Monday, December 8, 2014

More on Flow

We just returned from the Husky Invitational in Federal Way. We watched countless swims from all sorts of kids, from the really fast to the future fast swimmers. Every so often it looked to us that swimmers were in the state of flow.

Flow is described as the performance state where all things possible occur. You are simply allowing the conditioning and skill development you have acquired to come to the forefront. For this to happen two things seem to be ever present: 1- you are extremely present focused and 2 – there is some very real element of risk/danger/challenge involved. Scientists agree on this part of the equation. If one of these two is missing, then flow is severely blocked.

It is important for every person/athlete to recognize s/he can be in this state. We discuss it at length with our team. Below is an account that captures the feeling.

Two things make her story interesting; 1 – her desire to make the trip, regardless of which event (it ended up being her last possible swim in her least “favored” race) was so great and 2 – her absolute “just go for it” decision which lead to not feeling any pain.

This second point is of interest since of course her heart rate was high and her levels of lactates were high (we don’t measure them but we know everyone has high levels when they exert at maximal intensity) and she was definitely out of breath afterwards and yet she was unaware of those conditions. This is a clear marker for flow.

Thanks to Ali for sharing this personal moment of flow!

“Tears flooded my goggles as I warmed down from my 200 free. It was my best event and my closest chance to get to Seattle, but I missed the cut. I didn't even get a best time. I was angry, disheartened, and upset; I had tried my hardest, why didn't it work out? My teammates and coach gave me positive talks and I began to kindle a new hope. When my 100 fly came around, I was in a much more positive mood. I ended up getting a second faster than my best, but still missing my cut. Nevertheless, I was ready to focus on my next race. When I was getting ready for my 100 free, I wasn't expecting anything. I've never been a sprinter, but I knew I needed to get to Seattle.

When I dove in, from the very first strokes I felt fast but effortless. There was no pain at all. It felt like all the work I had put in and all the positive words from my coach had finally found their way into my swim. When I hit the wall I knew it was a great race, and the time on the board only confirmed it. I got out of the pool with a smile plastered on my face.

All because my coaches didn't give up on me, I didn't give up on myself.”

Ali earned her ticket, in our opinion, because she had done the work and because she understands the basic premise of flow. You need both, make no mistake about that.

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