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Sweat the Small Stuff

David Millar, Ian Stannard, Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh at the 2013 British Cycling National Road Race in Glasgow.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains 

It might sound as though it’s straight out of an economics textbook but its actually a very straightforward theory on how to get more from your workout.

The phrase was made famous by Sir Dave Brailsford, performance director of British Cycling and General Manager of Team Sky. 

He has overseen Olympic teams who have won a total of 30 medals, (18 of them gold), and also oversaw Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British cyclist to win the gruelling Tour de France, before following up with Olympic gold in the time trial. So quite an impressive record!

Basically the theory goes along the lines that if you make a large number of tiny improvements in every aspect of your performance then when added together they will give you that vital 1% improvement to enable you to win.

Some examples of these marginal gains are:
  • Wearing skin suits rather than traditional shorts and jersey to make the cyclist more streamlined
  • Planning how every corner in a race will be taken in advance
  • Analysis of riding position to ensure maximum output
  • Having a customise team bus with state of the art seating and lighting to ensure ideal conditions for race preparation and recovery
  • A team chef to ensure exact menus are followed
  • There is also a team of trainers who get to the hotel ahead of the riders on a race day to replace all the bed linen and mattresses with hypo-allergenic linen, individual pillows and an air conditioning unit that cleans and cools the air, all of which is designed to ensure a good nights' sleep, excellent recovery  and reduce any risk of infection!!

So how is this relevant to you? 

Well you may not be an elite athlete but you’ll be surprised at just how useful this theory is in the everyday world. It’s all about making those little changes to tweak your workout and that will give you bigger gains as time goes on. Here’s just a handful of examples:

  • Are you properly hydrated before your fitness class? Being just two perc​ent under hydrated can have a huge effect on your performance.
  • Are you wearing the correct clothing? Wearing technical kit can help wick away sweat making you much more comfortable and more likely to continue exercising. Make the experience enjoyable rather than slogging away in that old cotton t-shirt.  
  • Have you set you bike up correctly at G-Cycle or RPM class? This can have a major effect on your pedalling efficiency and comfort so why not try getting along to the class a few minutes early and trying out some different settings. Also, you’d be amazed at how much more comfortable you’ll be with a pair of cycling shorts and cycling shoes on!
  • Are you keeping a close eye on your form in the gym? Controlled movements with lower weights will give much better results than simply trying to throw around weights that are too heavy for you. 
  • Are you warming up correctly? Not only will this help prevent injury but will make your actual workout more efficient.
  • Are you trying something different: Your body can become used to doing the same routines over and over again and you may stop seeing any gains. Mix it up but trying new fitness classes or new movements in the gym.
As you can see the list could go on and on. If you add a number of them together you may just find that few percent that can make all the difference to your fitness levels. As your granny used to say, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.”!

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