Flow State, also known as “being in the zone,” is a state of consciousness identified by psychologist Mihalyi Csziksentmihalyi in which someone achieves an optimal performance by funneling all their concentration and focus into an activity. While in Flow State, he says, a person can feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” This can be applied to anything from a friendly conversation to creative expression, but finding flow is especially beneficial to physical fitness. This Monday, aim to find your flow while running and make your run the best!
The concept of Flow State is about reaching a point of total immersion while engaging in an activity. What if running your Monday Mile felt like it breezed by in a matter of seconds? Many have reported that while in Flow State, they are not only hyper-focused on completing their task but also experiencing a heightened sense of happiness while doing it. Instead of thinking about how much longer you have to go or how hard the run feels, a runner in Flow State feels exhilarated, motivated, and most importantly happy! Csziksentmihalyi says:
“[Running is] probably one of the oldest activities that humans enjoy. You can begin to lose yourself in the movements and the breathing and even the passage of the landscape around you until it becomes something that is almost a part of you. You are, in a sense, creating harmonious interaction between your body and its environment. And that can be very enjoyable.”
Follow this simple formula to help find your flow:
Challenge. Refocus and rethink your run using Csziksentmihalyi’s concept of the challenge-skills balance. The best way to achieve flow is to work towards a goal that provides a worthwhile challenge. If you’ve become bored by your run, it’s time to increase the challenge it presents – plan to run faster or change your route. If you set your sights too high, you’ll only become frustrated and anxious. Use Mondays to gradually move the goal posts of your run, giving yourself a new way to test yourself every week.
Prepare. Now that you’ve set your challenge for Monday, prepare your plan to meet it today. If you work with a trainer or coach, discuss your new goals. Incorporate new exercises that will improve your run. Fit your run into your schedule. By writing down and sharing your goals, you can keep yourself accountable.
Connect with what you love about running. Finally, when you’re ready to run, make your ultimate goal the pure enjoyment of your run. Focus on the parts of your run that you love or keep something else in mind that makes you happy. Take in the scenery or imagine running with your dog or a loved one.
By allowing your run to become a purely enjoyable experience, the hard parts of running that you don’t enjoy will disappear – this is what Flow State is all about. Starting Monday, aim to find your flow!