My mind is clear and focused;
Time slows and as I feel my muscles fully stimulated as they work together in harmony within each rep. A euphoric feeling flows throughout my body. I have become completely submersed in my workout.
I have achieved flow.
But what’s that? A friend? A text message? Facebook? A “perfect” song? Wait, what am I going to do after this? What’s for dinner?
It’s easy to carry some of the common distractions from our lives into our workouts. All of these things can kill the intensity and take you further away from achieving a flow state and pure enjoyment.
6 Steps to Reaching A Flow State
We have all had that feeling of getting lost in something. That state where we have energized focus, complete involvement and pure enjoyment in an activity. But how can we achieve this more in our workouts?
Here are 6 tips to help you reach a flow state and get more out of your workout:
1. Create a calm mindset beforehand
Were all busy and time is a precious thing but rushing into anything rarely produces the best result. When we jump from one task to another, or “switch-tasking,” there exists carryover effect that makes it hard to gain immediate focus.
We haven’t cleared our minds enough to focus on the present moment and we become distracted as we passively slip into the next task.
Instead of jumping mindlessly into a gym routine, try to take 5 minutes before your next workout to recollect yourself and clear your thoughts.
Prep your mind for what you are about to do. Visualize the incredibleness of becoming healthy and the endorphins exercise creates. Visualize your routine and focus on creating a calmer mind. This is your time.
2. Set a playlist before hand
Flow states can be achieved more frequently if you have triggers in place to remind you of a specific moment.
Take music for example. Have you ever had a time where that one song came on and it took you back to a place of complete peace? Or it reminded you of a beautiful experience in life?
Music triggers the release of dopamine which helps to increase focus and enjoy what you are doing. Music is powerful and you can use it to your advantage in your workouts.
Instead of mindlessly numbing through your iPod’s huge music collection or getting irritated with Pandora like I do, set up a playlist beforehand. Put some thought into how you construct the flow of songs from beginning to end.
You might try to coordinate specific songs with your workouts tapping into the intensity and calming songs when you know you might need them most.
Instrumental soundtracks are another great way to help you focus less on the lyrics in the music which better enables you to reach a flow states.
Don’t glue your eyes to your phone. Pick some stimulating music and let it ride. You came here to workout, not socialize.
3. Avoid looking at the clock
A sure way to kill workout intensity is staring at the clock. After a set, I see people counting down to the perfect time before their next set. This is just another distraction. A distraction that takes you away from living in the present moment.
Watching the clock prevents you from connecting your mind and body. If you are staring at the clock, you are unaware of the muscles you are trying to stimulate.
Learn to listen to your body and let it determine for you when it’s time for the next set or rep. Pay attention to the sensations within and when you feel ready, jump into it.
4. Pace around
After a set, stay loose. Shake your shoulders. Pace and move your body around.
Think about what muscles you will be moving in the next set. Move into a deep squat for a moment. Lightly stretch and touch the muscles you want to work. Concentrate on the words (or entrancing sounds) of the music.
Let your body flow.
Instead of entertaining others or being distracted by the TV, to achieve a flow state, use these brief rest periods as a chance to reconnect with your body. Put all of your focus on your muscles and associate positive energy into them.
Think about making that mind-muscle connection.
Stay lose, stay focused, and conquer your mind and body.
5. Embrace the struggle
Flow states are achieved when we don’t choose the path of least resistance. Picking the simplest exercises and checking them off your workout exercise list is getting you nowhere. A flow state is achieved when we are flirting on the edge of challenging and impossible.
“Flow is important, no doubt, but if you want to master anything you will have to become very familiar with the struggle phase, otherwise the process will be long and not so enjoyable and will likely lead to an abandonment of the craft.” – Steven Kotler
Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Always remember to challenge yourself and push yourself to always go for that extra set or rep. The struggle is part of life and when you persevere through it you come away with enlightening experience.
You’re alive. You don’t have to work out, you get to work out. Just smile.
In the toughness of life, we must never forget how we felt in the happiest moments in our lives. We remember and carry these with us because we internalized them with positive emotions, smiles and laughter.
If we lift angry, we miss out on the beauty of progress. We miss out on a chance to smile.
A simple smile can trigger a euphoric response in your body as your mind makes a positive association with whatever it is your doing. Take moments throughout your workout to get lost in positive thoughts and be completely happy.
A smile is one of the simplest ways to happiness and can put us closer to a flow state.
With each workout, we must never forget what it is we came in to do.
We must remember and ingrain in our minds the beauty of the flow state moments throughout our lives. While it may not happen in every workout, when we achieve a flow state in a workout, I would argue that this is the equivalent of a dozen workouts.
Strive to do all your lifts with intensity and 100% focus. Promise to get that next rep. Promise to increase weight and progress each week. Doing so puts you closer to a state that enables you to unlock that next level that was hidden all along.