I was very fortunate to participate in a study this year for the University of Portsmouth on the impact of flow on climbing performance. I was delighted when Cameron, the training coach from the Flow Centre, offered me to be part of the group of elite climbers selected for the survey.
Initially, I didn’t know what the flow mindset was and it is thanks to the study that I learnt more about it.
“Flow is the optimal mental state that produces performance, creativity, decision-making and innovation.”
Flow is a psychological state we experience during our peak experiences and is behind many of the greatest athletic performances. It is the state when we perform at our best and feel at our best.
As part of the study, the climbers were asked to complete the same indoor climbing route twice a week, time ourselves and then complete a questionnaire straight after each climb including questions on our performance and our flow state. We were also asked to rate our overall climb. As weeks progressed, we were provided with training and individual coaching sessions on flow.
Throughout this experience, I’ve learnt some great tips on how to train your mind to get into the flow state and how to maintain that state. I thought I’d share the most valuable ones to me.
- Motivation to perform
For me motivation to perform is the biggest contributor to get me into a flow state, i.e. the desire to get to the top of the route. When the motivation is missing, my performance suffers. When the motivation is at its best and I truly want to reach the top, I’m enjoying the moment and I give it my all.
- Total Focus
Secondly, finding focus is key to get me in the right state of mind. I need to completely shut down the outside world around me. For example, I need to ignore other climbers watching or shouting tips during a training session (sorry, I know you’re only trying to help J). This is especially true during a climbing competition when I find the audience very unnerving and it makes me anxious. So I need to completely zone out my surroundings and forget about my ego, so I can totally concentrate on the task at hand.
- Be in the Present
To reach and maintain flow, I need to be completely focused on the present moment. I can’t be thinking about anything else other than each move as it unfolds. If I’m already thinking about reaching the top whilst I’m only half way up, my mind is not in the present.
- Challenging Route
The climb has to be challenging enough for me to get into the flow state. If it is during the warm up or an easy climb, it’s not motivating enough for me to really be in flow.
- Physical Readiness & Self belief
I’ve found that my perception of my physical fitness and readiness to climb a route has an impact on my ability to reach and maintain the flow state. If I feel physically ready and capable, then I feel in control and there are no limits!
- Fear of falling
When I have reached the flow state, I am so focused on each move that there is no holding back and I forget about the fear of falling (even in the dreaded overhangs!).
With the help of our coach Cameron, I have come up with my climbing mantra which I now repeat to myself at the start of each climb, and sometimes in the middle:
Repeating the mantra in my mind has been very effective to help me get into flow when everything seems to come together and I perform to my highest standard.
To conclude, my personal results from the route I climbed during the study are:
- Route: 14m 6C+ route
- 1st attempt completed in 9min23s.
- After having received the training and coaching on flows, I completed the climbing route on my 15th attempt in 2min10s.
Of course, once I knew my results, my first question was related to the fact that even without the coaching, my performance would have improved naturally just by the experience gained by every attempt and the increased memorisation of the moves. However, this was minimised by having us only start the training and coaching on flows once our performances had plateaued and we weren’t climbing faster at each attempt.
Finally, being part of the study and learning about applying flows for sporting performance was definitely eye opening and a great opportunity for me in the pursuit of following my passion for sport and performing the best I can.
These techniques can of course be applied to any experiences in life. I’m also currently working on applying these techniques to my running and learning to find the flow state during a run J So I’ve now created a mantra for running as well ….
To find out more about the study and the official results, reach out to Cameron from the Flow Centre, I know he will be delighted to share his enthusiasm and knowledge (http://theflowcentre.com/).
#followyourpassion #teamcimalp #grivel