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Aggregate of Marginal Change for Fitness

When I am working with clients, I often say that small, permanent changes employed over a long period of time add up to big results. Temporary changes, no matter how large, such as crash diets, will only produce temporary results. Therefore, it behooves us to view health and wellness as a marathon, not a sprint.

When I am working with clients, I often say that small, permanent changes employed over a long period of time add up to big results. Temporary changes, no matter how large, such as crash diets, will only produce temporary results. Therefore, it behooves us to view health and wellness as a marathon, not a sprint.

This idea is not new. In fact, it was popularized in, of all places, competitive cycling. In 2010, Great Britain’s cycling team was failing, so its governing committee decided to hire David Brailsford as the new General Manager and Performance Director. This was sort of a “Hail Mary” play to try to save a once successful program. Upon getting hired Brailsford, made a bold and somewhat crazy statement. He predicted that the cycling team would win the Tour de France within five years. How in the world could something like this ever be possible considering the team’s current state? Simple – by making many small changes and improvements. This process was later coined the Aggregate of Marginal Change, a fancy way of saying small things add up.

With Brailsford’s guidance, the cyclists made changes in everything from their brand of massage gel and type of pillow they used, to the microscopic weight of difference of lighter bicycle parts. They changed everything in their training, nutrition, and their equipment. If there was even the slightest room for improvement, it was changed. The plan was a success. The team won the Tour de France in Brailsford’s third year of leadership.

The very same approach can be used for anything from personal finance to running a business. The aggregate of marginal change is especially useful when it comes to fitness. Often, people make the decision to get healthier by making significant changes to their fitness by beginning an intense exercise plan, quitting junk food altogether, and, in general, overhauling their lives. Sometimes they are even successful in dropping lots of weight quickly. However, these sweeping changes are usually short-lived because that much change is painful and difficult to maintain.

A better option would be to make small, frequent improvements over a long period of time for permanent progress. For example, instead of eliminating all junk food from your diet immediately, try starting by drinking more water. Then, the next week, eat healthy for several days, then most days, and so on. Allow yourself planned “free” days to alleviate the pressure of eating perfectly all of the time. Over time, however, reduce the amount of junk food you eat until the free day is virtually nonexistent.

When it comes to exercise, the same rules apply. Small gains over a long period add up to big results. You can never start too small. If you are out of shape, begin your program with a short walk, then go a little farther the next day. If you are strength training, start with a few exercises two or three days per week. Over time, gradually add more exercises, weight in small increments, and a repetition here and there. Before you know it, you will be in the best shape of your life.

By making small, permanent improvements over a long period of time, your mind and body will have the time to acclimate properly, and adjustments will be easier to tolerate. If you don’t believe me, just remember the success the British cycling team had with David Brailsford’s Aggregate of Marginal Change and that small changes can lead to significant results.

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