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Dancing across the landscape: the bliss of flow states

SuuntoRun — 20 juni 2019

Ultra running champion Lucy Bartholomew shares her three principles of peak flow experiences, including the one potential downside.

© Martina Valmassoi

Running for nearly a full revolution of the Earth brings up a whole palette of emotions and experiences. Elation, pain, resistance, boredom, wonder, blankness – repeat.

Suunto ambassador and Australian ultra runner Lucy Bartholomew has experienced the full range. One of the things that keeps her going are the incredible flow states she has experienced while running against the sun.

“The best way I can describe this feeling is like meditation,” she says. “It’s a state where there is no energy being exhausted and it’s a state of flow where you move, but time feels like it stands still. It’s hard to explain until you find it yourself.”

Lucy is currently preparing for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. In last year's race, she unconsciously entered into a flow state, losing track of time. At one point she thought she had a very long way to go, and then in what seemed like moments later, most of the course was behind her. “It was like I was watching myself dance over the terrain and all I could think was, ‘I could do this all day’,” she says.

© Martina Valmassoi

Lucy’s three rules of flow

You can’t control it

As seductive and blissful as flow states are, Lucy doesn’t expect to experience them. She has no control of when they come and go. When they come, great, when they go, she remains detached. “They are part of the beautiful adventure of running and I just let them come and go as they do; like good moments and bad moments, you realise that nothing last forever,” she says.

Don’t chase it

Having a detached attitude is important because chasing flow states simply chases them away, Lucy says. Being present, happy and calm is her focus, which is the right mental state for a flow state to emerge from. And while she doesn’t chase them, they do support her running performance. “Especially in the longer stuff I think they provide a time where it feels effortless and wonderful,” she explains. “They give you confidence and reassurance that body and mind are comfortable”

Flow is not an excuse to space out

One potential downside of flow states is becoming so thoroughly immersed in the moment that you forget to take care of the basics. “During these moments I tend to forget about fuelling and pacing,” Lucy explains. “I run with blissful unawareness of what’s ahead because it’s all about focusing on the ‘now’. But when that moment passes, the reality of what you have got yourself into can hit you really hard.” While tasting the bliss of flow, make sure you remember to take care of the basics.

Lead images:

© Damien Rosso / Droz Photo 

© Martina Valmassoi

Click below to read the articles in our series on flow:

Finding the flow 

7 principles to help you find the flow