Tuesday, 24 July 2012


“The Aggregation of Marginal Gains”. That’s the mantra of Dave Brailsford, the man behind British cycling successes of recent years. 

It’s how GB cyclists came home from Bejiing with sackloads of gold medals, and how Bradley Wiggins carried his facial hair faster than anyone else did across the three week long superhuman endurance test known as the Tour de France...

It sounds a bit pants, to be honest. It sounds like management speak. Like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘multi-agency partnerships’ or ‘running the topic up the flagpole to see who salutes it’.

Despite this, it makes perfect sense to me.

Mr Brailsford may have applied the theory to making men and women on bikes go faster. But the idea of tiny margins of improvement making all the difference on the home strait also applies to bringing up a disabled child.

Don’t worry. I’m not about to don lycra leggings, clutch my stopwatch and force my daughter out of bed at 5am in the morning to do chin-ups.

I’m just talking about small victories. Miniscule achievements. Little things that go well, and that start to add up and make all the difference.

Like persuading my daughter to walk the short distance to drop off a form enrolling her in a holiday club today. It was a hot day, she wasn’t keen, but I managed to talk her into it, and we strolled along in the sunshine, and I turned the conversation round to how her new walk to school in September is about the same distance and how it would be lovely to walk instead of take the car, and how grown-up she’d be if she walked like her cousins, and before I knew it she was agreeing.

It’s only a short walk. It’ll only burn off a few calories. But it’s a difference. A one per cent difference. A marginal gain. And when you need to control the weight of a person with Prader-Willi Syndrome, whose body doesn’t convert fat to muscle efficiently, and who has to be on a strict low-fat diet, despite feeling constantly hungry, these little one per cents count. It’ll help her get a little bit more exercise. If she walks to school all week, then she can have that one extra treat.

The aggregation of marginal gains. My girl and Wiggo, both.

Song is Kraftwerk - Tour De France

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