If you’ve had a weight loss, athletic performance, or personal improvement goal - you likely didn’t reach the desired result in a matter of days, or even weeks. (If you did, maybe you’re not setting lofty enough goals.) Big changes take time - and that time can seem like an eternity. And if you’re tracking progress day after day, it can feel like you’re making little-to-no progress and the goal is unachievable. But there is hope.
Athletics, more specifically training for competition, introduced me to the concept of ‘marginal gains.’ This is the idea that improving performance little by little, over time, will lead to tremendously increased performance overall.
For the purpose of this blog post, I will be focusing on marginal gains as it applies to athletic training - shaving a couple of seconds off your mile running time, squatting an extra 5 pounds, increasing your cycling FTP (functional threshold power) by a few watts. All of these are the product of months of work, and will continue to improve with the right training, recovery and nutrition for many months to come.
In order to understand how to reach higher levels, you’ll need to understand that at a basic level, there are two very important aspects of the training cycle to pay attention to; training stress and recovery.
TRAINING STRESS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Training stress is the amount of work you put your body through during a workout. Recovery is made up of two key components; resting or light workouts, and nutrition. Training stress is the accumulation of hard workouts that slowly breakdown your body’s muscles in an effort for them to get accustomed to the work you are asking them to accomplish.
RECOVERY IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT
Once the muscles have been fatigued, rest and recovery are crucial to ensure maximizing measurable improvement. Rest is important periodically through your training week (through days off and lighter-load training sessions), and depending on your sport, should be the focus of about 1 out of every 4 weeks.
Recovery in the form of nutrition is vital. In the period of rebuilding from training stress, your body is looking for nutrients needed as part of the repairing process. This doesn’t only include protein (as is often the focus). Carbohydrate replenishment is very important for any sport that requires sustained energy. During recovery, you are not only repairing muscle breakdown that is the by-product of the harder workouts, you are also preparing for future workout energy needs.
Regardless of your chosen sport, recovery is crucial for reaching new heights.
STAY AT IT!
Don’t get discouraged. This is the right way to do things. There is no silver bullet. Persistence and discipline will always win in the long run, and you will feel so much better about yourself for achieving your goals through the hard work.
Celebrate the small wins for yourself! Nobody will be as happy about them as you, and that is OK! Set your goals, stay focused, and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect along the way. If you’re doing it right, you will meet your goals.