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What marginal gains are in sports, well explained (and why they might interest you too)

What marginal gains are in sports, well explained (and why they might interest you too)

That marginal gains in sports It's an old theory now. The first time we heard about it was in On the eve of the 2004 Athens Olympic GamesDave Brailsford, Head of Cycling Performance at Team UK, was the one to do just that. In cycling, the United Kingdom was then a Cinderella, having not won a medal on the track since 1908. Which is why Dave Brailsford's theory that everything is coachable, even what is not part of training, was taken for granted a little with Shrug shoulders. The United Kingdom then won two gold medals, between Beijing 2008 and London 2012, winning 16 more, and Bralsford, who in the meantime moved to Team Sky, Bringing Bradley Wiggins to the top of the podium in the Tour de France. At that point, the spotlight was also on marginal gains. Or marginal gains, to say it in Italian.

The theory is very simple: when competition is stretched to the extreme, and you're playing on the edge, Anything can make a difference. Even what cannot be seen, it is here The concept of invisible training.
Let's takeLast Tour de FranceFor the year 2020: Between Pogacar and Roglic in the end there was only 58″. 58″ after 87 hours and 20 minutes of racing. And the 100 meters final at the last Olympic Games in Rio 2016? Between Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin the difference was 8 hundredths of a second (9″ 81 vs. 9″ 89). And the marathon in the Olympics itself? Between Eliud Kipchoge and Feyisa Lilesa there was “only” 1' and 10', which when watched on TV seems like an eternity. But what is 1' and 10' after spending 42 kilometers running at the limits of one's abilities. 8 tenths of a second for 100 meters or 58 inches at the end of the Tour de France? At first glance they are there The difference between winning and going down in history, and not winning and being forgotten (almost).. Sports mystique usually speaks of talent or hard work, but that may not be the case. Maybe the difference is also in knowing how to find them Areas of marginal profit that can give an advantage of at least 1%. Hence the name marginal gains theory as well 1% theory.

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Areas of marginal profit are the most diverse, varied, large, and often unimaginable. It is said that Brailsford, before each race with the UK team, measured the atmospheric pressure inside the racetrack to calculate the appropriate pressure to which to inflate bike tubes. We who were in Monza on the occasion of Kipchoge's first attempt to cover a marathon distance in less than two hours saw with our own eyes all the studies and ideas about the best time, and therefore with the best environmental temperature, for a company attempt. We also saw the special shoes that Kipchoge used on that occasion, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, from which the Nike Vaporfly 4% later descended. In fact, shoes are able to give a 4% advantage.
In unexpected times, long before the outbreak of the epidemic, Craig Ranson, Director of the Athlete Health Department at the English Institute of Sport, announced that… Looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, they showed Team UK athletes how to wash their hands properly. Because respiratory infections and gastrointestinal viruses are two of the most common dangers to which a high-level athlete is exposed.
Many cycling teams, as well as sports teams and even Olympic delegations, set up their own athlete bedrooms Custom mattresses. As if you always sleep in the same bed, designed especially for you, even though you change your room, hotel, city or country every time. but The list of areas of intervention for marginal gain is truly endless: Nutrition, psychology, clothing (who remembers Kipchoge sleeves to maintain the position of the arms and enhance aerodynamics?), equipment, etc., etc. It is not a detail if this is true, as it is true that on Sunday, February 28, in the Tokyo Marathon, 42 men, 40 of them Japanese, ran for less than 2 hours and 10 minutes. All with the “new” carbon plate equipped shoes. Something that has never happened before in the long history of the Queen of Athletics competition

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In fact, once you reach a certain level, level up, It is virtually impossible to find significant gains in a training focus alone. while It will probably be easier to find small advantages in many seemingly insignificant areas.

But what do marginal gains have to do with us humans only? Upon closer inspection, if you consider high-level competition to be remote and unattainable. Even less so if competition and performance are not part of our concerns. But what if instead We also have our own little registriesour personal bests, our Strava segments which can be “local champions”, marginal gains can also be very interesting for us, like Tapascioni or Sunday cyclists.
Because there is a misunderstanding in all of us who train more or less regularly and knowingly, and that is what it is all about To achieve more you need to train more. Push harder. Other than pain there is no gain, to quote another phrase from mathematical ambiguity. But no, additional training may be a necessary condition but it is certainly not a sufficient condition. Why We also (if not above all) need to train better. And yes, training includes everything, even rest (which has now become an essential part of training), nutrition and many small details of our daily life in which the devil can hide that deprives us of our little, great personal satisfaction.

Image from photography Martin Beachy from Pixels


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