Friday, March 19, 2010

The State Of Flow And How It Is Achieved

This is a great article. Gearing up for Boston I am doing a ton of reading. Thanks Yorke

Some days running just clicks. Running feels effortless and can go on forever with minimal strain. The same workout may be hard on some days, but today it is not. As a distance runner, no matter how hard you run you cannot make yourself hurt. This type of running produces utter joy and bliss. Nearly all runners or athletes have experienced this state, but few can explain or replicate it. This is the state of flow, and is described by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) as the optimal balance between skill and demand. The advantage of experiencing flow is sheer enjoyment, which may also result in increased confidence and love for running. If a runner has the ability to achieve objectives in practice and experience flow, that runner will likely have increased confidence come race day.

Flow can be a difficult state to understand, but Jackson and Marsh (1996) created the Flow State Scale (FSS) in an attempt to measure the existence of flow during an activity. Examining the sub-scales of the FSS, as listed below, allows for a better understanding of what flow really is and how it achieve it in an activity. A runner need not meet all the below criterion to experience a flow state, but the sense of flow will be greatest when all the sub-scales are met to the highest degree.

Action-Awareness Merging: The individual is so deeply involved in the task that action is automatic. The performer does not think about running, but just does it. The runner may even feel machine-like because running feels so smooth and automatic.

Clear Goals: Unambiguous objectives give the runner a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished. For example, a clear workout objective may be to run 10 by a quarter in 65 seconds with 2 minutes rest.

Unambiguous Feedback: The runner receives clear and immediate feedback, which could include a time for the interval or instruction from a coach.

Concentration on the Task at Hand: The runner is completely focused on the task. While running, the performer thinks only about running and not about other aspects of life, or even how much running may hurt at the time. During a state of flow, running does not hurt no matter how great the demands.

Sense of Control: The runner has a clear feeling of control, but does not have to focus on gaining control. It is easy for the runner to power up hills or surge on a competitor without experiencing a feeling of great effort.

Loss of Self-Consciousness: The runner does not think about how they may appear, but is rather focused only on doing the activity. This could also include losing consciousness of the crowd, other competitors, or the scenery.

Transformation of Time: The perception of time may be altered, whereby time either feels as if it slows down or speeds up. The former is more likely to occur in ball sports, while the latter is likely to indicate flow during distance running.

Autotelic Experience: The activity is intrinsically rewarding and is done for its own sake. An individual is likely to find utter joy with the act of running itself, and not have a preoccupation with time or performance against others.

Challenge-Skill Balance: The runner experiences equality between situational challenges and personal skills, especially when challenges and skills are at a high level. Runners are certainly more likely to meet demands with required skills when demands are exceptionally low. For example, Dathan Ritzenhein certainly has the skill to jog at 7:30 pace to recover from a workout if Alberto Salazar asks him to do this. Yet that doesn't mean Dathan will experience the flow state since his skills meet the demands of the workout. The flow state is far more enjoyable when the demands are high. So if Salazar asks Ritz to run an 18 mile tempo run at 5:00 pace and Ritz nails the pace, running more effortlessly than he expects, he will most certainly experience flow.

Flow can be mysterious and difficult to achieve, but there are things that every runner can do to increase the likelihood that they will experience the flow state. The easy way to experience flow is to feel good on every run and to hit each workout, even the most challenging ones, with relative ease. This would be the way to match skill with demands. Yet this is easier said than done. Those that run regularly and train heavily realize that effortless feelings while running at challenging paces are difficult to come by, and even more difficult to explain. It is far easier to change mental focus before and during running to increase the likelihood that you will experience flow. Before you run, drop any preconceived expectations that you will have some phenomenal performance. This lessens the level of challenge and makes it more likely that your physical skills on that day will be able to match the challenge, even if you feel suboptimal. By lessening your focus on performance you will allow yourself to enjoy running for its own sake, thereby increasing the likelihood that you will have an autotelic experience. During the run, be sure to associate rather than dissociate (as discussed in a prior column). This will increase the level of action-awareness merging, concentration on the task at hand, and will promote a loss of self-consciousness. It is difficult to do anything that increases the likelihood that you will experience a transformation of time and this is in fact the most illusive component of flow. Yet if you focus on altering the other components, transformation of time may come. You certainly cannot expect to experience flow on a daily basis if you do these things, but you may increase your chances of achieving the state. But a flow experience may provide a great boost of confidence and may be the most positive emotional state in all of running (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), so it is certainly an experience to strive for.


Monday, March 15, 2010


This is why I ride!

10K Training Tips from the Nike Oregon Project

10K Training Tips from the Nike Oregon Project

February 18, 2010
By Kyle Jones

Last November, a group of Canadian triathletes including two-time Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield, Under-23 National Champion Andrew McCartney and Olympian Lauren Groves took a trip down to Portland, Oregon for a seven-day training camp with American running legend Alberto Salazar. Here’s what they learned, and how you can apply it to your 10K training.

The epicentre of U.S. running, Portland, Oregon is home to Nike’s world headquarters, where some of the best distance runners in the U.S. train under Alberto Salazar, the world-renowned runner turned coach. Salazar has held American track records in 5000m and 10,000m, and won both the New York City and Boston marathons. As a coach, he has helped American athletes like Dathan Ritzenhein and Kara Goucher medal at World Championships events and was instrumental in the creation of the Nike Oregon Project, a high-performance camp for distance runners, aimed at achieving success on the international stage.

