I subscribe to this blog from the world-renowned author, speaker, and shaker-upper, Seth Godin. A short thought-provoking piece pops into the mailbox every morning, and it’s almost always relevant to my business, to my personal relationships, or to my own training. When I read this one, I had to admit that I’m not allowing enough time to find flow. And I need it. How about you?
FLOW AND PROGRESS
A flow state is priceless. It happens when we lose ourselves in the work, simply connecting with the task, without commentary or doubt. When we’re in flow, time slows down, satisfaction rises and we feel fully engaged.
An easy way to end a flow state is to see how well you’re doing. Are you ahead of the other runners? Are you progressing according to the milestones? Do you have more social metrics now?
The irony, of course, is that the best way to make progress is to find flow. But if you’re using progress as a yardstick, it won’t last long.
I can sometimes find flow when my heart rate is slightly elevated, just a bit hard-to-talk, on a long walk/jog, or on a long bike ride. I find flow on my rowing machine sometimes, but it’s hard. I admit I’m bad at it. I have to decide not to focus on the metrics – ignore all of the irresistible data that’s talking to me from the monitor right there at eye level on my Concept2 RowErg. I never had any affinity for numbers, and I’m not strong in math, but all of those digits really get me going. I compete with myself and with rankings of others. That’s NOT flow. So I need to tip the monitor away so I can’t see it, and just row. It takes a while to settle down, sometimes with the help of a movie, or a really nice playlist, but when I finally do, ahhh.
Polli happily singing while rowing. But still looking at the numbers!
Years ago when I was training to race my bike, I had the good fortune to train with my professional cyclist son. I have a device on my handlebar providing all the data – heart rate, cadence, watts, speed, elevation, time…and I continually badgered my patient son about those numbers until he finally yelled, “shut up about the data!” His advice was to put tape over the screen. It turned out I didn’t have to because the device malfunctioned, and I had no choice but to learn to get into the flow for several months, riding long at steady state several times a week, and it was just what I needed – for both my brain and for my body. I trained only by RPE, (rate of perceived exertion). I had time to think rather than obsessing about numbers and my performance.
The fact is that all athletes (and we are all athletes moving our bodies around every day), especially endurance athletes, need to do both HIIT(high intensity interval training) and moderate-intensity steady state as described in this NSCA article. But steady state is where flow happens. Steady state isn’t just “base training”. Thoughts happen, awareness improves, and just like everything else, intensity of training is relative to the individual.
So finding flow is all about YOU.