Is your workout a ‘flow experience’?

Flow Experience

“Get into your zone!” It might be overused, but I say this phrase at least 10 times a day.  A great challenge for the body begins with the mind and by encouraging a deep breath and brief moment to get into ‘flow’ or ‘peak state’, my personal training clients accomplish great feats that change their fitness, their physique and their lives.

Flow is the ‘mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity’.

Flow is a concept proposed by prominent ‘positive’ psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who contends that people experience happiness not as relationship to their material well being, but by spending their life doing things for which they don’t expect either fame or fortune, but which make their life meaningful and worth doing.

Csikszentmihalyi speaks of the ‘flow experience’ that drives creativity in artists, poets, musicians, athletic performance and even CEO’s. Does this apply to fitness also? Can we enjoy a ‘flow experience” from our workouts? Absolutely!

Here are seven of Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘conditions that accompany an experience of flow’ applied to your workouts.  May you be blissfully happy!

Intense focus

Become completely involved in what you are doing. Fully dedicate your time and attention to your workouts. No cell phones, no pots bubbling on the stove, no Oprah Winfrey on the TV.

Sense of ecstasy

Enjoy a sense of being outside every day reality, of being away from the routines of life, of eating, and dressing, of ringing phones, and the obligation to communicate.

Sense of inner clarity

Know what needs to be done and pay attention to immediate feedback on how well you are doing. Set your goal, see your endpoint, set your benchmarks and your indicators of success.

Knowledge of possibility

A challenging task paired with the knowledge that your skills are adequate to the task is necessary. The breathing rate must be elevated, the muscles must be burning, sweat is dripping, however there is no doubt you will succeed. A challenge that is too simple creates boredom and we slip out of flow.

Sense of serenity

Absent are worries about the self. You enjoy a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego. You become free from what people think and of your roles and identities, just move.


The sense of time disappears and hours seem to pass by in minutes. When you have no recollection of the last 10 blocks you ran, the 200 stairs you just climbed or the entire playlist you just listened to, you just had a flow experience.

Intrinsic motivation

When what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake, it becomes its own reward. When pounds lost, dress sizes dropped or total chin-ups performed no longer matter, your workout has become the reward.



Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (2004, July 22). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2009, from


More on Flow

Awaken the giant within, by Anthony Robbins

For great discussion on reaching your ‘peak state’.

TED Talks

Watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speak on flow



Books on flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly




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