The Concept of Flow-State Training:
We train by numbers and we have the equipment and technology that make it interesting and entertaining. This is one of the founding pillars of TCR, “making sense of the numbers and applying it to your workouts.” We want to introduce and make you aware of another concept called “Flow-state.”
What’s this mean? Flow-state is learning to dial into your perceived energy level and using it as your guide. Is this a new zone or metric? No. It’s simply getting you to ask yourself “how am I feeling?” Am I feeling strong today or lethargic? We want you to take advantage of the good days and not beat yourself up on the lethargic days. Workouts are meant to make you feel good and relieve stress. They were not intended to make you feel like a failure or not worthy. 99% of us are not going to the Olympics nor getting paid to do our recreational activity. So, Flow-state is letting your body do what it feels like at that moment. If you feel good, go for it, push yourself, dig deep and crush the workout. If you feel 80%, complete the workout and be happy with that. If you feel lethargic but still put on your gear, do what your body wants, not what the workout has laid out. Being honest with how you feel will ultimately lead to better workouts and longevity in your recreation.
This is an inherent trait that we all have. Going with your “Flow.” Watch a group of kids play; some rip, some walk and some go all day. They go with how they feel and come home satisfied. That’s our goal, to finish your workouts in a good mental state. We have enough stress out there nowadays that our structured workouts need not make things worse. You don’t have to be a robot when it comes to your training plans. Your coach has laid out a plan, but they know life gets busy and we can get stressed. So, don’t be afraid to truly listen your body and find your Flow-state.
Our Coaches Response:
Oh you know I preach this to my athletes! Triathletes especially get SO tied in to a number they totally lose the concept of how they “feel.” Athletes can bent out of shape if they don’t hit their numbers, but some days, thats just the way it is and you do what you can do on the day. Knock it out the park when you can and go with the flow on other days!
I have mixed feelings about the idea of “Flow State”. When I ride outdoors I ride purely based on a flow state mindset. This year I have ridden with some of the best riders in the province (Cat 1/2) and using a flow state mindset has really improved my riding. Some days you feel good and you are able to drill it and keep the pace, where as other days you feel run down and you just aren’t able to turn the legs fast enough to keep up. I find outdoor riding to be so dynamic and obsessing over your power numbers in a group ride can sometimes be detrimental to your performance. On the days where I feel good I am able to naturally sustain Threshold and above threshold efforts for longer periods of time with repeatability. But on the bad days I am plagued with the opposite. Constantly having the power metrics in front of you may prevent you from pushing that extra little bit to beat someone up a hill or from finding that extra little bit of punch to close a gap. I find the power numbers get in my head sometimes; For example, If my best 1 minute power is 650 watts and I have been sustaining 650 watts for 55 seconds trying to close a gap, theres a good chance I will stop producing that amount of power because my brain knows that once I hit 1 min, I will blow up. I find it to be more of a mental thing for me. The brain is control centre of the body and sometimes I don’t want to know what my heart rate is or what power I am riding at because naturally I will tone it back if I don’t think I can sustain those efforts.
When it comes to indoor training, I would take a different approach. If you are looking to get stronger I think you need to follow a structured plan with structured intervals. The indoor riding season is a great time to rebuild fitness and improve your baseline numbers. You can only ride by feel for so long before you will plateau and stop improving and when you reach this point it is very valuable to seek out a structured regime
My thoughts on flow-state as a training concept is this. Performance is not simply physiological, it’s psychological as well. It is just as important to take care of your mental state as it is your physical state. Feeling lethargic or unmotivated can be your body’s way of saying “I need a break”. This is where the concept of flow-state comes into play. Your brain is telling you your body needs more recovery, so listen! This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t train and just sit on the couch for the day instead, it means take it slow. If you are scheduled to do 90% that day but you can only handle 60%, that’s ok! Something is always better than nothing but listening to what your body can handle is even more important.
I think using a combination of both works. You need the numbers to give you your benchmarks and guide lines. When I ride or run I do it by feel but love looking at the data after. Like Selina, my best Ironman time was set using no technology; all based on feel as that is how I always race.
To me “Flow-State” is a place I get to while running or riding especially on trails. It’s when you see the trail differently. I love it when everything is going right and you are feeling good nailing every corner and hitting every transition. In regards to a workout, this means hitting every interval with just enough to finish and recovering in time for the next interval. The concept of listening to your body and using the numbers to guide your workouts based on metrics is a great one, and one I have followed for a long time. I have also done it in a way to just go “by feeling” and look at the numbers after to verify that it was a good workout or perhaps I as a little off today. Sometimes workouts need to be learned, not everybody nails that 4X10min workout the first time doing it. How my body feels will always trump what is written on a plan. Personal experience – I picked up a Whoop Strap and used it as part of my preparation for a IM 70.3. The concept of how I was feeling usually matched the numbers Whoop Strap was producing.