Are you stuck in the training doldrums? Try this to keep progressing!


It's Coach Josh here at Training For Warriors Portland. I want to talk about one of my favorite experiences today and that's the flow experience.

If you've been working out for any amount of time and have felt any of the following:

  • Training gets boring.

  • Training is too hard and it never gets easier.
  • It never gets to a place where it's fun!

... then you might a focus issue and a mindset shift could help you start to enjoy the process by getting into that flow state. I want to share with you a little bit more about what that means.

If you haven't read the book “Flow”, it's a book from the '70s by a psychology professor named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his book, he writes about how there's a few set of circumstances that you can achieve flow in different activities.

One is having a clear objective, like having an obvious goal that you or not achieving constantly. He uses mountaineering as an example. In the book, if you're mountaineering and you're not doing it right, you're falling off the mountain. Your objective is very clear and it's very clear when you're not meeting it. 

If you're a beginner in fitness and you just learned how to squat, your objective could be to squat pain-free. It might be to learn how to sprint without hurting yourself. It could be something simple like those examples, in which you will know immediately if you're doing it wrong because you got feedback (read: pain) or you didn't. 

This leads us to the second instance: immediate feedback. The example of squatting pain-free is immediate because you feel it internally. However, you CAN use external cues to create immediate feedback, as well. Wearing a belt when you squat will tell you that you're breathing properly or using a box to tell you when you're going deep enough or high enough. You can create an external cue to give you that immediate feedback when you do something correctly. If you're trying to learn something, USE the structure in your environment to help you get that immediate feedback.

Finally, progress the challenge to match your increasing skill.

Imagine a graph. On the horizontal line, the x-axis represents the increasing difficulty of the task. On the vertical line, the y-axis represents your relative skill level for a particular skill.

If the difficulty is high where your skill is low, that may mean that you're overwhelmed or totally choked. If a skill is high, and the difficulty is low, that's too boring for you.

The solution? What you need to do is have a progressive challenge, reset your objectives and your immediate feedback to match wherever you're at. 

If you're just learning something, maybe you need the difficulty scaled back. If you've been mastering your body for a while and you're training hard, maybe you need a little bit more pressure. 

What I mean is, reframe your goals. Maybe it's your squatting that needs to go deeper. Maybe you want to try controlling your tempo. Maybe breathing properly should be your objective. Perhaps it's additional weight you need. Maybe it's a new style.

If you're going from a front to a back squat or progressing your technique and your form to match your new level of skill, you might think that it's binary: that it's either right or wrong. But in fact, when it comes attaining a skill in training, it's a lot like martial arts. You can continually progress those skills and that technique almost to infinity because there's so much that the human body can produce with one training movement.

Improving and progressing that challenge to meet your new skill is a way to stay in this flow channel. This means you're being successful but you're rising to your new challenge. You're growing and you're feeling your brain work and change. That's a difficult state to achieve, especially on your own. People who achieve this frequently may already have that environment set up to where flow happens relatively easily. In the case of a mountaineer or the ultra marathoner or the athlete, their environment's set up to cue that. 

Help yourself. Get out of the doldrums of training and into a flow state by using some this model here. This is the way we coach at Training For Warriors Portland. The coach will help determine where you are at and they'll help you set immediate feedback and create clear objectives.

This gets people to feel successful, progress themselves and their bodies and their skills.

They become awesome at what they do, have fun training, and they bring out the warrior within.