Flow: “the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”
Last week I entered the second week of a six week strength training block in preparation for the upcoming season. Training is currently about twelve to fifteen hours per week with some days having two workouts. The fatigue I was expecting came but it was enjoyable to ride through the stress. Feeling calm during those training sessions I felt that I could go beyond the prescribed plan.
Building on a base that started back in November I found myself experiencing a wonderful feeling of flow in that second week. During a couple of intense interval sessions my mind felt disconnected from whatever pain and force I was experiencing during the workouts. My legs were absorbing a crushing amount of force but I was was riding ahead of myself with the pain just behind me, not too far away but not too close; somewhat numbing and a nice place to be. Nimble is another way to view this. Feeling nimble, agile…. able.
Finding mental flow in training and racing is equally as important as strength and that feeling allows you to go just a little further and a little faster. Flow will get to the podium, it will allow you to endlessly ride like you did as a kid, climb faster and it gives you the ability to slow down the actions that are taking place around you. Your perception is just a little bit ahead of the universe.
Getting to a state of flow comes from the repetitive actions of training and doing the right things to recover and prepare for the next period. Some days I ride a little too hard, some days I try to talk myself out of training and some times I just feel too stressed to focus but last week was a great week with the sense that the pieces are coming together, a plateau has been reached and now it’s time to move on to the next goal.
The picture to the left is Nick Smit and myself just behind (both of us in the Alberta kit) at the Ottawa Milk Race in 1985. Both faces show mental prep before a race but Nick is showing a great example of an athlete calming himself and getting in to the right state of mind.