FLOW INDUCING EXERCISES & ACTIVITIES
WHY FLOW EXERCISES?
We make neural connections while learning new movement. A constant use of body and mind makes you put the distractions away during exercise and actually develop a skill while being physically active. Its challenging and deeply engaging instead of a mind numbing means to an end like getting a sweat walking on a treadmill while texting or screwing around on Facebook.
The trick here is finding your sweet spot in your challenge to skill ratio. Too easy and you lose focus and when too difficult the same usually happens through frustration. We set clear goals and get into flow and stay in flow through exercises and activities that give you immediate feedback. For example when I do mitt work with clients we have to build a bit to understand each other and get into flow with each other regularly. Once that rapport is built we both get into flow very quickly and stay there for the duration. They know the numbers and how I hold and move plus the tempo that I use after warm. Then to keep in flow I keep adding movement,combos,knees,kicks,elbows,and different footwork and striking angels. Its actually fun for me and a great workout in every way. You can take it up another step and throw in what I simply call You go/I go. We both wear gloves and when I call they throw and I catch with gloves and I immediately throw back the same combo and they have to catch for me. That really makes you think and gets you to focus plus work on some defensive movement. I picked that up in the Netherlands when I was lucky enough to train at Golden Glory in Breda for a short while. They are so good because it is all about repetition and building off the basics with you go/I go and every round you switch partners and have to reset your movement and striking for someone taller,shorter,stronger,southpaw,etc,etc. Repetition+Volume+Diversity of partners makes for a well rounded striker! They they use same approach for light sparring with all the diversity in the room. Anyone who knows the sport knows that they put out more amazing kick boxers in the heavier classes than anyplace else. It is that formula that gets them into FLOW. It also doesn't hurt to be doing this with very talented people.
I have gone over the components and triggers in the short flow article I wrote last year based on Steven Kotlers great book The Rise Of Superman. Here I will just recap a few of the big ones that help us get into flow with some of the outdoor training and skill work.
ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE
-INTENSELY FOCUSED ATTENTION
-THE CHALLENGE TO SKILL RATIO
Thats all four of the psychological triggers and you can see in the mitt work/thai pad work I described that they are all present with a good partner.
WE TRAIN OUTSIDE TO ADD THE ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS
THE BIG ONES
So this fits very much into outdoor movement work and lower acrobatics with things like crawling,rolling,and falling in a nice green park. One of my favorites is trail running in a beautiful environment. I always get into flow while trail running. Its the not knowing whats just over the next hill or around the next bend. Having to be quick footed downhill and always looking exactly where to place that next step so you don't turn an ankle or take a bad fall. Lots of angles and terrain that is constantly changing from dirt to rocks to a soft clay. Trail running truly makes you process your environment and your next move very quickly and efficiently making it one of my favorites for getting into flow with exercise. Another favorite of mine is getting into a cold river or lake and taking a nice swim. No times or laps just the sun,cold water,and beautiful environment. You need concentration on breathing and keeping it safe so the mind chatter disappears and you just enjoy the experience. Of coarse you also get all the amazing health benefits of CT(cold thermogenesis) and the healthy radiation from the sun that makes for vitamin D production and many more health benefits not to mention the sense of accomplishment from doing something difficult in a natural environment like we are meant to.
The other environmental trigger that I didn't mention earlier is high consequences. I don't use that for clients of groups for obvious reasons but we all can understand how that can push us into flow right away. When your hanging on the side of a cliff wall your usually not thinking about your grocery list. That being said we can do that in a safe setting and environment with spotters. Spotters being partners and other group members. That brings us into the next group of triggers-social triggers.
THE BIG ONES
-ALWAYS SAY YES,AND CONTRIBUTE TO GROUP
These bring on a sense of camaraderie and fun between us all. This is the main reason I think crossfit is so popular. This is why group work is a great alternative for most people. You get motivation and feedback from peers and in the right groups you get the accountability to succeed at the task at hand. So this is the reason for the outdoor fitness classes,group trail runs,hikes,and outdoor swims in safe environments with spotters. Its always amazing to me when I take a group to the river for a cold swim and see people that have never attempted anything like that before succeed because of the people around them and getting into group flow. I love the look of bliss and accomplishment on there faces after. There confidence and sense of self achievement just shines through.
Last category of triggers is creative triggers which there is but one-CREATIVITY. This is where freestyle work comes in. Lower acrobatics and shadow boxing are a couple of good examples I enjoy using. Once the basics are down I love just telling everyone that the next 20 minutes is just constant movement with no right or wrong just move using whatever works. Rolling,falling,hand stands,get ups,crawling,or just getting up/down with no hands. Doesn't matter-JUST MOVE! When I see them stop and think I gently remind them that there is no wrong and to just keep moving. I do this in my shadow boxing. I just keep moving light on my feet and strike from all kinds of angles and with all kinds of combos and craziness. Thats the fun and thats where CREATIVITY comes in. Im not a fighter and you don't have to be to get benefit and enjoy this exercising of mind and body in one. Its absorbing and keeps the mind from chattering away. Truly is a meditation in itself. The sense of getting better and making connections in chunks is how we learn. You will feel a sense of clarity and accomplishment while learning to focus on the task at hand which is becoming a lost art in this world of technology and constant distraction. The neurological connections and the feel good chemicals released while in flow like dopamine and serotonin literally leave you on a high all day.
If anyone would like more information on joining some of these fun outdoor adventures or just advice on how to implement more flow into your fitness routine,please feel free to contact me here.