Stretchy jeans and marginal gains

In my last post I talked about training not having to be hard (you can read it here), and how you’re allowed to be finding things hard at the moment.  Or at any time for that matter.  If doing what we want to be doing, or should be doing was easy, we’d all be doing it already.  It’s not, it’s hard.  This post will go in to a bit more detail about things we can all be doing to move us closer to where we want to be.

Remember that doing anything, no matter how small means you are making progress.  As the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? – One bite at a time.”

We all have an idea of what we want, of an end goal we’d love to achieve, but we want to be there immediately.  We want to lose a stone in weight overnight, get a six pack in a week, run a marathon without the months of building up to it.  Sadly this isn’t how it works, and we need to develop the ability to embrace the small successes, that over time build up to make incredible changes. 

  • Losing 1lb a week doesn’t sound very much, but keep at it consistently and that is getting very close to 2 stone in 6 months.
  • Losing 1% of body fat every 2 weeks is another achievable and sustainable goal.  6 months in your 12% down, and a lot closer to that elusive 6 pack than you’ve ever been before.

Success also leads to success.  When we’re starting out, it’s incredibly hard to see how we’re going to make it to our end goal.  Initially these small improvements don’t seem to be enough, but suddenly the difference is noticeable.  This leads to sustained effort, continuing to do what has been working, which leads to more success and so on.   We all think huge goals require huge effort, or a phenomenal change in direction and activity.  This then often stops us even starting. 

I’m a bit of a maths geek (my wife laughs about me going in to my mind palace when I’m thinking numbers) but here’s a stat that I love and reinforces the importance of 1% improvements:

In 1 year, if you improve by 1% each day, you will be 37 times by the end of the year.  To put another way, you’ll be 3700% better than at the start of the year!

Sir Dave Brailsford masterminded unprecedented success with British cycling through what he called the “aggregation of marginal gains”, finding the things that make 1% improvements and how these add up to make overwhelming improvements.  If it works in professional team sports to such an incredible degree when they’re already doing so much right, think of the changes of the difference it can make to you.

So let’s look at how we can get some of these 1%s.

Incidental activity

Going to the gym, doing an exercise class online, going for a bike ride are great activities, but if you then spend the rest of your day sat down and not moving, they’re not going to be enough to get you the results you want and deserve.  This is even more important with so many of us working from home.  Monitoring your daily activity can really help.  Most of us have a phone that will tell us how many steps we’ve done that day.  Use the function, and try and increase on your current level.  If you’re doing 4000 steps a day at the moment, aim for 4500 for the next week, then 5000 the week after.  That’s just 5 minutes a day of extra walking.

Water intake

If you have absolutely no idea of how much water you’re currently drinking, or if the only liquid to pass your lips in the day has caffeine in it, then your aim is to drink a single glass of water when you wake up each day.  That’s it. 

If you already have an idea of how much you drink, but need to increase it then buy a big 2 litre water bottle (you’ll see most of the coaches at Tribe drinking from these), and try and drink a full bottle over the course of the day.  Try and make it evenly spread out, and don’t neck the lot just before bed.

Accountability buddy

Have someone to keep you accountable can make a huge difference.  Grab a friend or colleague, message them at the start of the day what you’re going to achieve, and then message them at the end of the day to say you’ve done it.  CommitTo3 is a great app to help with this. 

Goal that means something

It’s much easier to do anything is we have a reason to do it, and a clear idea of what our ideal outcome is.  I want to lose weight is a lovely sentiment, but pretty useless when it comes to keeping us on track.  I want to lose 7 lbs in 2 months so I’ll feel good about myself on my holiday is much better.  When coming up with a goal, dig a bit deeper and think about what success looks like for you.  It’s different for each one of us, as it should be.

Stretchy jeans

How did I spend 38 years of my life not knowing how incredible stretchy jeans are!  If I’m honest this has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, but I wore a pair of normal jeans this morning and it was like wearing an instrument of torture.  If I can save any of you from this fate I will.  Ladies, I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but guys, get on it.  It’ll change your life.  Or at least make things far more comfortable than they currently are, and you can show off your beautiful squats without having to worry something is going to tear.

If you listen to only one piece of advice on this list, go the stretchy jeans.  Bloody incredible invention.

None of the suggestions on this list take huge effort, or demand a life changing sacrifice.  However each one done consistently will add up to a phenomenal success if you keep at it.


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