Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Quotes Stories

For those that don’t know Sarah Hendrickson, meet one of the most exciting female athletes around.
Sarah Hendrickson is an American ski jumper who won the first ever women’s World Cup season in 2012. She is a 22-time World Cup medalist and 13-time Continental Cup medalist. It goes without saying, but we were delighted to catch up with here and even more delighted to have her on board The Flow Centre.

Her career highlights include:
• 22-time World Cup Medalist (13 Gold, 6 Silver, 3 Bronze)
• 13-time Continental Cup Medalist (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 5 Bronze)
• 2014, Olympic Winter Games, 21st
• 2013, World Cup, Second Place Overall
• 2013, World Championships Gold Medalist
• 2012, World Cup Overall Champion
• 2011, U.S. Normal Hill Champion
• 2011, World Championships Normal Hill 16th place
• 2009, World Championships Normal Hill 29th place

Anyway, enough intro, let’s get on with what Sarah had to say.

Cameron:
So tell me about your flow experiences.

Sarah:
I think that time at the world championships. I remember being at the top and just so nervous. I was like “I can’t feel my feet right now! I don’t know how I’m going to do this!” and then I got to the bottom after my second jump, and obviously had won, and it was like something else took over my body, because there was so much pressure and everything. I don’t know how I performed to that level with that much pressure, my mind just took over and muscle memory and everything. It was like “Okay, you know what to do subconsciously, and just focus”. It’s kind of hard to explain.

Cameron:
Yeah, especially when you remember it. You get all those feelings and tingly sensations, and then you’re like “But, but… How did it happen?!”

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly!

Cameron:
So, describe some of the characteristics that you might have felt during it? You said everything felt amazing. Can you go into a little bit more about how that felt, or what you feel you experienced?

Sarah:
I guess effortless is almost the right word. Your body is doing all these things, but it’s subconscious, you don’t have to think about it right there. It’s hard to explain, I guess effortless and flawless, almost numb. But that’s the first experience I think of when you describe flow, the world championships in Italy in 2013.

We have two jumps and I was winning after the first jump, then we jump in reverse order, so I was going last on the second jump. The girl before me was within a small margin of me; she jumped and I could hear the crowd cheering. I was just trying to block everything out and focus on myself. I remember thinking “My feet are numb!” I was kind of freaking out, thinking “How am I going to pull this off?” then I was just like “Well, nothing to lose now. Just shake it out.” That’s when the hours of training comes in, the muscle memory, your mind just goes into reserve mode, just don’t focus on the pressure, don’t focus on the small details; everything will run its course.

Sochiskijump

Cameron:
What did you do to help you focus and get into that state?

Sarah:
I blocked out the outside world. When I’m jumping, I’ve been jumping for 13 years now, I just focus on one or two really simple things. It doesn’t mean anything to the outside world because they’re technical terms for ski jumping, but I relax my arms, balance and timing. Timing is so important in ski jumping, timing and rhythm. So, I just pick those two things that I had been focusing on and just zero in on that, everything else will just come. I didn’t need to focus on the other stuff because I was in that mind set, the muscle memory or whatever would just take over.

Cameron:
When you focus on it, do you repeat the words, like relax your arms? Or, do you almost use the words to brainwash yourself? How do you focus on it?

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly! Part of me is hearing the announcers and people calling scores or whatever of the girls in front of me. So, I try to speak to myself as loudly as I can in my head so that I don’t hear the outside. I’ll even try and shake my head so that I don’t hear. I just don’t want to hear that, you can’t think about jumping a certain distance, that’s not how it happens. You have to focus on the miniscule things, that’s going to make you jump further. Repetition and even whispering words out loud sometime, or just yelling in my head.

Cameron:
What else do you think helps you get into that zone? Is there preparation that you might do leading up to it the morning of, the evening of? Or anything else that you do as you’re walking up the steps, preparing, or when you’re sitting down, or just before you take off?

Sarah:
Yeah, repetition actually, and not just in words. I have the same warm-up routine that I do a certain time before a jump. How I put my equipment on and stuff. I’m kind of OCD, so those things are just zeroed in. I know exactly what time I need to put on my stuff, when I’m waiting at the top, 10 jumpers before my tie my boots a little tighter the step out and start putting my skis on. Repetition is really, really important for me, just doing the same thing over and over, and I do it the same for training. You need to compete like you train and train like you compete. Have that same physical repetition and the mental preparation the same every single day.

