10 Commandments of Flow in Sports for Runners


– Your Mental Skills Guideline to the Finish Line Faster than Ever

You’re training for the next marathon and are coming to the realization the importance of mental skills training. Some scholars as well as athletes have argued that it can influence up to 90% or more of the competition. But, how do you train the mental game? Much of your success runs (could not help but deliver this pun) within your ears.  The most successful runners spend time training not only their physical skills but also their mental skills. We all want to be in flow – the state in which you are firing on all cylinders. This article is designed to inspire you to work on this very precise topic. Without further due: the 10 commandments of flow in sports for runners. To be clear, this is not something that you can have but rather the mindset that you must have.

Commandment #1: Be 100% positive

  No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, you must be 100% positive.  Even if you did not perform as well as you think you should have, look at the positives. You are healthy, you can rebound and you will train to become better, faster and even stronger. Perhaps, this can be a good opportunity to feel what it is like NOT to be #1 so that when you surpass your best results then you’ll know both feelings. This will surely motivate you to work harder and focus on the positives. Enjoy the trail, the surroundings and gain a deeper satisfaction in knowing that you are doing everything possible in order to take your game to the next level. The difference between can’t and can is one letter. Similarly, the difference between your best run and your next one can be a slight adjustment in your mental skills – one that is more positive in which you interpret challenges as opportunities, setbacks as temporary roadblocks and slumps as a curve that will leapfrog you towards success. When the trail gets hard, this is when you work harder. It’s easy to be 70 or 80% positive but what about striving to be 90% positive.  What really separates the best runners are those that can be 100% positive. It is worth repeating, 100% positive. No exceptions and no excuses.

Commandment #2: Focus on the Process and the Results with Come

  There is nothing worse than doing everything right but still not performing up to your own high expectation. The immediate knee – jerk reaction is to start from scratch and start all over again. Before you do that, look carefully at the process and not the results. Staying in the moment, being mentally tough, being persistent are key. Staying committed to your sport is the essential ingredient towards excellence. Continuing to train and work hard begins the very moment after the last marathon. It might begin with some of the sports psychology exercises outlined here and will surely lead to being more determined and even more disciplined in your approach of your sport. Avoid goals of time and placement. Replace it with enjoying your next training session. List 10 other process oriented tasks that will lead you to the podium. Quick start, strong finish, and a relentless desire to excel are good examples. Find 10 others. You should then create an auto-evaluation grid in which you compare your most successful performance to the one you just did. For example, if during an ideal performance state or when you were in flow the mental skill of confidence was 95% and upon reflection you were 75% confident during your last run, the goal is to get you 20% more confident the next time. May I suggest to create a confidence CV whereby you list the most successful competitions or events that you excelled in so that it can serve as a reminder tool.

Commandment #3: There is no I in Team

   Although running seems like an individual sport to many, you can contribute to the greater society in more ways than one. Perhaps donate your older shoes for others to take up the sport. Offer yourself as a guest speaker to your local club and offer a few words of encouragement to younger aspiring runners. Follow up a month later and see how they are doing. Do some face-time so that this contribution is not only through email or phone correspondence. Lend a helping hand and volunteer. Donate whatever you can. We often forget those who donate the most enjoy it because it actually offers a great satisfaction to the donor. Thereafter, check-in to see your donations and how it has created an impact onto others.

Commandment #4: Demonstrate Resilience Towards Adversity

   How many times has the most successful business owners, politicians and great inventors failed before being “successful”. Runners are no different. Understand that resilience is learned and is a trait of the most successful people and athletes. It’s your ability to shield negative influences and rise to the occasion. Exercise your flexibility. If you have not reached your goals as soon as you wanted, then make some adjustments and continue trotting towards your objectives. What is paramount is that you are learning from your mistakes. The tricky part is to accurately pair up your behavior and the results in distinguishing what is working and what is not.

Commandment #5: Be Professional and Ask Yourself the Right Questions

   Being professional means taking responsibility for your actions. No need to tell everyone your peaks and valleys. Stay humble in your success and understand that poor results are only a temporary setback. Even if you did not place as high as you wanted, ask yourself the right questions. What did you learn from this race? What can you do better? The answer surely lies within you. What went well? What needs improving? What is the difference your best run and one of your worst? You might notice that you were more focused, optimistic, had better training and or other circumstances led to a better performance. The key is to mimic the good ingredients and to slightly modify the poor ingredients so that your recipe of success gets you to the finish line faster. The fact that you are reading this article is a great step in the right direction because you may realize that building your mental skills is an art in itself. It takes time and effort. Precisely, mental effort. However, this is the path in which you are working on your mental skills. The question is are you setting aside a daily or at the very least a weekly block of time to work on your mental skills?

