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Sir Chris Hoy: Marginal Gains

Throughout my career I have always tried to do a lot of the little things right consistently, long before “marginal gains” were talked about so extensively around cycling and sports science!

Training so intensely day after day meant that a lot of those little things could really add up to significant gains in performance. Whether it was making sure I gave everything in the velodrome to chase every last watt, always pushing my squat PB in the gym, or doing such intense intervals I felt green coming off the indoor trainer, over the years we proved that those extra few percent in effort and preparation really added up.


That attention to every detail is what makes a successful athlete and a successful team. From a sports science point of view that would mean looking at improving our physiology as much as possible in training, maximsing training adaptations by optimizing recovery with the right nutrition, getting our bikes set up correctly so they were biomechanically sound, and working with top sports psychologists to keep us focused and confidant in our abilities. We would always be open to trying new technologies to find the extra edge. Going into London 2012 we had these ‘hot pants’ developed (heated trousers) that we wore after warm up and before competing, to keep our legs at the optimum temperature for racing.

That feeling of being fully prepared when you get to race day, knowing there was nothing more you could have done, gave you that confidence and made you feel relaxed and ready to race. For all competition day had a huge amount of pressure attached to it, the real hard work had been done, you just had to pull everything together and trust that you had maximized your gains as much as possible.

In the four years working towards an Olympic Games, what I did around training had just as much impact as what I did during. From what I ate to how slept, and looking after my general health. I did everything I could to avoid illness and injury, so that meant using hand gels, not touching lift buttons or handrails and bannisters, we tried to avoid contact with anything that could potentially give you an illness, particularly in the days leading up to competition. We took our own mattresses and pillows to all major competitions to ensure we maintained consistently good quality sleep.


Nutrition was more than just a marginal gain; it was a cornerstone of my performance. Just eating enough around three training sessions a day was tough – and cost me a fortune! The diet I needed wasn’t anything spectacular, but had a lot of good basic building blocks; quality protein (particularly animal and dairy), a mix of carbohydrate sources to replenish energy levels, good fats and a range of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. Doing a lot of indoor training often meant sweat rates so staying hydrated was key. I didn’t go anywhere without a bottle of water and a tube of GO Hydro!

Written By

Sir Chris Hoy