Any sports fans out there? If so, and especially if you followed the 2012 Olympics, you’ll remember the great success of our cycling team under the expert visionary coaching of Dave Brailsford.
Brailsford is credited with championing a philosophy of 'marginal gains' at British Cycling:
"The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together” - Dave Brailsford (2012)
So this approach sounds simple right? As well as optimising the things you might expect e.g. nutrition, physical fitness and tactics, Brailsford focused on a more holistic strategy for his team, embracing technological developments and athlete psychology. They looked for 1% improvements everywhere - in the most unlikely of places - including determining the best type of pillows for the riders and ensuring they knew how to wash their hands properly - “because if you do things like that properly, you will get ill a little bit less. They're tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference."
When Brailsford took up the post of General Manager and Performance Director for Britain’s professional cycling team, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. He believed by successfully employing this same strategy, the British team could win the Tour de France in five years time. As it turned out, they won it in three years.
So is what’s good enough for British Cycling good enough for you? The great news is you don’t have to take up an Olympic sport to benefit from Brailsford’s approach. Whatever your goals, it’s clear you must have a strategy – a detailed plan of how you will attain those goals and achieve success. What does success mean? What does it look like / feel like? Realise also that whenever you feel you’ve succeeded, there’s always room for improvement. Ultimately, like an elite athlete, discipline and determination will help you achieve those marginal gains.
"It's hard to explain what makes the team so special...It's all of it, the science, the training, the coaches, but most of all we point the mirror at ourselves and ask 'how can we get better?" - Sir Chris Hoy.
What 1% gains are you making in your life today? Please share your comments below.
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