FHITpro, Carlos Davila, is not only knowledgable about the body, but also about the mind. He's earned his bachelor's degree in forensic psychology, his master's degree in developmental psychology, and is working towards his PhD in sports psychology. Carlos currently teaches as an adjunct professor of psychology at John Jay College and a sports psychology professor at LIU Brooklyn. Read on to get your first lesson from Professor 'Los about the psychology going on in your mind while you're getting your FHIX.
One of the questions I am often asked as a Fhitting Room instructor is “Why are people so committed to this type of training?” The first response is “Duh, because we have the best instructors, great programming and bangin’ beats.” However, putting my FHITpro ego aside and the obvious impact High Intensity Interval Training has on all levels of fitness, I wanted to dig deeper to find some possible psychological reasons people want and need to get their FHIX.
As a developmental psychologist, and budding sports psychologist, I researched the science behind what makes a FHIXer tick. I found a theory that clearly breaks down what FHIXers get from taking these kick-ass classes. FLOW is a theory created by Csikzentmihalyi (1990) and is described as a form of “optimal human functioning…[facilitated by a] balance among focus, enjoyment, challenges of competitive sport and skill.”
These “flow states” lead to positive, euphoric, and intrinsically motivated experience of events. One of the things I often hear after class, when my co-instructor and I are chatting with FHIXers, is how hard that class was but also how great the FHIXer felt after having taken the class. How would FLOW explain this?
There are nine components to FLOW, and applying these concepts to the format of a class at The Fhitting Room sheds some interesting light on why FHIXers are as consistent and committed as they are.
1. Challenge/Skills Balance—We inherently need to be challenged, but within the framework of our current skill set. TFR workouts facilitate this by constantly varying the program, but also keeping certain core movements (kb swings, burpees, squats, etc) that a person can use to gauge personal progress; i.e. you were able to do 22 burpees the last time we did them for a minute, this time you did 25! There is also the opportunity to “Beyonce” (as my fellow FHITpro, Daury, would say) and upgrade the difficulty of the movement (i.e. add 6” to your box jump, lift your feet off the floor on Russian twists, etc). All of these things allow one to feel challenged regardless of their current skill level.
2. Action/Awareness Merging—When you get past the point of thinking about the movement and “just do it.” Whether it was the demo from the instructor, a cue that was repeated or any of the other tools used by TFR instructors, the FHIXers fully understand what is being asked of them and the movement clicks.
3. Clear Goals—Letting FHIXers know exactly what they should be doing before class starts, before the particular movements start and even during the movement ensures that their goals are clear.
4. Unambiguous Feedback—FHITpros go beyond the “good job” feedback and will make sure that FHIXers are not only acutely aware of movement standards, but are praised and openly congratulated when movement standards are met.
5. Concentration—when you are not overthinking what you are asked to do, but are able to focus on the skill you are being asked to achieve. This is facilitated via the constant cueing, demos and expression of clear and explicit goals that allow focus on the activity and not the components of the activity.
6. Sense of Control—this is facilitated by the “aha” moment that many FHIXers have when a specific movement just makes sense and they not only feel that they are in complete control of the movement but want to move on to the advanced version of the exercise to further challenge themselves.
7. Loss of Consciousness—what is often referred to as being “in the zone,” when external stimuli no longer influence your effort or concentration (you’ve probably been there a time or two during a FHIX).
8. Transformation of Time—a surreal feeling that time has either sped up or slowed down because of the overwhelming focus on the task at hand and the utilization of the skills necessary to achieve that task.
9. Autotelic Experience—the intrinsic sense of reward, accomplishment and competency that comes post FHIX. I can't count the number of times I have heard “I didn't think I would be able to finish that” and the overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from that completion. This autotelic experience also tends to lead to positive feelings of self worth.
When taken in unison, all of these factors contribute to the experience of FLOW and all of the positive, affirming and motivating by-products of the experience.