The power of positive thinking and the importance of imagination are not new concepts in 21st century living. As we multitask through busy lives we seek the most efficient and effective fitness plan we can find to meet our goals. Studies show that harnessing the power of the brain to work with the body can lead to your goals even faster. Visualization in particular can be a powerful enhancement to your workout.
Research has shown that the brain lights up when you visualize doing an exercise in the same way and pattern that it does when you actually do the exercise. Successive studies have measured muscle strength and endurance showing that visualization on its own can produce some results but when added to a realistic fitness plan, it can help people achieve their fitness goals even faster.
As we move into fall and a different pace of life, it's a great time to evaluate your fitness goals and formulate a plan to achieve those goals and schedule them into your life. Start by consulting with a qualified fitness professional for an assessment and to set some realistic goals. Design your fitness program with those goals in mind and use a few of these visualization techniques to help.
Think of your end result. It's not a celebrity taped to your fridge door. This is you. Your body in a way that you know it can look, function, and feel. Start bringing attention to not just the mechanics of the exercises but the end result.
If we use running as an example, think about your run as you warm up your body. In your mind picture the blood flowing into your large muscle groups, your route, and as you start running use visualization from the inside out to enhance your run. Picture increased circulation as your heart rate increases, listen to your breathing, imagine oxygen moving through your body. If you feel tightness or fatigue, visualize oxygen moving into your muscles. Picture how you want your form to be, the rhythm of your stride, the pace you want to challenge yourself to. Visualize how you are going to move through hills or circuits and imagine yourself moving through those with strength and ease. Engage as many senses as you can before and during your run bringing attention and focus to the experience. Bring the same attention to your body during your recovery period and take time to savour the afterglow of a good workout. This helps reset the brain to optimize your workout and help your muscles recover in the same way that savasana or corpse pose does in yoga.
Bring the same kind of attention to your internal experience - your muscles, your oxygen, your heart rate and how your body feels during any kind of workout. You can replicate this on a treadmill, in a spin class, doing circuit training, in yoga. Even with a more passive exercise like a vibration trainer, you can still use visualization to maximize those benefits. You can imagine your lymphatic system draining out toxins, and increased circulation, better alignment, and less inflammation and those results will come faster.
It's a practice of mindfulness for the body combined with visualizing striving for and reaching your end goal as well as being a great motivator. Keep the picture of your new self - leaner, stronger, faster, and healthier in your mind at all times, imagining not just the experience of the workouts but how you believe your body will look and feel at the end. Visualization will get you started, amplify your workouts and get you to your fitness goals faster.