Part 2: Getting into the FLOW state and picking your physical activity

About two weeks ago I wrote a post called the Best Piece of Fitness Advice you will read in 2013: Go with the Flow. In short the advice is choose a physical activity that will put you in a flow state and do it. Flow is the word psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl used to describe his research on enjoyment, happiness and optimal experiences.

The characteristics of flow are:
1. A task we have a chance completing
2. Must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
3. Task has clear goals
4. Task provides immediate feedback
5. Act with deep but effortless involvement that removes the awareness of worries and frustrations of everyday life
6. A sense of control over their actions
7. Concern for the self disappears but the self becomes stronger once the task is complete
8. Sense of time is distorted… Hours go by in a flash or an instant can be frozen in time

What does a flow state feel like? In one word: SEX. In other words it could be your favourite past time like skiing, reading a book, or knitting a scarf. It could even be your work. It is a feeling of never wanting to stop. It is being so focused that nothing can interrupt you. There is an end line in sight and with each deliberate action you make you know whether you are getting closer or farther to your goal. As you are performing there is nothing else in the world you’d rather be doing.

In Csikszentmihalyl’s book flow he quotes a well known west coast rock climber describing flow and his life:
“It’s exhilarating to come closer and closer to self-discipline. You make your body go and everything hurts; then you look back in awe at the self, at what you’ve done, it just blows your mind. It leads to ecstasy, self-fulfillment. If you win these battles enough, that battle against yourself, at least for a moment, it becomes easier to win the battles in the world.”

How do I get into a flow state? It can’t be forced. It happens when you engage yourself fully in an activity with built in feedback and goals. It takes an activity that you enjoy yet challenges you at the same time. An activity that requires your concentration in order to overcome the challenges presented. The challenges don’t have to be huge, just big enough for you to overcome them, like the rock climber mentioned as you continue to conquer enough of these challenges you will eventually find it easier to overcome other challenges presented to you.

If you can get yourself into a flow state through physical activity you will accomplish one of the most important aspects of making physical change, the overload principle. When you find the right physical activity you will continue to push yourself to find new challenges in pursuit of the flow state, it is very addictive. And this constant pursuit will force you to push yourself to new heights and do more than you did the time before, which is exactly what the overload principle is all about. Your body will have no choice but to adapt to the demands.

Choosing a Physical Activity
Below I have created a list with a number of categories of physical activities and within each category there are a number of specific physical activity options. Print out the list or copy and paste it to a fresh word document and do the following. Beside each category and physical activity choice write: Very Interested, Interested, or Not Interested. After you have gone through the list go back to the top and do the same but this time write: Very Experienced, Some Experience, or No Experience. Using this list as your guide you can select a physical activity that interests you and depending on your experience with said activity you can set small or big goals for yourself. If you are feeling particularly eager you can try out 2-3 activities and try them out several times over a month and see which one you like best.

Physical Activity Categories

Team Sports/Activities
Invasive Games
• Hockey – Ice, Field, Ball
• Soccer – Indoor and outdoor
• Lacrosse – Indoor and outdoor
• Rugby – union, league and 7’s
• Team Handball
• Ringette
• American football
• Australian Rules football or Gaelic football
• Water polo
• Basketball

Net/Wall/Target/Fielding games
• Volleyball – indoor and beach
• Curling
• Baseball – hardball, softball, slopitch
• Cricket
• Dodgeball

Individual/Dual Sports/Activities

Martial Arts/Combatives
• Karate
• Boxing
• Kickboxing/Muay Thai
• Brazilian Jui Jitsu
• Fencing
• Tae Kwan Do
• Judo
• Wrestling
• Sword fighting
• Kung Fu
• Jeet Kune Do
• Tai Chi/QiGong

• Ballet
• Hip hop
• Break dancing
• Classical
• Swing
• Jazz
• Tap
• Zumba
• Salsa
• Tango

Individual/dual Net/wall games
• Tennis
• Badminton
• Squash
• Racquetball
• Table tennis

• Rock climbimg
• Skiing
• Snowboarding
• Skateboarding
• BMXing
• Surfing
• Downhill Mountain Biking
• Obstacle Course Racing – Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, etc
• Adventure Racing

Strength Training
• Bodybuilding
• Power Lifting
• Olympic Lifting
• Kettlebell Lifting
• Strongman Lifting
• CrossFit

Cardio Endurance
• Cycling
• Swimming
• Running
• Triathlon
• Cross Country Skiing – Classic and Skate
• Snowshoeing
• Aerobics Classes
• Kayaking
• Canoeing
• Hiking
• Walking

• Power
• Hatha
• Bikram
• Pilates

• Gymnastics
• Track and Field
• Equestrian Sports
• Water Sports

Of course there are more options than this but this should get you moving in the right direction. There is one thing all of these physical activities have in common is that they are all easier to perform when your body is moving well and pain free. This is the job of the personal training department at StayFitAnywhere, get people moving as best as possible so they can go and enjoy the activities they love whether it is skiing, horseback riding, or lifting kettlebells. Come train with us and you will find the flow!

Coming soon Part 3: Skill acquisition and improvements are essential to FLOW!
Josh Neumann, BHK
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