The best fitness advice you will read in 2013: Go with the FLOW

“Going to the health club you see all these people they are working out, and they are training, and they are getting in shape but the strange thing is nobody is really getting in shape for anything, the only reason that you’re getting in shape is so that you can get through the workout so we are working out so that will be in shape for when we have to do our exercise, this is the whole thing.”
-Jerry Seinfeld

The greatest observational comedian of our time had it figured out in the early 90’s, he knew that just going to the gym for the sake of doing exercises didn’t make a lot of sense. Every January gym’s fill up with people, but after 1-2 months the crowd thins out and it is the regulars plus a few newbies. Why is it so hard for people to stick to a gym routine or any exercise routine for that matter? How many people have gym memberships hidden behind their Blockbuster cards? How many times have you started an exercise program only to stop after 4 weeks or until the next greatest fitness trend emerges?

Over the past 7 years it has been my job to train people to exercise. I’ve had great success training a vast number of clients but I’ve also had my share of failures. Each of my failures encouraged me to ask “why”.

What exercise program is going to yield the best results? Bodybuilding? HIIT training? Twist athletic training? Powerlifting? Yoga? Spinning? Kettlebelling? Crossfit?

How long is the ideal exercise session? How many times per week? How many sets? How many reps? How much weight? In what order?

What about lifestyle? Nutrition? Sleep? Stress? Work?

Depending on whom I talked to, what courses I took, and what books I read every answer was different. Every program that is marketed to you is the best and fastest way to get the body you want. Want to get strong yoga can do that; want to get flexible kettlebells can do that; want to be the best hockey player Crossfit has got you covered. Don’t get me wrong all these programs are great and I’ve seen great success stories, heck I’ve personally gotten great results but no single exercise program is for everyone. As my friend Cliff Harvey likes to say there are no absolutes in life.

If you are looking for the miracle exercise program that is going to solve all that ails you in 8minutes a day in 30days or less with a money back gaurantee you are going to have to keep looking over and over and over for the rest of your life because you aren’t going to find it.

Now if you are looking to make great changes to the way your body looks, feels and performs all you have to do is follow this piece of advice: find a form of physical activity you truly enjoy and like Nike Just Do It.

This advice is based on:
• What I have dedicated my life to over the past 7 years as a personal trainer
• My post secondary pursuits in Human Kinetics
• My continued pursuit of knowledge in the fields of human performance and lifestyle design
• My lifelong sporting career as both an athlete and a coach
• Spending a majority of my life surrounded by incredibly fit people. Some run, some lift weights, some play sports, some practice yoga, some are outdoorsy, and some just dabble in a bit of everything. Some are trainers, some are friends from university, some are teammates, some are friends of friends, some are clients, and some are family members

In my near 30 years on this planet I have noticed that the people who get the best results for their efforts in anything they do truly enjoy what they do. Sports, arts, relationships, careers, and business whatever it is if you truly enjoy, you will excel. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl spent much of his career interviewing people around the globe to find out about happiness and optimal experiences. He interviewed athletes, musicians, artists, villagers, urbanites, business professionals, trades people, and farmers and found subjects would describe happiness, enjoyment and optimal experiences with the word Flow, or a number of other terms to describe this incredible feeling of enjoyment like: in the zone or on fire.

Csikzszentmihalyl delivered his research to the world in 1990 in his book Flow, and it has been referenced in a number of different books on a variety of topics. Flow can be defined as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In point form these are the 8 characteristics to describe flow:
• A task we have a chance completing
• Must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
• Task has clear goals
• Task provides immediate feedback
• Act with deep but effortless involvement that removes the awareness of worries and frustrations of everyday life
• A sense of control over their actions
• Concern for the self disappears but the self becomes stronger once the task is complete
• Sense of time is distorted… Hours go by in a flash or an instant can be frozen in time

Does this sound like your typical workout or exercise session? No. Then this is probably why you aren’t reaching your goals. You haven’t found the type of exercise program that puts you in a state of flow. It is nearly impossible to reap the rewards of daily physical activity when you dread doing the task at hand. In the documentary Pumping Iron there is a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger compares the feeling he gets when lifting weights to having orgasms. Sex is no doubt a flow activity, it fulfills all the criteria, especially great sex – use your imagination and memories. The best exercise program for you is going to be the one where like Arnie it entices the same flow feeling you get from sex.

Flow is a feeling I most often experience when I am in motion whether it is playing lacrosse or swinging a kettlebell. It is a feeling like nothing can go wrong and I am on top of the world. It doesn’t happen every workout or game; it takes repetition and progressive challenges, two of the essential elements to getting results in any exercise program. This is why you need to find an exercise program you truly enjoy so you can do it often and find new challenges which will put you into a flow state and when you get there you will know it, and it is that feeling that brings you back for more.

Coming soon Part 2 of The Best Advice You Will Read in 2013: Picking your exercise program and getting into the Flow state.

Josh Neumann, BHK
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