1% Better

by Michael Plank

We are wrapping up our thrice-annual testing cycle at the gym right now. Every four months, we assess all our athletes in 15 different categories, and then we use that information to measure progress and to be sure we’re being smart with our training. Inevitably, we see people push themselves really hard and achieve new things that they never could before. It’s awesome. But not everyone hits new records all the time, and sometimes, it seems like everyone is progressing except you.

That’s especially true with higher-skill movements: things like double-unders, Olympic lifts, and more advanced gymnastics. It’s also true of things like stamina and conditioning (Tabata push-ups, for example!). During this two-week period, we celebrate a lot of big jumps in progress, but when we do, it’s easy to feel like small jumps in progress don’t matter.

So let me just be clear about that: they do.

You don’t have to jump 15lbs on your deadlift. You don’t have to add 10 push-ups in a minute. Any progress is good and any progress counts (including progress outside of your fitness! But that’s for another post).

If you can improve even 1%, it’s significant. Hugely significant, in fact. There’s a story that Albert Einstein once said that the most powerful force in the universe was compounding interest. Here’s what he was getting at…

Let’s say you have $100, and every month that money grows by 1%. By the end of a year, you’ll have $113. It’s not that big a change. By the end of five years, you’ll have $182. By the end of ten years, you’ll have $330.

I’m a pretty decent athlete now. But I didn’t start that way. I just kept at it and improved a teeny, tiny bit at a time. For over a decade. And it wasn’t even all linear progress! But that’s ok too. Any progress counts. If your last level was 5 push-ups and your next level is 10 push-ups, and you only got 6, that’s cool… last time you could only do 5! If your last level was an 8:50 mile and you need an 8:40 mile and you ran 8:47, that counts too… last time you ran 8:49.

One of our core values is growth; not fast growth, not huge growth, not even always fitness growth. Our value of growth is about being more today than you were yesterday: fitter, ideally, but also healthier, wiser, more resilient, happier, kinder, better. And when that’s what we’re aiming for, even 1% counts.