How To get In The Zone In Athletics

How To Get In The Zone In Athletics

The ZONE, Flow, Peak Performance….

Ahhhh. It’s a magical, zen like place where everything goes right, we can’t miss, time stands still, and most importantly, in that moment- we are IN THE MOMENT.

I’ve been in a zone twice in my entire life that I can accurately remember.  T   W   I   C   E ! ! !

1) The first was while living in Philadelphia getting my Masters degree and needing to get a run in late at night. It was 9:30 PM and I ran like Forrest Gump. It felt like there was no ground underneath me, I was moving that fast. It was just 5 miles, but it actually brought me to tears about how good it felt. 

2) A second instance was when I first shot 2 under par for 9-holes. I simply could do no wrong. It was bliss. Although these two instances shed no light to me on how to get in the zone in athletics. More research was needed. 

Then, I was in that place again recently. Only 15 years later….

It was an easy 6-mile training run, but my legs were sore and tired. However, immediately when I began on the trail, it started to pour down rain. I LOVE running in the rain (until my shoes get too heavy). 

This rain fell just like in the movie The Notebook, although, there was no Rachel McAdams present. 

I’m not sure what took place except, this rain cleansed my soul and I was energized, refreshed, and in the moment….

It was wonderful! I was in a zone… for a moment.

My mind often gets in it’s own way because I started thinking “wow, I feel so awesome” I can’t wait to write about this. And that action of thinking about thinking slowly brought me out of that trance like state and while my run was still great, I was no longer immersed and in flow.

How To Get In The Zone in Athletics 

A difficulty is that it is such a transient space, a fleeting moment. It is nirvana, paradise, a utopia in our own mind. It is such much more than just performing well or enjoying it. It transcends

Hopefully, we’ve all been there. Maybe it was a passive experience, like at a concert, a movie, or anytime when we lost track of anything else. 

But, the greatest part is when we are the one’s doing an activity. 

Any creative endeavor can lead itself to being in a zone, Musicians, artists, actors, writers and athletes are all creatives that can get to this place because they are immersed into their own world. These activities BEG us to be here and present. 

However, the recipe for how to get in the zone in athletics is simple

You have to have high skill and a high challenge. If any of these are off, then it won’t happen. You’ll either get anxious or bored.  But, the mental part of a zone experience is that we need to stay in the moment. 

8 Simple Ways To Stay In The Moment 

One huge hinderance…

Sadly, since I’ve been in that place 2 1/2 times, I can certainly share what prevents us from how to get into a zone in athletics. 

Each of our chosen activities and challenge brings forth a host of distractions. There is no greater obstacle in which we all succumb to the dreadful EXPECTATIONS. 

Today’s expectations turn into tomorrow’s resentments. 

Unfortunately, we already have a preconceived idea about how our performance is supposed to go and that alone is enough to keep us from the moment. 

  • An expectation about a time we are supposed to achieve.

  • An expectation about our score. 

  • A comparison with other people performing. 

  • Thinking about what others think about us. 

  • A mistake or mess-up.

  • Any thoughts about results or outcome.

  • High stress level or being anxious about the unknown heading into a performance.

A costly drawback is simply any expectation that we have about ourselves or situation. It causes us to get stuck inside of our own head and not fully immersed into our activity. 

A harder attempt on how to get in the zone in athletics will often result in a futile search for the holy grail.

It will leave you frustrated, confused, and dumbfounded.

A simpler approach is staying in an actual moment and practicing it. We play like we train! Although it’s a magical place to be, a far tougher challenge is being able to gut, grind and find a way to comeback when we do not have it that day. 

That’s true mental toughness

Or just wait for it to rain and allow it to wash away any expectations. 


dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes. Some clients have included three different winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. 

How To get In The Zone In Athletics