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The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 per cent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together

Not to brag or anything, but I've read a few books in my lifetime. Most of which have been mediocre at best, but a few have been game-changers, in my opinion anyway. One book that changed my view on more or less everything performance related was the book "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed. The book is just next level s***, but what caught my eye, and is something I'm baffled by every time I think of it, was the marginal gains theory he presented. Now, Matthew did not invent the idea of marginal gains by any means, all I'm saying is that he was the one who introduced me to the concept.

The marginal gains theory is concerned with small incremental improvements in any process, which, when added together, make a significant improvement. Kind of like the "Latte factor", if you're familiar with that. Say that you drink a £3 latte every day, but you decide to stop buying the lattes and save that £3 every day and invest it with an annual interest rate of 3% instead. 30 years down the line you would've saved up £52.095. Not bad. It simply implies the idea of the accumulation of something small over a long period can result in something huge. The marginal gains theory is often talked about under the name 1% gains. Unlike the latte, most improvements can not be quantified. Let me give you the most popular example within the world of marginal gains. British cycling coach Dave Brailsford took the British Cycling team from only winning one Olympic gold medal within a 100 year period to winning 60% of the available gold medals in Beijing 2008, 9 Olympic and 7 world records at the London Olympics, and won 5 Tour de France titles within a 6 year period. During the ten-year span from 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured 5 Tour de France victories in what is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history. Brailsford was a true believer in what he called "The Aggregation of Marginal Gains". He famously said "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike and then improve it by 1 per cent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together"

Brailsford improved everything from aerodynamics of the bikes, the athlete's sleeping conditions on the tour bus, to hand washing techniques to improve overall hygiene as an attempt to reduce illnesses.

People tend to think of improvement in a quite small-minded manner. Normally an attempt of improvement is done by manipulating frequency, volume, and intensities of training, an increase in total calories nutrition, hours slept, so on and so forth. These things definitely do make a difference, a huge difference. But that's not the point of the marginal gains theory. Yes, you want to make sure that the foundation is good before you start dipping your toes in making 1% changes. Make sure your recovery is good, your nutrition is on point, and your training is optimised, of course you should have all of these things sorted out to the best of your ability. But when you've got to the point where you're not sure what more you can do to improve other than being consistent with your current strategy, thinking in terms of 1% improvements could be greatly beneficial. Don't eat enough fruit? add one more fruit per week, small improvements. Drink too much coffee? change your coffee mug for a smaller one, small improvements. Do you lack quality of sleep? Buy a pair of blue light glasses, small improvements. It's the things that are barely noticeable, but at a fundamental level improve something that could go towards achieving your goals and aspirations.

Since I've still got you here, I'll recommend one more book. "Tiny habits" by BJ Foggs. Working with thousands of people Foggs discovered that lasting habits start out as tiny ones. The smaller the better. On top of the "size" of the habit is the simplicity of the habit. We, humans, are creatures of simplicity, meaning that if something is difficult we're more likely to cancel or refuse to do it, where if it's simple we're more likely to actually try. With 1% improvements these same principles apply. We've all been there, it's January 1st and you've set yourself the goal of shredding off those love handles. You've decided that you're going to hit the gym 4 - 5 times per week, and on top of that you're dedicated to your new keto diet. Oh, and no alcohol for 2 months. I don't know about you, but to me, this seems more like a 5.000% improvement than a 1% improvement. With that great of a change, the monkey within us will go absolutely bananas and will try everything in its' power to talk us out of it as soon as something goes wrong. You skip one training because it's your cousins birthday and all of a sudden you've had 5 pints, 2 tequila shots, and are currently facing your uncle Marlin in a match of beer pong.

Here are some ideas on what to improve on if you're stuck. 1. Drink one glass of water in the morning.

2. Add sodium to your pre-workout meal.

3. Eat at least one fruit per week.

4. Change your room temperature from 19.5 to 18.5 degrees for better quality sleep.

5. Meditate for a total of 3 minutes per week.

6. Add £1 to your savings account every other day.

7. Not a flosser? Floss only one tooth every morning.

8. Want to be more active? Park your car 3 parking spots further away from your workplace.

There are millions of changes, improvements, and adjustments you can do, and each and every one of them counts towards a better tomorrow. Whether you're a weightlifter or a dedicated plumber, a footballer or a space travel agent, a 1% improvement is a 1% improvement. Add all the small improvements together and your overall improvement will be epic.


Thanks, FAE Barbell

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