The Power of Flow

For the last few weeks, I have focused on struggle--its nature and the tendency for people to choose struggle rather than flow. As I transition to the idea and concepts of flow, I thought I would share a session I had with a client last week.

Mike is a 16-year-old male with a limited history in weight lifting. He is a good high school tennis player who came to me to get stronger because he wanted to join the rugby club at his high school. We’ve been training together once a week over the last few months. He’s made excellent gains in strength and diligently applies the instructions he gets from me each week.

Last week during our session he was talking about how he has recently enjoyed a significant jump in the quality of his tennis game. He wasn’t sure why, because he’s been focused on his rugby training and hasn’t been taking tennis lessons over the last few months. I smiled and asked how he could tell he had made the significant leap.

He told me that earlier that week he had a private lesson with his tennis coach, the first in several months. At the end of a lesson they typically play a competitive set. There’s no instruction, just head-to-head competition. After his prior lesson, he had lost the set 6-0. He said that it wasn’t even that close. He was playing his hardest, while his coach was simply going through the motions.

Last week, the competitive set to finish the lesson went quite a bit differently. He lost the set 6-2, but his coach had to “really play.” There was no joking or goofing around; the coach had to actually play his best and was very pleased and congratulated Mike when they were done. Mike wasn’t sure what changed, but he credited the training he was doing with the rugby team. I asked him why he thought that, and he said “because he was moving easier with more confidence and agility.”

I smiled at his explanation and began to explain what was really going on. In teaching him weight training for rugby, I am using the training techniques that I have developed over the last 25 years. I have taught Mike how to center and make an open flowing breath essential to good form and technique. I have encouraged him to never struggle when lifting a weight. He has applied the concepts of mindfulness to his workouts and these habits are being ingrained into his system. So when he’s on the rugby field or the tennis court, being in a state of flow is becoming his default response.

Helping Mike to create positive habits while improving his overall fitness has been relatively easy. He’s a willing student who was open to the training. Because of his relative lack of experience, I didn’t have to overcome any preconceived notions of what the training should look or feel like. Essentially, he didn’t have any “bad” habits that we had to overcome. When you combine being present and in a state of flow with increased strength and endurance, good things are going to happen.

The really interesting thing here is that all of this has derived from a basic exercise program. I haven’t shared any of the TTW principles with Mike yet.

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