Cameron:
Do you have any other big flow experiences? Maybe one that tops the world championship?

Sarah:
It’s a bit different, because I didn’t have a good result, but I guess doing the Olympics. I had some serious surgery about five and a half months before Sochi. I managed to get through rehab, but I just wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be, but my coaches felt like I deserved to be there.
The training days leading up, my knee was in so much pain and I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough and prepared to be there, then on competition day I got unlucky with the wind. But, my practice jump that morning, we always get one practice jump, my coach just looked at me and was like “Oh my God – that was a million times better!” He was like “You showed up for game day! Regardless of the pain you’re in and everything you’ve been through these past six months, you just put it all aside, and your body knew exactly what to do, and you had an awesome jump!”
I was just in that kind of mindset. I just pushed the pain away, pushed every doubt and piece of junk that I’d gone through out of me and just had a normal jump. And my coaches saw it. The coaches from the other nations saw it too, it was kind of crazy. It was like even though it had been a while my body still knew what to do.

Cameron:
What helped you jump that morning?

Sarah:
I don’t know! I just thought “Don’t have any regrets. You’ve Sarah1trained so hard to be here. Maybe you’re not at your strongest but you’ve worked so hard, now let’s prove it”. I had to change my warm-up and everything, my knee was so bad I couldn’t even run. But I figured I’ve got three more jumps today, then I’m done. After today I can just rest and reassess everything. I had another surgery after that, but it didn’t matter at that point, I was just like “Show them what you’ve got!” I’m ultra-competitive obviously, which makes it easier to get into that mindset.
You have to find a balance between focused and almost not too serious, though. If you try to hard when you’re super competitive in ski jumping it just doesn’t work. We all say that technically, it’s a very simple sport, but it’s against everything that your body wants to do, so when you get too focused there’s no flow to it. It’s too choppy; it’s not smooth and out of rhythm. So when you stay relaxed and just focus on a couple of things everything is much smoother, develops the power better and it all just comes together much better than trying to force it.

Cameron:
So what do you do to help yourself stay relaxed?

Sarah:
Well, I’m friends with a lot of the girls from the other nations, so we’ll all be talking at the top of the hill, kind of joking around before getting ready to go. Like if it’s been a bad day and I’m kind of down on myself I think “I’m not going to pull of the best jump right now, but look at the view! Think how hard you worked to get here, you’re so fortunate to be here.” I just kind of step back and make the most of the situation, because competing is really stressful. This is the best job in the world, but it’s stressful.
Sometimes that’s easy to get down on, then I think “why do I put so much pressure on myself?” I try to step away from all that negativity and just appreciate where I am. You can’t have a good day every day and the people that really matter, the ones closest to me, they know that I’ve worked really hard to get here and are just like “Alright, shrug it off, you can’t be on top every single day.”

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah Hendrickson and the Wasserman Group for their time and energy.

 

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali

Getting into Trance for Flow

Getting into Trance for Flow

Tips and Training

 

Simply follow the following directions:

Make yourself comfortable either sitting or standing and focus on one small area out in front of you. Pick a spot that is above eye level. Maybe this is a small section on a wall or a tree outside, whatever you choose make sure it doesn’t move. Focus in on this one area, finding new detailed information the longer look. Keep your eyes on this one spot, staying fox all the time gaining as much information as used on the small detail you can see. Over a couple of minutes allow you vision to become very tunnelled as you go smaller and smaller, slowly becoming more and more aware of the detail in this small single point. When you have been transfixed on this one area for a couple of minutes, whilst keeping your eyes transfixed on this one spot, allow your periphery vision to widen. Start to see what is to the left and right of the spot you are staring on and keep widening you periphery vision until you can see the floor in front of you.

This is essentially what happens during our performances when we are focused on the task at hand whether that is looking at a tennis ball or our partners arm as we perform a complex dance move. We maintains fixed focus point, yet our periphery pick sup all the detail the body needs to know to do what it is doing. In examples see on the ball of playing tennis, whilst the focal point is focused on the ball, the periphery is taking in vital information such as how far away the net is, where the opponent is moving, where the line we are aiming for is positioned, and so on. The subconscious is busy digesting and adapting to this new information, so we can make the best shot available to us.

