Psychology has always fascinated me.
I think if you can understand how people think - what motivates, aggravates, and incapacitates their total progress whether in the gym, the kitchen, or in any other faculty of life - it’s easier and more exciting to coach them while having a significant impact on their overall performance.
With this in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of flow.
Coined by renowned psychologist, Mike Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “cheeks sent me high”), flow describes a state in which one is so completely engaged with an enjoyable task that time seems to stop.
Now, while that may sound all well and good, Csikszentmihalyi is careful to differentiate between pleasures and enjoyments as they pertain to flow.
While pleasures are seen more as consumption oriented activities that satisfy biological needs (bodily pleasures such as delectable tastes, soothing sounds, or being stuck between two voluptuous red-headed sisters) enjoyments are categorized as building psychological capital.
Simply put, while they may not bring about intense bodily pleasures instantaneously, enjoyments cause us to invest in absorption and a feel a greater sense of accomplishment in retrospect.
Just check out the components of flow:
The task is challenging and requires skill
There are clear goals
We get immediate feedback
We have a deep involvement
There is a sense of control
Time seems to stop
As Dr. Martin Seligman points out in his book Authentic Happiness, “…flow is a frequent experience for some, but this state visits many others rarely if at all.”
I believe that those of us into this whole “fitness thing” experience flow on a much more regular basis than the average individual.
Whether we’re gasping for breath after our last set of squats, taking our third lap around the track, or sinking into a hot, epsom salt bath, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are constantly engaged in a sort of flow continuum.
Personally, I couldn’t imagine not being dedicated to lifestyle that brings about such high “psychological capital.”
Seligman writes, “While we moderns have lost the distinction between the pleasures and gratifications, the golden age Athenians were keen on it. For Aristotle, distinct from bodily pleasures (eudaimonia) is akin to grace in dancing. Grace is not an entity that accompanies the dance or comes at the end of the dance; it is part and parcel of a dance well done.”
That’s good stuff.
However, while both Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi separate pleasure from flow, I don’t necessarily agree. While they’re both incredibly intelligent and renowned psychologists, I have reason to suspect that their physical conditioning may not be quite up to par with their ‘mental muscle,’ which is just a nice way of saying they’re fat as hell.
Now, if you have Berardi’s Precision Nutrition program (which you should) you damn well know that your meals can be both pleasurable with the right spices and food combinations and gratifying with the right macronutrient balance and other healthy effects.
And if you’ve ever been under hundreds of pounds of iron, you know that the cold bar against your hands just feels right, the way it bends just looks cool, the inhalation of chalk dust just smells, well, chalky.
But along with those simple pleasures, come the other enjoyable consequences (consequences can be defined as either negative or positive) associated with weight training: better body composition, proper and realistic goal setting, and increased motivation to just set the bar higher.
If you get a ‘rush’ or a ‘high’ from training, good for you; now you know that you’re also building a strong foundation of good habits and strength in every respect.
So the next time you’re in the weight room, inhale deeply and let the whole experience flow right through you.
Just don’t forget to exhale.