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THE MINDFUL EDGE
LDN
21.10.2017
LDN
21.10.2017

THE MINDFUL EDGE

FINDING FLOW FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE & EXPERIENCE

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We’ve all experienced “flow”: the state of mind where we lose our perception of time and become fully immersed in what we’re doing. Flow goes by different names: “runner’s high”, being “in the zone” or “in the pocket”. Whether playing a sport or a creative task, flow is a form of heightened consciousness when nothing else matters but what you’re doing at that very moment. You’re paying undivided attention, your senses are alive and every thought and action is perfectly aligned towards your purpose.


Flow is critical for peak performance: to really be able to react to the feedback you’re getting, you need enhanced focus. Flow is also essential for peak experience: to participate fully in every moment, you need to be fully there, in it. 


Imagine an MMA fighter in the cage. Every fibre of his being has to be directed towards his opponent in order to react to his moves and spot opportunities. Nothing else matters, nothing distracts him. Not even the sound of the bell.


Or a free climber hundreds of feet above ground with nothing to keep him from falling but his own actions. There’s no room for distraction. The trigger that keeps the climber in a metaphorically heightened state is risk. It’s flow or die. 


Now imagine that MMA fighter checking his phone between rounds, or the climber having a chat with his buddy halfway up. The flow has been interrupted. Mind and body are no longer aligned.


The consequences of not achieving flow in your workout are not quite as catastrophic. But the benefits of adopting a more mindful approach to your training are enormous. By being there in the moment, completely focused and with no distractions, you gain a sense of purpose, like you’re there for a reason. Your whole experience of training changes. It’s no longer just something to mindlessly tick off your to-do list. It becomes a period in your day when you can disengage from everything else, one hour dedicated towards something bigger. Mindlessly lifting weights in between getting sucked into Instagram and wandering around the gym trying to find a vacant piece of equipment is not going to give you the results that you’re looking for, or much satisfaction.


Focus for the 60 minutes that you have to train. Have your gang with you by all means, but make sure everyone knows that you're here to work. Use each other to keep yourselves in the zone. That’s the objective for when we get together for UVU: we’re there to push each other through our individual barriers. No messing around.


I fully understand that there are times when you want to zone out, just put in your headphones and reach some sort of meditative state. This has its place; there are plenty of times when I need that myself. But on the whole, you should be there in every moment of your training, paying attention.


 

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Flow improves performance, heightens experience and generally makes you happier. Even if you don't reaching peak flow, just being more mindful in your training sessions will have a huge impact. Some of the steps that will take you further into the zone include:


Deep embodiment -


This is physical awareness of all your input streams. Pay attention to the little details: which muscles are working? How light do you feel on your feet? How rapid or deep is your breathing?


Immediate feedback -


If you’re performing an exercise then you’ll be receiving instant responses. How does it feel? Is it difficult enough? Are you performing it right? By listening and improving, your mind won’t wander. 


Having a clear plan -


Know what you're doing and why. Read over your session beforehand and go from one exercise to the next so that you don’t leave any room for unproductive thinking. Action without a goal has no direction.


Intense concentration - 


Achieving flow requires long periods of uninterrupted focus. Focus only on the task that you're doing in that moment, not what you did last time or even what you're going to do in the future.


Challenge/skill ratio - 


If a task is too easy, you get bored and disengage; if it’s too difficult, you look for ways to remove yourself from the situation. The task needs to push you to your limits, but not beyond your ability. 


Group flow - 


This is most common in team sports, for obvious reasons, but can still be achieved in a training environment by ensuring that there’s focus, shared and clear goals and good communication. 


Silence distractions. See more, hear more and feel more. And put down your phone.