Three Modes of Training: Fun, Flow, and Grind

As an athlete, the quality of your training determines the quality of your performance in games. The better you train, the more you'll improve and the better you'll perform in games. This is why I like to write about training. Today, I want to write specifically about three modes of training that you can use to maximize your development as an athlete.

These three modes are categorized by their level of enjoyment and difficulty. I call them "fun training," "flow training," and "grind training."

Fun training is pretty self-explanatory. It is training that is very fun and enjoyable. This mode of training may include things such as simply playing your sport for fun, playing scrimmages, and doing fun games and drills. It can also involve training with a group of friends and training with music. For the most part, fun training is done within your comfort zone. While training just for fun, you don't have to exert yourself too much or worry too much about improving. While you can certainly give more effort and aim to improve while playing for fun, the main emphasis is on having fun and growing your love for your sport. Many athletes and coaches may view "fun training" as unproductive and pointless. They may think that if you're not aiming to improve and giving your best effort, you're wasting your time. However, there are many benefits of fun training. For one, it provides a great source of intrinsic motivation. Many athletes look forward to the most fun parts of their training. These parts of their training may not actually help them improve much in the short term, but the fun and positive emotions that they provide can greatly benefit not only their long-term motivation and commitment, but also their mental health. If all you do is grind 24/7, then you'll burnout eventually. Every athlete needs time to simply enjoy their sport and training for the fun of it. Lastly, fun training can help in the short-term by putting you in a positive mood before games, which can greatly improve performance. If you're overly stressed from difficult training, then you're less likely to have a positive, relaxed mindset in games.

This brings me to the opposite mode of training: grind. Grind training is also pretty self-explanatory. It is when you push yourself through very difficult, tiring, and/or boring drills and workouts. This mode of training may include things such as lifting heavy weights, doing sprinting exercises, doing physically demanding drills, working on the fine points of your technique, and studying hours of film. Grind training is always done outside of your comfort zone and almost always done outside your current capabilities. For these reasons, grinding through a tough practice or workout is usually not fun or enjoyable. It is simply hard work. It involves a lot of stress, pain, fatigue, discomfort, and boredom. You do it not because it's fun, but because it helps you improve and reach your goals. To push yourself through these difficult practices, you need discipline and extrinsic motivation. However, this doesn't mean you can't learn to love the grind. To a certain extent, you can train yourself to enjoy the grind, the pain, and the process of improvement for its own sake, but for the most part, you must use extrinsic motivation to push you through the grind. The obvious benefit of grind training is that it's the most efficient mode of training. You can get a lot of improvement out of a short amount of time by grinding through difficult workout and practicing deliberately. However, like I said in the previous paragraph, no athlete can grind 24/7. Tough workouts and practices can take an extreme amount of physical and emotional energy. If you grind too much, you'll eventually burnout and/or injure yourself.

This is why you should often find a balance between fun and grind training. I call this middle path "flow training," which is a mode of training where you find the perfect balance between easiness and difficulty. Flow training is easy enough to be enjoyable, but difficult enough to help you improve. However, by training in a way that is challenging, but not too difficult, you actually can make your training even more fun. This mode of training can put you in a "flow" state of mind, which is a total immersion in an activity. This is what it means to be "in the zone." When you train and play in this mode, you not only have lots of fun, but you also perform well and make great improvements. Flow training can include things such as playing scrimmages, and playing fun, yet realistic games and drills. This middle path of training is the best of both worlds. You can gain the motivational and happiness benefits of fun training along with the improvement benefits of grind training. 

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of these modes of training. In order to get the most out of your training and maximize your long-term development, you need to balance all three modes of training. Sometimes you need to grind, sometimes you need to have fun, and sometimes you need to work hard and have fun at the same time. As an athlete or a coach, I highly recommend you to find ways to balance out these modes of training. Perhaps you can dedicate certain days to different modes of training. You can also incorporate each mode into a single practice. For example, you can start a practice in flow mode, then you can transition into grind mode, and then you can end a practice on a fun note.