Commandment #6: Be Committed to Excellence While Exuding Passion

  While many of your peers may be going to their 9-5 jobs, your schedule is different. It starts earlier and ends later. It is more demanding and requires much more discipline. At times, the steep can feel unbearable. However, stay the course. Continue to log the hours. Keep in mind the 10,000 hours of practice rule (google it). With all this experience, you can be considered an expert in your field. Imagine not only working in the field but smiling at the same time. Enjoy the run. Relish the moment. Truly, absorb yourself in your situation and allow yourself to be happy along the way. Your fellow runners will surely appreciate that you are in this field for the long haul and not just for a year or two.

Commandment #7: Understand Your Responsibility and be Accountable

  So you missed your latest workout, had some cheat food or just not feeling it right now.  What to do? Certainty, every action has a consequence. Also keep in mind, every non-action also has a consequence. This commandment reminds you that you have a responsibility – a purpose in each practice, run and marathon. Understand your why. Why are you running? What is your goal and avoid the answer of beating your best time or striving to place a certain number. These are all outcome goals and it is imperative that you focus on the deeper reason as to why you are running. It is good to run to have fun. It is better to do it for the enjoyment it provides. Get into more depth. Provide details. Define your cause. Being inspired and competing in honor of someone can surely provide a short-term boost but the focus should be in the long run. Many of the top athletes know what they do, how they do it but why? Understand your why. Look at the classic Simon Senik Ted Talk to get you thinking of why you begin each day training and running.

Commandment #8: Believe in Your Goals and Be Optimistic

  Believing in your sport can spread into a wide spectrum. On the one hand, you might truly believe beyond a shadow of a doubt in all your efforts and work. However, you may also have doubt. You probably are somewhere in between but the idea is to develop and cultivate this belief. There are many good and bad things that are happening to you along the way to get the famous “runner’s high”. A good thing can be an event that leads towards success such as you are feeling pumped up for a practice or the race. In contrast, a bad thing is an event that produces the opposite reaction such as you are feeling sore or you had a bad training day. Realize that good things can last a long time and bad things last a short period of time. Good things should affect many areas of your life (practice field, work realm, family life etc.) while bad things should affect few. Take responsibility for good things while blame or find a reason as to why things did not go your way. Optimistic people live longer and are more successful in their sport.  No doubt, a sense of realism is required as we simply cannot blame someone or something every time something goes wrong.

Commandment #9: Follow Instructions, Learn from a Combination of a) Experience, b) Others and c) Mistakes While Staying the Course Despite Distractions and Setbacks.

  This one is a shoe full or should I say a mouthful. Instructions you are receiving may be from a variety of expert sources in the field: a dietitian, a physical conditioning coach and of course a sports psychology coach. Don’t just do some of the exercises. Do them all! Imagine you took a binder with loose leaf and did all the exercises outlined in this article? If your coach gives you instructions, follow them religiously. Be open and embrace change. Despite the myriad distractions available, zoom in on your goals and don’t let anyone else or anything change your mind. A setback should be viewed as merely a pebble on the road in which you will crush with your feet.

Commandment #10: Build Your Own Commandment

  This is your time to think about one of the commandments that you live and die by. What values do you cherish? What would you recommend? How will you phrase this commandment? Look over the first nine and see which gaps I have left in your success to be the fastest runner possible. Enjoy it. I am positive you can do it.

If you are enjoying the commandments, I have built a course which further solidifies your understanding of these pillars of excellence. I invite you to look for them at www.flowinsports.com/courses . Anyone who wants to enroll in a course can do so for free until the end of 2015 for free. Simply mention this article. In addition, the commandments were discussed on a radio with Dr. Syd Miller a leader in the psychiatric field in Montreal, Canada. The title of the show had to do with Olympic mindset. To listen to the entire show, click here and look for the radio interview.

Coach Doron is a sports psychology coach and entrepreneur at Flow in Sports (www.flowinsports.com).  For more information, you can contact him at 514-963-FLOW, toll free 1877-778-FLOW (3569) or email info@flowinsports.com

By Coach Doron

Coach Doron is a sports psychology coach who helps athletes improve their mental skills.

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