Getting into the Zone: Understanding the stages of flow

Most athletes know and have been able to get into a flow state, aka the zone. How one gets into this state, is a bit of a mystery to most, one is which research is starting to shed some light on exactly what it is and how to get into this state of consciousness more consistently and reliably. I have spoken about some of these things in the past, and today I wanted to look at the stages of flow, because it clears up some of the myths associated with this state, mainly the fact that flow always feels flow like.

Stages of Flow

1.Struggle: This stage is exactly what the title says. It is about struggle. It is the stage where you feel least like you are in a state of flow, but it is necessary. This stage is about gaining knowledge, and developing skills that we will need. It is overloading the brain with information. You will fail, struggle and things won’t always look pretty in this stage.

2. Release: This stage is about letting go of all the information you received in stage one. This is like brainstorming around a specific idea, filling your brain with information and then when you go for a walk, take a shower or do anytime that takes your mind off of the problem you are trying to solve, in the information comes to you. In athletics, this about not thinking about the game or competition before hand, not thinking about training or what you have to do when you outside the context in which you are practicing or performing.

3. Flow: This is the stage where we get the sensation of flow. We are in our performance arena and we are fully present in the moment, we are not thinking, we are letting our bodies and minds do what they have been trained to do. This stage can only exist if we have acquired the information and skills in stage one we will need, and then let go and not overthink things as seen in stage 2.

4. Recovery: The state of flow is very taxing, it requires a lot of energy, and so to be able to do it again, we must properly recover so that we can go through the first 3 stages again.