Know Your Flow

August 24, 2023
Power Yoga Lodore Retreat Smiling Guests

by: Eli Shostak

When on holiday, we often encounter a side of ourselves we’ve maybe not seen since our last vacation; a relaxed, fun, and wonderful person we love spending time with. As we enjoy new experiences, we feel our body and mind shift out of their regular rhythms and engage in fresh perspectives. Taking a break from the mundane encourages us to expand our awareness and live more presently

two kids playing on the beachMarinating in the excitement, rejuvenation, and brilliance we find when stepping away from life’s routines, we pause to think, “Can I be like this besides when I’m floating down a gorgeous river? Why can’t life always feel so buttery?”

It turns out that much of our lives are spent being busy, rushed, and overloaded. While vacations take some effort to launch, somehow the necessary tasks land differently than doing the laundry. Anyone who has been on an adventure knows planning how to successfully face all the challenges a day might bring (even with the help of incredible guide staff), requires consistently accounting for and managing energy. The immediate feedback we get from activities like rafting and biking offers an ideal opportunity for understanding how to honor our daily flow. 

Whether we’re on the river or on our way to work, practicing efficient energy management cultivates well-being. Try this; Look up, take a deep breath, and imagine a fuel gauge, like on the car’s dashboard. How much gas is in your tank (or energy is in your battery)? Now consider the “driving conditions” ahead (the rest of your day). Depending on the situation, this might mean the river, the trail, or your day of work. Do you have far to go or just around the corner? Are there challenges, big or small, in your path? Do you need to power up and if so, how do you do it?hand of cards

Because our vitality varies throughout the day, we do best when we plan our tasks according to our energy levels and identify when we can eddy out to recharge. Learned during backcountry fun time with our best selves, here are some tips that easily support us wherever we go and help us use our energy efficiently to not only get where we’re going but also to be ready to get back in the saddle the next day.

  1. Plan the Route: Guides map each day based on what absolutely must happen given the conditions they expect to encounter. Off the river, we get more done and reach our objectives when we create a list of daily priorities. Before distractions pull us into reactive mode, we need to take time to plan how to complete three (or so) priorities. Guides generally do this the night before, but mornings are another great time for generating a vision. Using a not-to-do list or identifying things we will not spend your time on (see also: doom scrolling) is another proven way to make it to camp.
  2. Make Miles Early On: Our tanks are topped off in the morning, making it the perfect time to limit distractions, focus on priorities, and keep our oars in the water. In wild places, early starts give us a jump on getting where we need to go, are often calmer and cooler (literally and figuratively), and are a great time to set the day’s tone. Back home, don’t let email, texts, or social media distract you from covering some ground first Snee and two guests on a raftthing.
  3. Eddy Out: Eventually everyone needs a breather. Even under ideal conditions, we maintain our attention best when we give it a rest. On trips, guides identify times to take breaks and enjoy snacks, drinks, and the day in general. Back home, there are several popular ways to incorporate a time-out, but many folks find that using a 50/10 model, 50 minutes of uninterrupted focused work punctuated by 10 minutes of whatever else, can be helpful. Sometimes a few moments of doing less leads to getting more done.
  4. Use the Flow: As the day wears on, it’s natural to feel our energy ebb. Afternoons are perfect for tasks that we can “float” through; responsibilities that require less creativity, attention, or focus. Put this low-hanging fruit on the to-do list for later in the day, you’ll be glad you did.
  5. Refuel: Whether rowing, pedaling, or adulting, our tanks need to be refilled. But, instead of more caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks, try drinking water, getting up and going for a walk, eating a snack full of protein, or cranking up the tunes. Even just standing outside or sitting by an open window can help generate some more volts.
  6. Beach It: When the day’s travel is complete, we kick back with camp chairs, hors d’oeuvres, and cold drinks while enjoying the evening. No matter where we find ourselves, every day should include time to completely unplug and relax. Turn off the alerts, stop checking whatever it is you check, and shift into neutral. If you’ve made a to-do list for tomorrow, you can disconnect knowing everything will be ready when you launch.

Paying attention to and managing our energy levels throughout the day -something we get to fully experience while taking a break from life’s usual responsibilities- is an easy way to bring the river mind home. Whether floating the river, trail, or commute, check in periodically and get a sense of those daily rhythms. Then, schedule tasks according to your battery power. Plan ahead, take breaks, refuel and enjoy the ride. Go with the flow!


Eli Shostak is a Senior Lecturer of Adventure Education at Fort Lewis College. A former river guide, NOLS Course Leader, and sea kayaking instructor, he is a firm believer in the power of shared experiences in wild places. Eli is dedicated to using his expertise in mindfulness, leadership, and expedition planning to facilitate journeys for finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring diverse landscapes. His favorite game to play on trips is called “Knuck Tats,” something you’ll have to ask him about.