On his journey to defy the impact of aging on peak performance, Steven Kotler uncovers a new way to trigger flow. Adding an adjustable weighted vest for hiking workouts allowed him to tip the challenge-skills balance - "flows most important trigger" - by increasing focus. Increasing the demands of hiking with additional weight increases the challenge level slightly by making the work required slightly higher. The small increment in effort engages focus and "flow follows focus." A thin adjustable weight vest is like wearing weighted clothing. At any age, it is the perfect ingriedient to improve flow and fight off age related losses of muscle mass and bone density. Weight vest workouts like walking and hiking have been shown to improve osteoporosis.
What is FLOW?
Recent discoveries in embodied cognition, flow science, and network neuroscience have revolutionized how we think about human learning. On paper, these discoveries “should” allow older athletes to progress in supposedly “impossible” activities like park skiing.
Steven explains FLOW
Flow is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our
best. More specifically, it refers to any of those moments of rapt attention and total absorption. When you get so focused on the task at hand that everything else just starts to disappear. Your sense of self and self-consciousness may fade away. Time passes strangely. It can slow down or, more familiarly, we get so engrossed in what we’re doing that it speeds up and three hours pass in what feels like three minutes. And throughout, all aspects of performance—both mental and physical—are significantly elevated.
He believes that as we age the challenge-skills balance shrinks. Older adults are handicapped by a life time of subconcious scars leading to fear. Fear upsets the balance of the challenge-skills equation. To minimize subconcious fears and maximize the size of the sweet spot the author adopted a philosophy of "one inch at a time." He switched to a Hyperwear Hyper Vest weight vest with small, thin weights that fits like weighted clothing and allows for progressive loading.
Weight vest workouts are easy to build into any bodyweight excercise. In "Gnar Country: An Adventure in Peak Performance Aging," Steven Kotler describes the challenge of his schedule while building the strength and fitness required for park skiing. He took to daily mountain hikes. Then had the idea of adding a weighted vest for hiking.
"The Hyper Vest is the most comfortable weight vest ever, I hardly know it’s there! Training with a weight vest is fantastic with a crazy schedule like mine. It allows me to train strength, stamina, balance and agility with a single tool. A critical multi-tool in peak performance aging.” - Steven Kotler, one of the world’s leading experts on human performance
Why hike with a weighted vest?
For starters, hiking builds leg strength, which peak performance aging demands. In the elderly, leg strength is the single most important factor for longevity. Thigh muscle mass inversely correlates with mortality. Strong legs maintain physical functionality, boost overall health and levels of social activity, and protect against a common killer of older adults: slipping, falling and breaking a bone.
Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning
journalist, and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one
of the world’s leading experts on human performance. Steven is the author of
eleven bestsellers (out of fourteen books), including The Art of Impossible, The
Future is Faster Than You Think, Stealing Fire, The Rise of Superman, Bold and
Abundance. His work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes, translated
into over 50 languages, and has appeared in over 100 publications, including the
New York Times Magazine, Wired, Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, TIME,
and the Harvard Business Review. Alongside his wife, author Joy Nicholson,
he is also the co-founder of The Buddy Sue Hospice Home for Old Dogs, a
canine elder care facility, and Rancho Chihuahua, a dog rescue and sanctuary.