How often do you hear people talk about marginal gains? People claim shaving their legs brings marginal gains. Or wearing lighter shoes. Or getting the top of the line $600 wetsuit. While all these things can be considered marginal I am not whether the concept of marginal gains ends there.
I am new to this whole long distance stuff. I never done an Ironman or trained for one. But now after about 10 weeks into well structured training I have already learned a lot and it has changed me much more than I ever expected. My goal for IM Hamburg is to finish with a respectable time and my career and family life still intact. That’s a tall order in any case. But since work and family can not take a back seat while I am doing this, I feel immense pressure to minimize training time and make the most of the time I have. It is a lucky coincidence that I seem to hit a wall at around 10 – 12 hrs per week, beyond which I am falling apart rapidly.
So what are the marginal gains I talked about? They are subtle changes in how we approach our everyday life, how we treat ourselves and others and how we do things. A perfect example might be the mindfulness it requires to be on top of your game. I’ve never considered myself a mindful person and honestly I never considered it an elementary skill or behaviour. Now that I need to squeeze 100% effectiveness out of my workouts (and my sleep, my food, my recovery and relaxing time) I have noticed how I judge my options with regards to the overall goal. Do I get upset at work or allow myself do dive head first into an extremely stressful day in meetings? Do I stress myself out about that panel discussion I’m supposed to join or the business meetings or presentations? I don’t anymore, at least not as much as I used to. Long distance triathlon has brought me a tiny step closer to operating in wu-wei, simply because I cannot afford the stress. I am relaxed and don’t sweat things I have no control over. I try to do the things I have control over as best as I can mind you, but I am very aware of my emotional state and avoid extreme emotions or stress. It will impact my workout later that day. It will impact how I interact with my family after that workout. It might even impact the quality of my sleep. Being aware of all these interependincies and correlations has helped me to become a more relaxed human being and in turn has probably improved the quality of my workouts and performance by a few percent. That’s a marginal gain right there and one that comes for free if you just listen to yourself.