Improvements do not happen overnight. To become better at any sport or skill, little progress must be made daily, which then leads to a significant difference in the long run.

However, there are times when no matter how much one strives or puts effort into, the results are not always satisfactory. If fact, not every time does a person know that what one is lacking and thus, questions oneself whether it is worthwhile to devote the time to a particular sport or skill.

From 95 Years History Of Zero Medals To Ruling The Olympics!

A unique and dramatic performance change took place with the British cycling team. By 2003, the British Olympic team had not won a single medal in the last ninety-five years. Their record was so underwhelming that one of the top bike manufacturers in Europe refused to sell their bikes to the British team, fearing that they may become associated with poor performance and hence, having a decrease in their sales.

Nonetheless, the tables turned soon enough. During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the British cycling team won seventy percent of the gold medals. Not only this, that same year a British cyclist won the Tour De France – an annual multiple-stage bicycle race – for the first time. The team continued winning the following year and then again in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

How The Sudden Success!

Photo File – Allsportspk

The question stands after decades of mediocrity, how does one suddenly start to rule the Olympics Games and wins multiple Tour De Frances in such a short stretch of time. It all changed when Dave Brailsford was hired to direct the team towards a new trajectory. What made him different from the other previous coaches was his approach, as he called it: the “aggregation of marginal gains”. In simpler words, his theory implied that making minor improvements in every tiny aspect of the sports would compound into one dramatic improvement. Brailsford said, “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that
goes into riding a bike and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you
put them all together”.

The Small Changes

Consequently, Brailsford and his coaches began making small changes and even went to extra miles. They made several minute refinements such as:

  • – Redesigned the bike seats to enhance comfort;
  • – Rubbed alcohol on tires for better grip;
  • – Switched to indoor racing suits which proved to be lighter and more aerodynamic;
  • – They over-delivered even in unexpected areas by teaching the racers the correct way to wash their hands, in order for them to avoid catching a cold.

Sudden Benefits

The efforts did not go in vain because soon enough, those small improvements amalgamated into a huge unexpected change, faster than anyone could have imagined. Just as little drops of water make a mighty ocean, the unnoticeable changes resulted in a huge transition in the British team’s performance.

Be it improving at cycling, building habits, or losing weight, the small one-percent improvements lead to slow gains. They might be insignificant at first but the sum of all those insignificances accumulates to form something much more remarkable. Aggregating the marginal gains does make a difference.


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