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In The Zone

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In The Zone :

This is something you may have experienced in your life, especially if you are a cyclist. There are many names for being in a state where your focus narrows and you seem to be able to do anything you want to. The Zone, Lights Out, Feeling It, Going with The Flow, all of these are names for an often sought after but difficult to find that way of being that especially applies to sports.

When in competitive situations, athletes in The Zone say that time slows down, they can feel and observe things more clearly, and feats that normally cannot be done are seemingly easy. A pitcher pitching a perfect game, a striker scoring a game-winning goal against all odds or a golfer who is in tune with the golf course and the swing.

If you bike on a regular basis, you may know some form of The Zone.

Famous researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book in 1990 called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which detailed what it felt like to be in The Zone and how to get there more often. He defines it this way: “…we have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be.”

As a cyclist, you have access to this with every ride. Whether you reach that depends on several factors, but the more you can get there, the more you will get out of your ride, both physically and mentally. And if you have never felt what it is like, follow a few of these steps and you will find yourself if not in Flow, then at least in a better state for attempting it.

First, you must be in a physical state that can support full mental immersion. This means that if you struggle just to keep up a reasonable pace or cadence, you will not experience Flow as easily. So start by getting consistent in your rides so you can maintain a challenging but obtainable pace for a while. This will open your body up to the experience of flow rather than resist it.

Next, you need to be in a naturally open mental state. In other words, let go of any distractions that may keep your mind pre-occupied. Escape into your ride and let the wind, road, and rhythm of your stroke take over. Allow nothing to get in the way of the entire experience of riding.

Typically The Zone happens when in spite of challenge or stress, you are able to relax. So, put enough of a challenge in front of you to require complete focus but not enough to make you struggle. The more you can be confident, poised, and relaxed, the more easily you will experience Flow. Pretend that you are racing the Tour de France. Imagine your biggest competitor is catching you from behind with just miles to go. Or imagine you have a crowd watching you. Any of these can help you to up your game. Once you begin to take on the challenge, try to relax.

You will know it when you feel it, as it stays with you. And it makes you want to do it again and again and again. And each time, you are increasing your capacity to do more work and accomplish more, whether it’s riding longer or faster or taking on hills previously thought too difficult. The gateway to higher performance is Flow, and the way to reach Flow is through focus and being calm.
So challenge yourself on your next ride to reach The Zone, feel The Flow, and see if it makes your rides more productive and enjoyable.

About the Author Ian

Ian is the Chief editor here at OnlineBikesShop, a reformed Cycle Traveler… now a dedicated stay-at-home dad of a very active 3 yr old, a keen mountain biker with a passion for all types of bikes, the outdoors, and keeping fit…

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