Marginal Gains

do something great

The secret to improvement isn’t large leaps and bounds; it’s in consistency. And if you’re consistent about marginal gains, they add up faster and larger than you’d believe. I first learned about marginal gains on James Clear’s blog. Definitely check out his blog. His post has changed the way I view progress. As the story goes, in 2010, Dave Brailsford, the GM of Team Sky, one of Great Britain’s professional cycling teams, set out to help his team win the Tour de France. Instead of trying anything crazy or colossal, he set out to optimize everything the team did by just 1%. No biggie, just one measly percent.

They set out optimizing the usual things like nutrition, training, and equipment. But they also looked for incremental gains in EVERYTHING, such as the pillows used by the athletes as well as the best massage gel. All these small tweaks added up to a massive competitive advantage, and just 3 years later, the team won the Tour de France.


Many people fall short of their goals because they bite off more than they can chew. They set their hearts on a big challenging goal or try to do too much at once, and often get overwhelmed. Sure, some people who set highly ambitious goals do achieve them. But I think it’s better to focus on small changes that are much more manageable and will get you steadily closer to your goal.

In the spirit of incremental gains, I’m examining the way I run, train, and live to find areas of improvement.

  1. Sleep. I currently sleep about 6 – 7 hours night and I’m getting really tired/sleepy by the afternoon. To get more sleep, I will start getting ready for bed around 8:30pm so I can sleep by 9pm.
  2. Music. I love listening to music while I run. It helps pump me up and keeps me energized throughout a strenuous run. I used to run with these Panasonic earbuds¬†which I love. But I upgraded my phone to an iPhone 8, and I no longer have a 3.5mm jack. For some reason, when I use the lightning to headphone jack adapter, it doesn’t work! Since then, I’ve been using my Apple earbuds, but they don’t stay in my ear well. When it gets windy or when my ponytail swishes back and forth, my earbuds pop out, disrupting my run. I will look for new in-ear earbuds to accompany my runs.
  3. Nutrition. Ever since I was vegan for 2 weeks last October, I have heavily cut down on meat products. That was fine when I wasn’t running or exercising as much. Now that I’ve amped it up to 6 workouts/week, I think I’m not getting enough protein to rebuild my muscles. I just started adding chicken back to my weekly meal prep, starting with the boneless skinless chicken thighs I baked in the oven today along with my sweet potatoes and beets. If I wanted to take it up a notch, I could also start tracking my macros.

I’m keeping it simple for now so that I can focus on these 3 goals. I’ll reevaluate later and come up with other areas I want to work on.

Hope you’re having a wonderful Monday and have a kick ass week!

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