Coach’s Corner – Marginal Gains
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO SUCCESS!!
Read that again. And again. And again. Then try and let that really sink in for a moment or two. When you’re done take a think back to your last week and ask yourself honestly how many times you could have done something better just in the last week. Then keep reading…
Marginal Gains – is a concept and phrased coined by David Brailsford and the British Cycling program to try and explain why every athlete they seem to work with achieves success beyond what was previously thought possible. Since they first started using the phrase, the general cycling public has taken it to mean many different things from equipment, to diet and even sleep patterns. While all of these make up a segment of the British and Team Sky’s methodology, it’s all part of a bigger cultural approach to sport.
What “marginal gains” means to me is a constant effort to consistently improve every aspect of what we do both on and off the bike. From the big stuff like not missing training sessions, to something seemingly so small as training log feedback or going to sleep 10 minutes earlier at night so you don’t have to rush the next morning. Giddeon and I used to joke around that we even competed with each other to brush our teeth more efficiently to save energy and time to improve our cycling. While we were only joking, the concept of “every little bit counts” is very true.
It is the stacking and accumulation of the little things that can stack up to make the biggest difference. This graph visually represents what happens when you make even the smallest 1% improvement/good decision over and over again combined with more simple improvements/good decisions. It is this concept of small constant gains that is the basis of all our training plans and techniques. Everything from the gear selection for warm up to why daily feedback is so important. No single effort, workout or feedback record is going to make you World Champion. But constantly paying attention to the details and making smart choices adds up to make all the difference in the end.
But the opposite is also true for making poor decisions and over looking the details. Sure, one donut won’t kill you. And one training ride on your own instead of with the group won’t derail your season. And skipping leaving feedback or wearing your heart rate monitor isn’t the end of the world. But look back on just your training since the start of November, and honestly count up how many things you missed, abbreviated or choices you could have made better in just the last 10 days and add them all up. Even at just 1 thing you could have done better per day, that’s 10 things since the start of the month! Add those 10 things together at just 0.5%/item and you get 5% of possible improvement lost that you’ll never be able to get back. Don’t think 5% sounds like a lot? Well then consider that a 5% improvement on a 12.0 second 200m TT would be dropping that 12.0 down to a 11.4!
So the next time you’re about to step off line and have a cheat meal, skip a group ride or training session, ask yourself honestly if the reason you’re using this time really merits the exception you’re granting yourself?? Maybe it’s not more miles, more weights, or more efforts you need. Maybe it’s more focus or discipline day in and day out. Beating your competition isn’t just about working your ass off in the peak of the season. It’s keeping that focus and determination going year round on and off the bike!