The 40% rule for your workouts, used by a real Navy SEAL

Everyone will tell you that a lot of the barriers you reach in a workout are not physical, but mental. It's not that your muscles can't keep going, it's that YOU can't keep going, that the pain and discomfort are too unbearable for you to continue.

They're not wrong. Mental fatigue sets in far before muscle fatigue, the body has a high threshold for exhaustion but, when you're sweating so much you can barely see and you think you're going to throw up, no one can blame you for stopping the workout.

See, while it's nice and all to know that the real barriers are mental, that doesn't help a lot. Just SAYING that mental fatigue sets in first doesn't actually tell us anything about when we should expect our muscles to shut down.

David Goggins is a former Navy SEAL, and after losing some members of his team after a tour in Iraq, he decided to raise money for the children of soldiers who died in the line of fire. You can read more about his exploits here, but to sum it up, he entered a 24 hour race in San Diego that left him with 100 miles (160.9km) ran in less than 19 hours, as well as a case of kidney failure and the metatarsal bones of both his feet broken. 10 days later he finished the 26.2 mile (42.2km) Las Vegas marathon in 3 hours and 8 minutes. Later, he came ninth in the H.U.R.T. 100 mile endurance run.

This was in the span of two months, with no prior marathon experience

It should also be noted that he did these races in order to be allowed to participate in the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 mile marathon that describes itself as 'the world's toughest foot race'. With temperatures in death valley, the race's starting point, sometimes reaching 54°C, most people would agree. David Goggins, who had never done the race before, finished 5th, something unheard of.

So how did he do it?

David Goggins was the one who described the 40% rule, putting it as this mantra:

When your mind says you're done, you're only 40% done

That's it, it's as simple as that. It should be noted here that this does not occur when you start to feel tired, or you want to stop, it occurs when you think you cannot go on any longer. When you have reached 'the end', and you think you want to stop, you're only 40% of the way there. Here are some ways to put it:

  • If you're fatigued after 10 pushups, you've got 15 more to do
  • If you can't go on after 12 minutes of working out, you've got 18 minutes left
  • If you can only just run a couple miles, run 5


David Goggins is a big inspiration of mine, and i'm grateful to be able to share his principles with you today. We hoped you enjoyed the article, please share and give us some feedback, we're happy to hear from you.

David Goggins' Website


WorkoutsMatter frontpage.

1 comment

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