How to Get Into the Zone
The first time Amy Hastings ran the 2012 marathon trials in preparation for the London games, she placed fourth, missing the top third qualifying spot by one minute and thirty-nine seconds.
But it was a different story four years later, when she found her zone during the 2016 marathon trials, held in Los Angeles.
If you could think of the undesirable things to have on marathon day, this was it – muggy heat, a dusty course, and plenty of turns.
Despite less than perfect racing conditions, Amy Hastings (now Cragg) was ready.
I had been thinking about that race for years, thinking about everything leading up to it. When it came down to it, I was incredibly confident and in a very happy and excited state. Amy Hastings, Running Flow
Amy Hastings-Cragg, racing with her training partner, Shalane Flanagan, started strong, surged away from the pack, and then held the lead for much of the race.
In the final miles, Amy picked up the pace to win the marathon and secured her spot in the Rio games.
Physically I felt like I was ready to do it. It was one of those days where I felt whatever happened, whatever was thrown at me, I could handle it because of where my frame of mind was. Amy Hastings, Running Flow
You’ve experienced the zone if you’ve focused your attention on a challenging workout (or any task that stretches your skills) and lost track of time.
Here you’ll push your limits because the brain releases pain killers that dull the pain. And, this experience is so gratifying that you’ll want to do it again.
The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worth while. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
6 Tips on How to Get into the Zone
Finding and staying in the zone is the best way to improve performance, increase strength, and set new personal records.
Here’s how you can increase your chances of getting into the zone.
1// Focus on internal physical cues to shut out distractions. A good way to practice full body awareness is through balance drills, agility training, pilates, yoga, and martial arts.
2// Face the pain. You know that point where you’re in pain and you want to ease up on your effort? Resist the temptation to back off and instead press into the discomfort.
3// Change it up. Do a new workout, enlist a training buddy, go somewhere you’ve never been and you’ll prevent boredom and burnout.
4// Find your sweet spot. Sweet spot training 1 improves your fitness and increases your ability to handle intense efforts.
It’s the space where your effort is difficult enough to stretch your skills but not hard enough to ruin your next workout.
You must have an accurate assessment of your skills, your limits, and your fears or you’ll either push too hard, or not hard enough.
5// Seek feedback. Studies report that if you want to know how you’re performing and where to improve, you must solicit feedback.
The tighter your feedback loop, the faster you can adjust your training. If you’re an endurance athlete, you’re likely good at getting feedback through your Garmin and adjusting your efforts accordingly.
6// Clear goals. What does success look like for you? Is it hopping on the bike three times a week for an hour? Chunk it down to bite size, challenging yet manageable sub-goals, for focus without the overwhelm.
If you practice these six tips on how to get into the zone, you’ll push past your comfort zone and improve your performance.
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- Running Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Philip Latter,
- The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler
- Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- For more information on how to use sweet spot training to get stronger on your bike, check out this article on How to Use Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster. ↩