My Off-Season: Mixed Musings on Flow & Preparation

by | November 2, 2012, 12:40pm 0

Engine45's Dave Marsala handblocks a Flycoons player. (Photo by John King)

Chances are you’re like me and you didn’t go to Sarasota last weekend. And that sucked.

It’s been four weeks since our (Engine45’s) disappointing Regionals loss and, frankly, it still turns my stomach to think about. The Northwest had just one bid to the Club Championships and we were certain our team would take it. Having beaten three of the teams who went to Sarasota last weekend (and sincerely, huge congrats to all) we felt a bit slighted. That does not explain our loss on universe point in quarters. Quarters. Ugh.

It was my first time experiencing Sports Heartbreak™ and it came on stronger than I had expected. The intensity of the feeling was overwhelming. You likely know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t—well, I hope someday you do.

It should be mentioned here that this was my first season playing elite Mixed ultimate. It was the best and most difficult five months of my life—battling injury, heat exhaustion, food poisoning, and the infamous Jump Runs—but I wouldn’t trade it for a damn thing. We all play ultimate for the pain and pleasure, and to lose ourselves in the flow. I was watching a documentary the other night called “Happy” and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was talking about what brought on feelings of pure happiness and euphoria. He described it as Flow. Flow is when we are in a pure meditative state; we lose ourselves while doing physical activity. In the Zone is another way to put it. This is a well researched and documented phenomenon and if you play ultimate, you understand. This season I felt the flow and while I was in love with Ultimate before, I’m a goner now.

And now that the season is over I set my sights on 2013.

Sort of.

Engine45 takes on the Polar Bears. (Photo by Rik Myslewski)

Let’s be honest, how many of us have drawn up a comprehensive workout plan? My Regionals sheets have yet to cool. I feel like I’ve been broken up with and I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong. Plus my body hurts. With a tenaciously deep ankle sprain, pinched sciatic nerve, and jammed finger, I don’t know if I’m physically ready to hit the gym yet. But then I think about that red head on Polar Bears…ol’ what’s-her-name. I think about her beautiful mark. And I think, “I will beat her.” And that gets me going. Lisa Pitcaithley, I’m coming for you.

So in this off-season I have five simple rules:

  1. Give yourself a break! Ample time to heal is essential to coming out strong in April.
  2. Do something physical a few times a week to remind your body that you’re an athlete. Start slow and measured, letting your body recover. Then begin to ramp it up in January.
  3. Aim to go to a fun tournament once a month until April.
  4. Mental F***ing Toughness: Visualize where you want to be by try-outs. Aim to beat where you were last year. Set goals. Beat your shuttle run time. Beat your 50m, your 100m. Ben Wiggins once said, “Preparation is the process of maximizing the consistency and reliability of your talent.” I have this posted in my cubicle.
  5. Don’t neglect your teammates. They were your support for half the year and will continue to push you in the off-season. My greatest inspiration comes from my teammates, both men and women.

This is the weirdest time of year for competitive ultimate players, no matter the division. Our focus is scattered, our bodies are fighting to repair themselves, and winter is coming. Take a breath, take a break, and then take charge. And never forget that this community is the best damn thing on the whole planet and respect, camaraderie, and hard work are the three key ingredients for a happy ultimate life.

Feature photo by Rik Myslewski

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