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Think Yourself Fit!

How Your Thoughts Affect Your Body
  -- By Jason Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer
I love motivational quotes. One of my favorites is, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right!” I believe that there is a lot of truth to that statement. As a runner, I know that if I focus on the fatigue setting in, it seems as though everything goes downhill (or uphill, for a better euphemism). There are also times when, no matter how badly I feel, I tell myself that I am going to make it. That my legs are strong. That I am going to be OK. It's funny, but the positive thoughts are what carry me to the end. And I'm convinced that focusing on the positive instead of the negative makes all the difference.

Mind Over Body
To give you another example of the power of the mind, there were some fascinating findings from a recent study from the University of Cape Town. Researchers examined the muscle biopsies of exhausted marathon runners and found that their muscles had plenty of glycogen and ATP (fuel for muscular contraction). Their conclusion? Fatigue sets in not when muscles run out of energy, but first when the brain tells them to conserve energy. Translation? Your brain tells you to shut down before your body does.

For the average exerciser, this means that your mind can carry you a lot farther than you think! Positive self talk can literally help you think yourself fit.

Develop a Mantra
Author and athlete Chris Bergland insists that projecting a positive attitude can reprogram your brain to enter a euphoric state while exercising, allowing you to go longer and harder. Researchers at Wake Forrest University agree, stating that feelings of pain and fatigue are a result of both immediate and expected events. The best way to fight fatigue is with positive self-affirmations such as, “I am strong. I can do this," and "I am becoming more fit and healthy.” You can develop your own mantra, which you repeat to yourself throughout your workouts. Ironman champion Mark Allen's mantra for competition was "Strong and smooth." Over and over, he would repeat his mantra while he swam, biked and ran. And in moments of great fatigue, his brain took over to push his body to greater heights.

You can develop a mantra too—something positive that you tell yourself during your workouts, to help yourself stay focused and keep your body working hard. Any word (like strong, fast, finish) or set of words will work, as long as it inspires you and is positive in nature.

Visualize the Positive
Another tip to think yourself fit is to visualize your exercise session before you even go to work out. This is a technique used by many professional athletes. Before a game or performance, they envision how they will perform in their mind before the competition even starts. And when it's game time, their brains just replay the performance they imagined and their body follows suit.

You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to picture yourself living a healthy lifestyle, making positive choices, and reaching your goals. Take some time each day to visualize yourself exercising and enjoying it! When you imagine yourself doing well and having a good time, your thoughts will be positive and you will be more likely to do the very things (like workout regularly) that will help you reach your goals.

As in most of life, your attitude will determine how well you do. Believe in yourself and talk positively to yourself, just as you would encourage a friend or loved one. Tell yourself that you CAN do it! Visualize yourself living healthy and exercising and your body (and actions) will follow. Remember that negative talk will bring you down, but staying positive will help you to think yourself fit!