Would you like to see your workouts yield better results in less time? Mental imagery is a dynamic way to do just that. When you use visualization to augment your workouts, you work not just your body, but also your brain.
In fact, when it comes to getting fit, your mind may be even more important than your muscles. Here are some practical tips and tricks for using your thinking to maximize your workouts.
Benefits of Visualization
- Improve your performance. Studies show that mental activity can produce physical changes in your body. Test subjects who imagine performing an exercise measurably strengthen the muscles involved. Mental imagery can help you lift more weight, develop greater coordination, and play your favorite sports better.
- Enjoy your workouts more. Kids have hours of fun with mundane objects because they use their imagination to turn wooden blocks into castles and fortresses. You can have more fun on the treadmill if you picture yourself running along a beach.
- Learn principles that work for your whole life. Visualization works outside of the gym too. Once your master the foundational skills, you can extend them to any area of your life, including your personal relationships or career.
Principles of Successful Mental Imagery
1. Relax. A big part of visualization is training your mind to settle down and manage stress. Put aside negative thoughts and focus on your breath.
2. Be specific. Make your mental images as concrete as possible. Feel yourself putting on the clothing you wear to work out. Picture the place where you exercise. Analyze every movement you make.
3. Break activities down into small steps. To capture more detail, it’s helpful to break your total workout down into each movement. You could imagine getting into position to do a leg lift, grasping the bar, raising your leg out to the side, and lowering it smoothly before switching to the other side.
4. Engage all your senses. Sight is often our most dominant sense, but you can put all of your faculties to work. If you run in the park, think about how the grass smells in the morning and how the gravel feels under your shoes. Listen to your breath and the distant sound of traffic.
5. Focus on your feelings. Let your emotions run free. Visualization isn’t just a purely intellectual exercise. To achieve maximum success with mental imagery, connect with your feelings about having a leaner body and increased energy.
6. Time it right. Mental imagery takes practice. Use it while you’re on the way to the gym and during your exercise session. Then practice again by reflecting on your workout later in the day
Mental Imagery: A Practice
1. Enter a relaxed state. Close your eyes. Scan your body and loosen up any tense spots. Take deep breaths from your diaphragm.
2. Let go of distracting thoughts. Observe your thoughts as they arise without making any judgments. Gently turn your attention to your breath.
3. Rehearse your movements in your head. When you’ve cleared your head, start thinking about the workout session you have planned. If you’re doing yoga, you could run through every pose you plan to do. Watch yourself using correct form and moving with ease.
4. Imagine successful outcomes. Identify your fitness goals and incorporate them into your mental imagery. You might like pretending that a crowd cheers you on as you run your final laps. If your doctor recommended losing weight, you might envision feeling gratified to hear that you’ve lost a few inches off your waist and your resting heart rate is down.
5. Let the good feelings linger. Gather a vivid sense of the positive emotions you generate during visualization. Slowly turn your attention outwards, keeping those pleasant thoughts in mind.
Mental imagery makes exercise more effective and enjoyable and can also be used to augment other parts of your life. Start visualizing your way to increased fitness and better health today!