Want Results On Court (or in the gym)? Then You Need to Get In the "Zone"... In Life.
What is "the Zone", or "Flow State"?
You know when you're in a match, a presentation, or a race, and things are just working? Some psychologists call this being in a "flow state", or being in the "zone".
I'm not going to go too in depth about the "zone" in this post (check out The Inner Game of Tennis, or lots of other Sports Psych books for that), but what I do want to talk about is achieving results in your training by being in the "zone" in life.
When you're in a flow state, things appear to be easier than normal. In a match, this usually feels like doing the basics well without really thinking about them, not being overly caught up on technique, naturally making the right decisions, and being oblivious to the surroundings.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not saying you won't make any mistakes, or feel tired, but these issues tend not to be at the forefront of your mind.
In life (work, school, training...) I believe similar principles apply. When you have your work, family/social life, and training properly aligned, results seem to happen with less resistance. And when your day-to-day life is in alignment, you have a much higher chance of getting the most out of yourself on court and in the gym.
So...how do you reach a "flow" state?
It doesn't happen overnight. And it doesn't happen by accident.
In squash or athletics, a flow state can only happen once you have worked hard at the skills and techniques you are trying to master. You create good habits, that hold up under pressure. There may be some "bumps" in the match, but you are confident that you're on the right path, and don't let the negative thoughts infiltrate too deeply.
Similar principles apply to daily life. If you work hard and consistently to create and foster good habits, then results will come a little easier, on and off the court.
Right now you're probably thinking...."Okay, great. I know I need to build some good habits, but WHAT should I be focusing on and HOW should I be going about this?!"
I think there are 3 main areas to focus your time & energy in creating good habits to achieve a flow state in your daily life (and then get the results!):
1. Recovery (stress management, sleep, recovery methods)
I'm putting recovery as #1, because stress is one of the biggest mental-energy-suckers (yes that's a technical term...) that we deal with in our daily life. Chronic stress can leave you feeling unmotivated, sometimes depressed, and therefore less likely to conquer your training.
As much as I'd love to have a magic wand for you to wave and instantly decrease your work or family-related stress, I cannot, BUT there are strategies you can implement to help manage that stress better. Sleeping more, having dedicated "alone" silent time, and getting regular massages are a few of the strategies I use on a regular basis to keep myself grounded.
When you are able to decrease or manage your stress levels, you can use that newfound mental energy to get more out of your training!
2. Training (intensity, volume, duration, type)
If you can stop guessing with your training, and have a structured plan, you'll be much more likely to stick with it (be more consistent!) and get results.
Specifically, how hard you train (intensity), the amount of it you do (volume), how long you do it for (duration), and what you do (type), ALL matter when it comes to achieving results. If you can have a plan and get it working for you, you'll feel mentally and physically better!
I think of it as "gym science"...
Smart plan + Good & Consistent Implementation = Results
3. Nutrition (what to eat, and how much?)
Last but not least... nutrition. What we eat plays a HUGE role in how we feel, both physically and mentally. (Ever experienced the post-pasta coma? Or the afternoon sweet-tooth slump?).
When you are able to improve the weak links in your nutrition, you'll find yourself more energy, perhaps less bloating, and probably a much improved mood! All of these benefits increase the chances of you sticking to your workout plan, getting to the gym after work, going the extra mile...need I keep going?
Simple strategies like eating some protein at breakfast, having vegetables by lunchtime, and fuelling workouts with complex carbs are just 3 strategies that have made a significant impact to my energy and general sense of well-being. (For instance, I've been able to kick my afternoon sweet-tooth craving, which used to leave me feeling sluggish before an afternoon session).
Putting it all together
When these habits become ingrained, they become as natural as brushing your teeth. What happens when you brush your teeth consistently? You don't get cavities! (Ok, exaggeration, but you see where I'm going here).
My point is, by targeting and consistently working on the habits you need to improve and achieve results, you can create a flow state in your life which is conducive to you actually getting the most out of yourself on court.
If performing well in your training or in your matches is something that's important to you, I recommend choosing maximum one habit to work on from each category (Recovery, Training, Nutrition) and focusing on them for 2-3 weeks. Get old school and write them down on the fridge, or set a reminder in your phone calendar which prompts you at the same time every day.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have some goals you want to achieve, and you feel like you're misaligned and not on the right trajectory, drop me a comment or an email. I'd love to hear from you!