The condition of flow, a state of grace

What happens to the perception of a sportsman when he enters into that state of trance in which time, space and action lose absoluteness and assume the sense of a totally intimate and personal experience? The “flow” in psychology explains it.
Particularly intense moments happen in life when time and space stop being absolute categories, everything seems to turn in unison and things go exactly as they should go. Being is as if it is kidnapped, and enters a state of trance in which actions seem to disregard the rational control of consciousness. The concentration is maximum, body and mind live an osmotic equilibrium so the psyche, totally focused on the objective, guides the limbs in the performance of each task. This state of ecstasy is what science calls flow.
Flow is an interdisciplinary concept that extends to art and creative activities, games and sports, religion and interpersonal relationships. It has been previously been told by poets and writers, however flow was formally theorized only in recent times, in 1975, thanks to the work of psychologist Mihàly Csikszentmihaly. According to his words, the flow is defined as a state of consciousness in which the person is completely immersed in what he is doing; it is a mental and physical condition characterised by the total involvement of the individual and based on three variables: focus, motivation and gratification of the act.
Flow is the inspiration that guides the process of artistic creation, it is the essence of zen in the practice of meditation, and it is the invisible hand that supports athletes in optimal performance. Sports jargon speaks of "zone" or, often, of competitive trance. The athlete is in the flow when he reaches, not even he knows how, the maximum expressive result, the optimal performance.

I was in pole position and had at least two seconds ahead of everyone when I realized that I wasn't aware of how I was driving myself. I followed the instinct and continued to go, without any sense of limit. All of a sudden I realised that I was catapulted into another dimension and was afraid. My first reaction at that point was to slow down and return to the pits

Thus Ayrton Senna describes the state of competitive trance achieved during the qualifying session of the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, an episode that someone has come to indicate as "the fastest lap ever". In the pilot's head a single imperative resounded, driving to the maximum, while everything else was excluded from his perception, including the sense of limit and fear of danger.

I am not afraid of making mistakes

Skill, method and concentration skills are the characteristics of the champion; as well as the qualities with which Bela Kaloryi recalls her young pupil Nadia Comaneci, the child prodigy of artistic gymnastics, the little girl champion who has gone down in history to be the youngest athlete ever to win an Olympic title. Montreal, 1976. Nadia was 14 years old, 8 months and six days old; fringed on her eyes, a white and red ribbon to collect her hair in a ponytail, and number 73 stamped on the back of the iconic Adidas body of white lycra. Measuring 162 cm and 45 kg, hands and feet marked by magnesium that absorbs sweat and improves the adhesion on the wood of beams and parallel beams, she wins the first of a long series of gold in artistic gymnastics.
Nadia Comaneci's memorable performance at the twenty-first Olympic Games is unquestionably one of the highest moments in the history of sport. Balancing on the beam, swinging to the parallels and free body gymnastics: the same routine that Nadia has been performing for years and that she herself, remembering the day when her life changed forever, defines as nothing special: “I didn't seem to have done the perfect exercise, I had tried it so many times that I knew I could do it even better.”
Yet the little communist who never smiled - paraphrasing the title of the novel by the writer Lola Lafon's biographical novel - tilt the electronic systems that counted the scores.
The scoreboards of the time, in fact, do not include double-digit numbers, because no jury would ever have taken responsibility for judging an exhibition with vote 10. How much humility and modesty in the words of Nadia who, in fact, spoke little and rarely smiled and, commenting on her victory, declared that she was simply happy. Only a few years later she will find words to rework the experience she lived in Montreal. Nadia, at the time, didn't know she was destined to become a myth; she just wanted to do gymnastics and, when she trained with her teacher, when she performed in front of huge crowds, her thinking was entirely focused on the skill of the movement.
Nadia Comaneci, like Ayrton Senna, entered the area. All concentrated on motions, vaults, landings, flew the time and became a unique vacuum with space. In his head there were no watches or scores, there was only the importance of performing a perfect routine.