As take in the new visual information in your periphery, start to become aware of your other senses. Maybe, you can feel the wind against your face, the clothes against your skin, or the ground beneath your feet or bottom. Maybe you can hear noises around you both close and far aware. Allow all your senses to become heightened as you become fully connected to the moment. Turn up the senses like you turn up the volume button on a remote control. Become fully engaged as you experience the now, just as it is. Stay in this space for as long as you can, raining your mind to stay connected to the moment experiencing it without the grip of the conscious mind.

You may start to notice thoughts come in and out of your otherwise clear mind. When they do simply acknowledge them and let the flow out, as you would a leaf that floats past you in the wind. Simply be aware of them, and let the leave as quick as it came. Simply focus on connecting your senses to the moment. See if you can feel what is happening behind you, to the sides of you, below you and above you. Allow you presence to be all around you, almost as if I it exists outside of your body.

The above practice normally elicits a slight state of trance, a light state of hypnosis, our gateway to flow. The more we practice getting in and out of these states, the more we become aware of trance states already existing in our day to day lives. These trance states are very similar to the light trance states we experience when driving a car on auto pilot, or loosing time when we are engulfed in surfing the internet. We are doing what may seem a simple task without the conscious interference of stress, fear or other conscious thoughts. We do these task without ego and self image, we simply do them just as we breath, or pump blood round our body.  Trance, like flow, has no identification with the ego, it does not dwell in the realm of the conscious mind, it simply exists and functions effortlessly and incredible efficiently, just as we want all our performances to be.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

 

 

Trance Helping Returns

Trance Helping Returns

Flow Stories

 

During one training session I was experimenting with different techniques to get me in the same state as when I looked at this tennis ball for hours on end. I often would try different things to help me with get a small advantage. This time My eyes started focusing on the small granules of the surface below before I hit my returns. In tennis you generally lift your head to let the server know you are ready, so they can go ahead and serve, and I would keep my head low until I had cleared my thoughts and was ready to return.

So as my head was low, I would look at the court below psyching myself up before every serve. The more I looked at the court, the more I saw the incredible detail In every square inch. Each inch was different, it had different colours in it, it seemed to be made up of lost of different materials and layers. Before this time I had always seen a tennis court as a tennis court, some where cemented some were grass, some were made of clay. Now I was looking at each surface with new eyes. Soon the square inch became a square centimetre, and the square centimetre became a square millimetrer. I started focusing on the smallest of detail I could find on the surface below, whether that was a blade of grass, a sparkle on the cement, or a grip of clay or sand.

Focusing on this detail seemed to put me in a trance like state, where I had no thoughts, no distractions, I was simply observing. It was a quiet place, where I could recently myself, regather my thoughts and clean the slate of my brain before the next point. I started moving this square millimetre further and further away, always trying to remain focused on one small piece of detail. Over time, the tiny detail was at the foot of the net. I would stand there bent knees, head down, preparing for the serve. Meanwhile I was staring at the surface of the net looking for a tiny detail in the surface. Once I had it I would look up and the oncoming ball seemed far bigger than it ever used. I was used to focusing on something tiny on a millimetre wide, let alone looking at a ball the size of an apple.

Not only did the ball seem big, I felt completely connected with what I had to do one every return. The noise had left my head and I simply looked of at the ball and responded.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

 

 

If you don’t belief in yourself, don’t expect others to

If you don’t belief in yourself, don’t expect others to

Flow Sports

 

Have you ever listened to a passionate speaker or leader, and wondered how they have become so popular?! Maybe the content of their speech is not coherent or you don’t agree with what they are saying, yet they still manage to persuade hundreds or millions of people to believe in themselves. People follow strong believers even to their graves. Many people simply follow the belief that the great leaders of the world possess, and pay little attention to questioning the substance of what they are saying as they are caught up in their belief, confidence and charisma. All great speakers, leaders, artists, athletes and performers have a few things in common, one of which is that they back themselves. Every time they step up to perform they have to believe in themselves as they know they cannot hide. No one will be there to rescue them, so they either back themselves or don’t do it. The bigger the profile, stage and audience the harder it is to hide and perform well without backing yourself.

Do you ever think great performers go into every performance or competition thinking that they will win/nail it every time, off course not. Humans are humans, and the psyche will always allow a string of doubt no matter how small or big, however the great athletes who may not even believe they will win, still go out and back themselves knowing that the possibility is there. If you look closely at a lot of great performers it is not till some way after the start they hit full confidence and start playing at their best. Sometimes the belief comes as a result of backing yourself and you find your true belief and confidence in the performance after your body surprises yourself or your conscious mind.

