I’ve been reading through Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
This book has been gracing my bookshelf for years now, yet I hadn’t read it. I was dissuaded as I heard it is a tough read, something like a textbook.
Well, some textbooks are worth reading…
The flow state has received lots of press in recent years, and its publicity all began with Mihaly’s research and book.
Here’s a quote as relates to flow and exercise:
“Many people get caught up in a treadmill of physical activity over which they end up having little control, feeling duty bound to exercise but not having any fun doing it. They have made the usual mistake of confounding form and substance…Enjoyment, as we have seen, does not depend on *what* you do, but rather on *how* you do it.”
I think it funny that he uses the analogy of a treadmill to describe the process as actually working out on a treadmill is likely to lead to that state he describes.
As I’ve often said, if my workouts involved running on a treadmill, I wouldn’t want to workout either.
But really, he is speaking about HOW you do it.
The analogy of a treadmill refers to you’re doing all this activity but going nowhere. You’re not progressing.
And progression is the name of the game. Not just for actually making the work worth it…but it also leads to enjoyment.
Take today’s workout as an example. My previous set record in chin-ups was three reps with 88 lbs. attached. Today I did a set of four. Progress. Enjoyment coming from that progress.
Later on, in the book, Mihaly’s describes exactly what leads to enjoyment, and this flow state he speaks of:
“Enjoyment depends on increasing complexity.”
Are your workouts getting more complex?
Now, there certainly is such a thing as too complex. But what he is speaking of is added complexity so as not to be boring. Progression can come in the form of added complexity. In fact, that is largely what my recently released Intuitive Mobility is all about. Added complexity of movement, leading to flow and enjoyment.
My counterpoint to the dreadful boredom of running on a treadmill (at least to me) is kettlebell juggling or feats of strength.
Kettlebell juggling allows for nearly unlimited creativity of movements. Furthermore, it’s easy to reach flow as the next skill is always close at hand.
If you’re bored with your current training, why don’t you try this instead? The Definitive Guide to Kettlebell Juggling 2.0 contains 10+ hours of training…showing there is complexity available for the taking.
With feats of strength you have nearly unlimited options. Bend nails, rip decks of cards in half. Do these while in a wrestler’s bridge. Do them while someone is standing on you. The creativity and complexity can come from unique combinations as well as the simple progressions available.
All this and more is covered inside Feats of Strength: How to Train and Perform like an Oldtime Strongman.
If you get bitten by the “feats of strength bug,” then you’ll know the sheer enjoyment that comes with bending metal or destroying things with your bare hands. It’s a feeling that isn’t replicated by doing bodyweight exercise or lifting weights.
Those are just a few examples. But flow and enjoyment are available everywhere you look…depending on HOW you do it.
To sum up:
If you’re not enjoying your training…you’re doing it WRONG!