Are you getting into the zone?

mindset the zone Feb 28, 2023

Elite athletes talk a LOT about "the zone."

"I was just really in the zone today."

"Everything was just flowing for me."

But what in the h-e-double-toothpicks is this "zone?" And what does it feel like to be "in flow?"

Performing "in the zone" refers to a state of optimal performance where we are fully focused, energized, and engaged in an activity. This state is often described as feeling "in the flow" or "in the groove."

When we are in the zone, we perform better because we are completely absorbed in our performance, and our actions come effortlessly and naturally. Time seems to pass quickly, distractions are minimized, and we are fully present in the moment.

You've likely experienced this state at various times in your life - in dog sports or some other area. For instance, I can lose all track of time when quilting, something I find incredibly Zen. So we don't always have to be super-energized to be hyper-focused.

Perhaps the more important question is, how do I get there?

We used to accept that getting into the zone "just happened" when everything aligned - in other words, we would hope for it like Santa. But a bunch of researchers have studied this (just Google "flow state" for a fabulous rabbit hole!), and we now know it's a learnable skill.

Here are some tips for getting into the flow state:

  1. Eliminate distractions: Yes, this can be hard to do in a trial environment, BUT try not to check your phone constantly, or take time to just sit by yourself in the car, or listen to music - anything to help you connect to your performance and block out the rest. 
  2. Have process goals: You knew this would come up (ha). Focus on the aspects of your runs that you CAN control - the things you need to do to put you in a good position to Q. 
  3. Do your rituals: Your pre-run routine should help ground you in your performance and help to get you into the right mindset to be fully present and connected to your dog. 
  4. Try music: Often, our energy is either too "up" or too low - this is where music can help. The right music gets you into that "just right" energy level and will also help you focus.
  5. Practice being present: Deep breathing, visualizations, and meditation can all help build the skill of staying in the present moment for longer periods of time - think mental stamina.

Like any mindset skill, you've got to practice (#sorrynotsorry). The goal is to get into the zone with a proverbial snap of our fingers - the results will be addictive!

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