the edge of big wave performance and the human limits both on and under the water ever since. This is a man who has dedicated his life to pushing his physical and mental horizons on a daily basis.
So while his ‘6 fitness hacks’ are undoubtedly helpful, you’d have to be deluded, high, or both to believe that they alone will deliver you Hamilton's physique, strength, skill and ageless grace on a platter.
Those only come from many years of focused hard work, along with its attendant setbacks, lessons, injuries and pitfalls. The hacks had nothing to do with it.
Which is why when it comes to fitness hacks we have an alternative suggestion.
Instead of making it look like you are good at something, why not actually be good at something?
Instead of trying to hack your way to fitness, why not work your way to it and become so good you can’t even recognise your former self?
Because real performance upgrades don’t happen overnight. Instead they’re the compounding of incrementally small changes, daily, weekly, monthly and more until a year later you hardly recognise yourself or your performance, despite barely having noticed any change from one day to the next.
It takes work and it ain’t easy, but raising yourself above the masses never is. Anyone can drink another beer, watch more TV, order another takeout. If you want more, you have to be more, and that means more work.
Find the right tools to support your hard work and focus and you can begin really maximising your results
Are you willing to do what it takes? Most aren’t. Hence the popularity of hacks.
If you’re cut from a tougher cloth though, step up, make your difference.
Looked at this way, there is also a place for hacks funnily enough. Except now they have a different name: tools.
Lay down solid foundations with hard work, add a heavy dose of intention so you know what it is your work is focused towards, and then experiment with the assorted tools on offer within that framework until you find the ones that best help you on your way to your goal.
This way you’ll be well set on the road to mastery, and may even find the 80/20 rule playing into your hands as you uncover the 20% of tools that take you to 80% of your results.
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