The 1% Strategy

“If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together,”

Dave Brailsford

I’ve come across two different strategies that both look at small incremental improvements over along period of time.

  1. Marginal Gains (improve 100 things by 1%)
  2. Compound Gains (improving by 1% daily compounds to 3400% over a year)

I like them both and see value in how they can improve your approach to training, below is a brief summary of each and some idea’s on how to implement these.

Marginal Gains

Popularised by the great Dave Brailsford of Team Sky and British Cycling this concept approaches improving everything by a small margin, i.e try to improve 100 little things each by 1% (to create the sum of ‘100%’) rather than trying to improve one big thing by 100% which in theory should be more challenging. the thought behind this is that the aggregation of these gains have a greater impact than a large gain in a single area.

British cycling did this by looking at how they could improve things just by a small amount to get ahead of their competition. Below are some examples:

  • Warm ups and warm down areas at the start/finish
  • Aerodynamics of bike set up
  • Standardising ways to measure positions (to improve consistent bike set ups)
  • Shape of chain rings (circular vs oval)
  • Colour coding bottles and nutrition (to avoid mistakes)
  • Team bus to reduce transit to hotel (increase recovery time)
  • Aerodynamics of skin suits and helmets (seamless skin suits, 3D printed helmets)
  • Sleep position (type of pillows consistent all year round)
  • Mindset and psychological approach (hired Steve Peters as psychologists)
  • Emphasis on hygiene to avoid illness.

Compound Gains 

Another theory i recent game across from James Altucher is that if you try to improve by 1% everyday, then as this compounds it will result in 3800% improvement over a year (that’s being 38 times better than you were at the start).

Of course this isn’t realistic to improve by 3800% put it puts in to perspective the benefit of constant daily improvement and how little gains on a regular basis can add up to a large sum over time.

Apply the 1% to your Life and Training:

There’s an endless list of improvement opportunities but sometimes they’re obvious and easy ones that could be making a real difference.


  • Can you improve the consistency of your sleep by removing electronic devices.
  • Try waking up at the same time daily or going to bed at the same time.
  • Decompressing prior to bedtime to switch off quicker  (try reading some fiction)
  • Black out the room to fall into deeper sleep.
  • Drink turmeric prior to bedtime (or boiled bananas) to help drop off to sleep.


  • Carry a water bottle with you at all times and hydrate to the recommended amount, rather than relying on thirst as an indicator.
  • Include electrolyte tabs in your drink to improve water absorption and replace lost minerals through sweat.
  • Workout the exact amount of water you lose in training through sweat and make sure this is added to your daily intake.

Warm ups

  • Schedule 15-20 mins warm up prior to your sessions.
  • Arrive earlier to training to get a warm up done.
  • Warm up the correct muscles and movements specific for your sport.
  • Research the most effective warm ups for your sport.
  • Warm up your mind as well as your body to ensure you get the most out the session.

Super foods

  • Include Beetroot juice in your daily diet to help improve oxygen absorption (which improves performance).
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to your drinks bottle to alkalies the body and aid recovery.
  • Using glucose gels or drinks more frequently on longer races.
  • Reducing caffeine intake and then using it tacitly before a session as a ‘pre workout’ once your more sensitive to it.
  • Utilise ‘Magic hour’ the hour after exercise when your body absorbs nutrients the fastest by going to training with a recovery meal/shake.


  • Ensure your clothing is the right fit for the type of training or racing, you could go down a size to improve aerodynamics on the bike or running.
  • Invest in a skin suit rather than a two piece.
  • Use an ‘Aero’ helmet for bike racing.
  • Trial different materials and brands to reduce chaffing and improve comfort.
  • Check the shoes you wear are giving you the best stability and grip for your sport.


  • Wear racing flats for road running during a race.
  • Invest in time trial bars for triathlon to improve aerodynamics
  • Upgrade to a Time Trial bike if your serious about improved position and speed
  • Pay for a professional bike fit
  • Invest in a better wet suit that improves hydrodynamics and  mobility.
  • Check the bike gearing and swap for a better option suited for the particular course or race.


  • You may have hit a plateau in your knowledge or become comfortable in habits. Ask someone different for feedback on your technique or habits.
  • Read some new books from people you haven’t listened to before.
  • Build a habit of trialling new techniques or methods
  • Look at the competition to see if they are approaching training or racing in a different way.