Now, Canadians are tapping into some of this knowledge. While most triathletes were either just getting back into training or enjoying a little rest in the early winter, our group decided to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best runners and coaches. In order to be on the podium in London 2012, the men’s Olympic triathletes will have to run in the 29-minute range off the bike. The focus of the camp was simply to immerse ourselves in a fast running environment, soak it up and learn as much as possible to improve our running speed.
Here’s what we did, and how runners at any level can work on their 10K training:
The Nike campus included a massive grass field the size of two football fields - an ideal spot for doing drills, strides and interval workouts - and a 3K woodchip trail that weaves its way in and around the campus - a perfect loop for warming up or cooling down from a workout.
The Grass Field Workout:

The highlight of the camp was doing an interval workout on the grass field.
The workout: 12×300m focusing entirely on proper running form, and of course staying out of the way of Galen Rupp (27:33 10K) and Dathan Ritzenhein (12:56 5K and bronze medallist in the 2009 World Half-Marathon Championships).
Salazar’s feedback: Getting feedback from Salazar was truly priceless. His passion for the sport shines through when he explains the technical aspects of running.
The Build Run:

Another key workout that stood out was a build run we did with Oregon Project coach Jerry Schumacher and his group of athletes that includes Canadian Simon Bairu, who not long after the camp raced to a dominant victory at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships.
Much like Salazar, Schumacher has a natural and simple way of doing things. After a short warmup we ratcheted up the pace to a moderate intensity level. With impressive smoothness, the runners hit pace times to the second as we knocked off the kilometres on the rolling 5.5K loop. The weather was bad, but no one complained. Simon Bairu, Evan Jager and Tim Nelson put their heads down and shared the lead for one another into the strong headwind as Simon Whitfield and I tucked in and got sucked along in the pouring rain.
Schumacher rode his bike beside the group, giving feedback and cues. Distance running is all about being patient, he told us. The message was clear early on - stay relaxed and “don’t press.” In other words, don’t push until you have to.
Whitfield and I completed 13.6K, while the rest of the guys continued on to run a total of 28K, finishing at under 5:00/mile pace.
Both Salazar and Schumacher’s groups had guys that race anywhere from the mile to the marathon, and although there were individual variations, they all completed a very similar series of key workouts each week.
Below are some of the key workouts that we took away from our camp and will use to improve our 10K run times. These workouts can be used for anyone who is looking to complete a road race ranging from the 5K to the marathon.
Specific Workout Tips:

Build or tempo run: After a 10-20-minute warmup, try to put in at least 30 minutes of work at just under your threshold and slightly slower than your goal race pace. These workouts are key to boosting your fitness and are good race simulations. This is also a good time to test out pre-race meals and the apparel and shoes you’ll use on race day. Finish with a 10-15-minute easy cool-down.
Focus on the footstrike: Most of the tips we got from Salazar and Schumacher related to the footstrike. They spent a lot of time working on decreasing the support time, that is; the time the foot spends in contact with the ground.
Running economy: The group worked on increasing stride frequency while keeping the upper body relaxed, as a way to improve running economy.
Interval run: (800m-2K repeats). This workout can be done on the track, but you can follow the Oregon Project’s lead and use a grass field. Look for a large enough loop of at least one minute of running. The softer surface is easier on the joints compared to running on the roads, which is key to avoiding injury, especially if you’re putting in lots of miles on the road in preparation for your next race. For 10K training a good example of an interval workout would be 8 x 1K with a full recovery rest.
Hill repeats (8-10). Try to find a hill in your neighbourhood, anywhere from 150-200 metres, or about 40 seconds of running. Run each rep at a fairly quick pace, focusing on quick turnover. Walk or jog slowly down to recover for the next rep.
Strength training: Aside from running, the Oregon Project runners also complete 2-4 strength and conditioning sessions each week. Each session consists of anything from plyometrics, to core work, to weights - working the whole body.
Go easy: On easy days don’t be afraid to run easy. Take the time to focus on your form.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bike Fit 101

I have received a few email regarding bike fitting from clients and what I think in the matter. In my opinion you can have the best bike in the world but if it isn't set up correctly then you will
A) Be super uncomfortable
B) Probably get an injury of some sort
C) Be wasting a lot of energy, which in turn wastes watts and time
D) Will be unmotivated to ride!

Back in 2006 I did my first triathlon, not knowing anything about bikes and got a Giant TCR, aluminum, no race wheels, and no special helmet. Actually think it was a bell. I talked with a guy at a local bike shop and he just told me to get fitted, don't worry about the flash. I took his advice and got a full fit done on my bike. For most people who don't know me I jumped into a 70.3 Event for my first triathlon and in that race my 90km bike time was 2:24:52. Not to shabby for a guy who just got onto a bike. From that point on every bike I got was fitted and dialed in.

Now to the present. 2010 I am now a pro and have all the flashy equipment. Aero Helmet, check, Race Wheels, check, Aero bottles check, but I still go back and make sure my bike fit is dialed in. They now have a system out called RETUL and the purpose is to check out hip angles, pressure on elbows in the aero position and to see if they can sneak out as many watts as they can well keeping comfort! In doing so I put down one of my fastest splits in a 70.3 race, which was 2:12:13, which is averaging 41km/h for 90km.

As you can see from the pictures, bikes keeping getting more flashy but bike fit remains the same! If you need anymore information send me an email or post a comment!