Backing yourself doesn’t mean that you need to know that you will accomplish the task 100% of the time, without a shadow of doubt. It simply means that you have the courage to trust yourself and that you will find an outcome along the way. Being your best fan does not need to be a statement of arrogance or show of superiority, it is simply accepting the reality that if you don’t believe in yourself then it is unlikely others will. A great example of this is a high school basketball player who trained hard but got dropped form his high school team for not being good enough. Alot of people would have given up or found a distraction, but this basketball player kept backing himself and became the legend we know as Michael Jordon.

“But although I have confidence, sometimes I don’t think the task ahead of me is achievable and I lack that belief”.

If you find yourself doubting yourself, know that you are either facing a life threatening experience and you should probably listen to your instinct, or you are listening to the doubts of your conscious mind which has rooted itself in a pattern of doubt. When this situation occurs, for me, I often laugh at myself, as I know all I need to look at is how incredible my subconscious is. The complexity of the tasks the subconscious performs, minute by minute, is often far more complex than the task ahead. Imagine if you had to take on a fraction of the tasks the subconscious does in a few seconds. Imagine having to control the blood flow of your body, making sure every organ is performing at its best and servicing parts of the body that need more blood than others. Imagine how precisely each of the thousand of muscle strands has to move in order to lift a drink in to your mouth, or walk across the room to turn on a light, let alone return a serve, hit a golf ball or balance on a wave. Imagine the thousands of messages going through your nervous system, stimulating different parts of the body, and the processing of turning oxygen into energy as you effortless breath and maintain the correct levels of gasses in your body. This is a fraction of what is going on inside the body and the subconscious does this without question and can handle a hundred fold more. The brain is far smarter and faster than the most powerful computer known to man. This incredible innate ability opens up a world of possibilities and potential if we allow ourselves to use it. With such an incredible and intelligent brain already activated, the subconscious tends to put the conscious to shame in comparison. When we think of this magic inside us, that is already happening, suddenly the overbearing task ahead seems a lot simpler, ask long as we allow ourselves to trust our subconscious and ‘back ourselves’.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

 

 

A Deeper Connection

A Deeper Connection

Flow Sports Stories

 

Great singers connect deeply with their song, great actors connect deeply with their characters, and great surfers truly connect with the wave. Our connection to what we are doing or performing are often defined as the difference between good and great performances. This connection may seem strange as what we are trying to connect to may not exist. For example, a male musician connected with the music of the song he wrote, is connected to the emotions of the song, the sounds of the song, and the meaning of the song. He lives and breathes the song as if his mind and body are the song. He is in a deep trance, connected to abstract concepts such as notes and rhythm, that don’t exist physically, yet he can feel and experience them as if they are physically right in front of him or alive inside him. This musician is connected to the energy of the song, and is free for the song to flow through his mind and body and into his instrument and voice. As an observer we can feel and connect to this same energy of the performance, maybe not in the same intensity, but during that song we share a common experience and connection that may feel very alive.

Great performances may only occur once or twice in our lifetime for some, some may experience them more frequently, and some may have have never felt it. People who experience talk about them as if someone else was performing it, they felt truly connected to the moment as if time did not exist. During all these great performances, regardless of whether we are singing, dancing, or playing tennis, the performer enjoys a magical connection through a whole hearteded commitment to the performance. The performer becomes one with the performance, we don’t hide or hold back, we are completely engulfed in the moment. We are in flow, without conscious interference simply reacting, creating and performing perfectly in flow. What we are connecting to is a complex and much debated topic. Some say that god flows through us during these times, some say we are connected to a flurry of energy that surrounds the performance.

When we look at what the human mind and body essentially is, which is millions of vibrating atoms, brought together through various levels of energy, it is no wonder why connecting with other energies, or our own energy at this level feels so complete. Regardless of what we are connecting to, or what is happening at an energetic level, what is obvious is that we are without ego, without separation and connected as one to the performance. We reach a state that feels so natural and so true. We often feel part of something much bigger yet completely connected to ourselves if never before. We feel fully connected with our subconscious, flowing effortlessly with ease as the performance flows through us. We see the world with new eyes, we experience the moment like never before, our conscious mind simply observes with awe as if it is watching a movie. When the magical performance stops or we become distracted for a small period, we suddenly become a little disconnected. We feel separate and disconnected from ourself, from others and from the energy, that we were at one with. The consious mind has its chance to retake its grip and change from being an observer to the leader. The more this happens, the more we loose our connection.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.