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Marginal Gains add up to Happiness

Last year sometime, during a particularly sweaty session, my personal trainer was urging me on, by saying that marginal gains, ultimately, make the difference.

What are marginal gains?

Well, I didn’t know either, so I did a bit of research, to get a proper understanding of just what it is..

The best way of explaining this phenomenon is by way of example.

When Sir Dave Brailsford became performance director of British Cycling, he broke down the goal of winning races, into many facets.

He had faith in the premise that to make a 1% improvement in the various aspects, the cumulative end result would be significant.

They isolated all the weaknesses in the team’s assumptions, all the latent problems, so that they could improve on each of them.

With wind tunnel experiments, the conclusion was that the cycle was aerodynamic enough. In examining the mechanics area in the team truck, they realised that dust was accumulating on the floor, which negatively affected bike  maintenance. Consequently, the floor was painted a pristine white, in order to spot any dirt.

Weaknesses were not a threat, but opportunities to make adaptations, and create those marginal gains. And, naturally, they began to accumulate.

They went even further. Antibacterial hand gel was introduced to cut down on infections.

When Brailsford assumed the helm at Team Sky, the team bus was redesigned to improve comfort and recuperation. As they learned more, they created further marginal gains.

In the past, TEAM GB (Great Britain) was described as “a laughing stock” by one journalist. However, through accumulation of marginal gains, in the last two Olympics, Team GB has captured 16 gold medals and British riders have won the Tour De France three times in the last four years.

This is the power of a questioning mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement.

The marginal gains of the 1% does add up – it really is not rocket science.

Other than Sport, this process can be used to improve your lifestyle, business, or just about any aspect of life.

After my trainer mentioned marginal gains to me, I realised in hindsight, that it is exactly the path that he had employed with me during my weight-loss process.

I am proud to say that over a period of about 5 years, I went from a size 56 pants to a 38, and I lost 80 kgs. The real success story is that through the process, my lifestyle changed completely, for the better, and I KNOW that my life expectancy has increased – I may, yet, get to see my grand-children.

So how did this process of ‘marginal gains’ actually happen for me?

It was all down to making small, consistent changes in my lifestyle.

I made a commitment to exercise every day, irrespective of how busy I was. It is very easy to use this excuse. However, if you are sincere to health, you will make the time – whether it is a 20 minute routine at home when you wake up, or even a brisk walk during your lunch break.

Further, I changed my eating habits, slowly, but consistently.

Bear in mind, that different people have different bad eating habits. I my case, bread was my enemy, so I cut down on my intake, and within the first month, I was off bread completely.

I also adjusted the times that I ate.

I made sure that I had three spoons of yoghurt every morning and a cup of coffee, as my breakfast (which I still do, till this day). It is a quick fix in the morning, and ensures that I don’t ‘snack’ on the first available food is see, through the morning.

Lunch became my main meal. Given the nature of my work, I only got home after 8 in the evening – far too late to have a meal.

These were just a few small changes that I made to my lifestyle, but, because they were consistent, they added up to make me feel healthier, and consequently, spurred me on to make even more healthier choices, resulting in my weight-loss.

Anybody can be healthier – just be consistent, and those Marginal Gains will add up to Happiness!


Sam Roy – Weekdays 6pm – 8pm Anchor, Smile 90.4FM