10 is not maximum

The fabric of the sample is all in personality. The noble and brave souls are constantly questioned, they are never self-paid, never satisfied with the effort, never definitively enthusiastic about performance. It is as if they were not able to recognize the privilege of being privileged, of having the merit of possessing that skill that distinguishes them from the average of competitors. Probably because they know that this is not a divine gift and that a great result is obtained with a great sacrifice. The peak performance, the optimal performance, depends on a series of essential factors: the intensity of the effort, the mastery of self and the control of the discipline to acquire the technique, combined with the ability to remain focused on the goal to identify completely in the action that is taking place.

Movement is art and our body is the instrument. #trainyourdream

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Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10 at the Montreal Olympics represents the quintessence of artistic gymnastics. And his humbleness without posture is the same basic humility that we read in the eyes of Francesco Totti, the Captain of Magic, the Roma who never betrayed and who, when he left, cried. Francesco Totti, whether it's case or cabala, wears the number 10 jersey. Like Pele, the small and modest King of football, the footballer of the century who in the field transfigured in the flow, leaving everyone open-mouthed.
“It was a kind of euphoria. I could have run all day long without getting tired, I felt that I could have dribbled past every opponent, passing through him. I felt immortal. It was a very strange feeling, which I had never experienced before. As if I were so sure of what I was doing that I felt invincible.”
This is how the Brazilian described his way of being in the area, the competitive trance in which time, space and action have a totally personal sense.
Faced with such mastery, even numbers lose their absolute value. Ten is not the maximum; for someone, for example, the maximum is 13. Thirteen steps were enough for Edwin Moses to burn the distance between one obstacle and the other in the 400 meters to obstacles, discipline that saw him champion tireless for 9 years 9 months and 9 days when, after 178 victories out of 187 races, for the first time won nothing. It was 4 June 1987, a retort day.

If your bad day coincides with the wrong day to be, you're out of the game. You have to be in perfect shape on the right day, the[Olympics] that happens every 4 years, after hours and hours of training, the moment that knows no alternative or contemplates the possibility of replication. Perform the best performance at the right time: this is the definition of a sample in flow state.

Tactics, strategy, sense of rhythm and space. The 400 meters of obstacles are otherwise called Mankiller Event and many sportsmen consider it one of the toughest disciplines because, after each jump, those 35 meters seem to be miles that leave no margin for too many experiments: in order not to fall on the track, you have to stay in the flow space.

Paranormal phenomena. And paralympics.

Edwin Moses is very tall, his physicality is ideal for obstacle racing and his absolute elegance in jumping is the proof of this. If we wanted to say this in the words of journalist David Epstein, author of "The Sports Gene", we would describe it as the perfect result of that natural selection mechanism - The Big Bang of Body Types - that realizes that kind of evolutionary leap that has redefined the shape of the body, and has "created" highly specialized ones for a certain type of sport. Having talent and being in the area, in the case of Edwin Moses - and Ethiopian sprinters, for example - adds quality to the quality.
The body, especially for the athlete, is cross and delight, is the medium and the limit, the glory and sacrifice, the prize and punishment. Professional athletes all have an expiry date. When Nadia Comaneci starts to become more of a woman physically and fill out she realizes that it's time to retire. In the public there is a sort of anger, contempt, and shame about that transformation, and this despite her continuing to win - Lola Lafon writes. There is a critical accent in the author's words, stressing how this kind of media violence was nothing more than the pre-litteram manifestation of the widespread instrumentalisation of the female body, functional in confirming that women, whatever their results, are always victims of aesthetic judgment. But women, especially sportsmen and women, don't care a great deal.

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The flow does not know sexual genre even though it is obvious that when the body no longer responds to commands, a problem is generated. The same problem that arises a priori to those living with a disability. Esther Vergeer, Paralympic tennis champion, didn't even want to believe it at first. Then she simply gave body and soul to what she liked most, to the sport that gave her maximum satisfaction and gratification. Like others in its own situation, she has managed to transform the deficit into a resource, the handicap into added value. Her secret is the same as Bebe Vio, the national icon of Yes, we can: determination, self-mastery, abnegation to the cause. What is more, they are only the keys to access the mystical zone of the competitive trance.

And, therefore, what do all these stories teach us? Bottom line is one thing: the only limit is ourselves and the psychological resistance that does not allow us to transfigure to the area where everything is possible.

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