Friday, 11 July 2014

Think yourself fit

Even after many years working in the field of mental performance I am still in awe of the extraordinary power of the mind. Certainly the one thing that seems to unite elite sports performers, no matter what their chosen sport is, is that they all possess unusually vivid imaginations. It is what allows them to see, hear and feel things that us mere mortals are not able to that sets them apart in a competitive situation.

One way of exploiting a powerful imagination is to use mental rehearsal techniques essentially to train the mind and body to perform skills successfully. When we imagine performing a skill, we actually fire up an almost identical pattern of neural response to when we are actually performing the skill itself. When Rory Mcllroy is lining up a golf shot, he mentally rehearses it by using all of his senses to imagine the look, sound and feeling of the shot in his mind before actually playing the shot. As he imagines it, he fires up the required neurons and muscles that are involved in the shot, effectively programming it in to his mental computer.  The more vividly he imagines the shot, the better the programming is.

One study carried out in Cleveland, Ohio compared people who went to the gym with people who imagined being at the gym and having a virtual workout.  The participants who actually went to the gym over a 3 month period increased their muscle mass by an average of 30%. Interestingly, the participants who only did the virtual workout and lifted no weights at all, still managed to increase their muscle mass by an average 13.5%.

So if you want that six pack before you go away for your summer holidays, all you have to do is use a little imagination!

Andy Barton
Performance consultant

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