The development of a personal training programme based on the principles of flow

Berzack, Anthony (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2006-12)

Thesis (M Sport Sc (Sport Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


The motivation for this research evolved from a study of Flow in Sport (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Flow is described as a state of optimal experience that could be attained by becoming immersed in a challenging task that absorbs all the attention on the task at hand. Physical exercise was used in this study because it provides a flow-conducive environment in which challenges can easily be gauged and increased, giving essential motivational feedback. A broad spectrum of sport psychology and flow-related research was applied in the design of a comprehensive and easily accessible system of understanding what it means to experience flow. Research that relates to the use of visualisation, relaxation and the use of natural triggers are key factors used in the implementation of the programme. The concept of flow was founded in seven fundamental elements that need to be present in order to experience flow. The programme was developed during several phases of sample testing over a period of two years to refine and condense the system so it would not detract attention from the task at hand. The final seven-week programme was presented to a sample of seven participants on a one-on-one basis. A combination of quantitative (measurements of performance levels in the chosen activity taken before and after the intervention programme intervention and qualitative (participants’ comments which were written down in terms of personal experiences related to the programme after completing the programme) methods were used to assess the effectiveness of the devised programme. Ground Evaluation Theory is described by Patton (1980) as the systematic working out of hypotheses and concepts during the course of research. This was a central feature of the nature of the development of the present programme. Patton (1980) describes a meta-evaluation as an evaluation of an evaluation. This was applied over the two-year period while refining and simplifying the present intervention so as to reduce potentially distracting analysis by participants. Using a standardised protocol, participants made use of personal past optimal experiences that epitomise each of the fundamental aspects of being in flow. These experiences (or blueprints) were then associated with natural triggers formed by seven segments of the human body to subconsciously refresh and enhance access to these past optimal states. A flow-chart on which these images were drawn was designed. It was used in conjunction with relaxation and visualisation to continually re-visit, refresh and apply these states of mind to reaching new peaks. Subjects were to visualise themselves immersed in performance of their task at the level set as the goal for the end of the programme. The past blueprinted states were used to recreate an optimal mental approach during this visualised performance. The goals were broken down into achievable challenging steps of progression with the use of personal training programmes designed by a sports scientist to be effective for attaining goals which were set. The flow-programme was evaluated in terms of setting training schedules, taking measurements and setting goals before intervention and then gauging the progress of these factors after the implementation of the programme. The factors measured were: the level of flow experienced in the chosen activity; satisfaction with life; adherence to the programme; and achievement of training goals. These variables were measured by comparing results in standardised tests which have proven reliable for measuring flow and satisfaction with life. Adherence to the programme was measured relative to the amount of training that had been specified in the programme designs. The attainment of goals was also measured by the percentage of goals that had been achieved, compared with those set by each participant for the programme.The results show that the subjects benefited from the programme on the four measures. The subjects also commented that they found the programme to be a highly effective tool for grasping an understanding of the concept of flow, as well as experiencing this elusive state. It was concluded that flow could be tapped into at a volitional level by using the devised intervention.

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