Killer practices, why work hard if flow is a calm state?

Killer practices, why work hard if flow is a calm state?

Push yourself today, to be prepared for tomorrow.

Iowa Wrestling, especially under Dan Gable, is famous for its intense practices. Gable as a competitor was known for his uncanny intensity and toughness. In a 1973 Esquire article, John Irving wrote about “Gorgeous Dan, The almost undefeated life of the world’s best wrestler”:

Dan brought this level of toughness to the Iowa wrestling room after he became coach in 1976. He led the Hawkeyes through wrestling’s most incredible dynasty. From 1978 to 1986, the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title each year, a record nine in succession. His total record in dual meets was 355-21-5 which included 15 NCAA titles and 21 straight Big Ten titles.

Iowa Practices

Check out this workout:

What happens when you get tired?

The best athletes practice and compete in a state of calm and focus. This is never more important than when you’re tired. Fatigue in sports is a very complicated discussion. The doctors at The Science of Sport did an extensive series on fatigue. Highly recommended reading.

For years it was believed that the limits of the body were the driving factors of fatigue. Known as the “Homestatic Limitation” model, below is an image of the model put together by Dr. Tucker and Dr. Dugas.

However, they suggest (based on evidence of athletes slowing down at sub-maximal body temperatures) an “Anticipatory Regulation” model.

In short, Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas suggest that the mind is at the fore-front of how our body reacts to being tired. To me it makes perfect sense that we need to train our mind and get it used to being tired.

Does this kind of intensity have a place in the practices of a grappler with flow? Absolutely!

  • Lungs burning
  • Arms and legs hurting
  • Slowing down
  • Shutting down

How can you maintain focus in this state of mind?

Instead of being “fully immersed in the activity at hand” (the principle definition of flow), you start panicking and you start thinking about how tired you are. You lose concentration on the activity at hand. You lose flow because you’re tired. If you’re not used to being tired, and by tired I mean really and truly exhausted, the panic is that much worse.


So it may seem like the Iowa practices are anything but calm and focused. It looks like these guys are going nuts. But it’s not that simple. They are actually getting themselves used to the state of fatigue. They are practicing being tired. Because the first time you get tired, you panic. But the thousands time you get tired…no big deal.

What I’m getting at is simple: these intense, grueling practices are important because they actually help you stay calm! Next time you are in a match and you feel your lungs burning, you won’t panic, you’ll think “I’ve been here before, I’ve survived” and you’re back to being “fully immersed”.


What’s the most grueling practice you’ve ever been a part of? Tell your story in the comments below.


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