When I began my journey 4 years ago, I never thought too much about how long it was going to take to get to my goal. In the past whenever I gave myself a specific time frame to reach my weight loss goal, when the time drew nearer and I wasn’t remotely close, I felt discouraged and more importantly like a failure. Trust me, more times then not, it was only a matter of time before I was back to square one.
I believed that as long as I changed my eating habits and added in some good pockets of exercise the changes would happen. Which they did, but I had to realize I needed to keep my eye on the bigger picture and that was to totally change my lifestyle. This is where working on the mental side of my journey by developing techniques such as positive self-talk and visualization allowed me to achieve my goals.
My introduction to the technique of visualization actually began as a homework assignment from my running coach last summer. Every night before going to sleep he asked us to take 5-10 minutes visualizing our runs for the day. We were to visualize our form, speed, breathing, the wind against our face, the smells, etc. You should have seen the looks Coach Lee got for his class. But as a former NCAA swimmer, he had been taught this technique while competing and touted it as a way we could all improve without running another step.
In my haste, I came home and googled this technique and WOW, visualization (see page 3) is something that many athletes of all fitness levels use. In fact I picked up on this when watching the 2008 Olympics. I noticed the divers walking through their routines on the pool deck while the gymnasts did the same on the gym floor. It’s as if they were in a world all their own.
Visualization, often referred to as mental imagery, is so powerful that it can truly catapult us to our goals faster than almost any other technique. And don’t think this is just for athletes. Everyone can benefit from this technique. When you visualize yourself eating healthy, you will eat healthy. Visualize yourself making it through your workout; you will make it through your workout. Visualize yourself being successful and you will be successful.
The irony is the brain essentially produces the same chemicals during visualization that it does doing the actual task at hand. Psychologists have shown that when we incorporate all five senses-hearing, taste, smell, touch, and seeing, into our visualization practice, our chance of success sky-rockets.
While this technique hasn’t turned me into an Olympic athlete, it has allowed me to conquer some of my fears while working on becoming a better runner. Just like positive self-talk can lead you well on your way to achieving your goals, the same is true with visualization.
Have you ever used the technique of visualization? Do you believe techniques such as visualization and positive self-talk are just as important as diet and exercise when embracing a healthy lifestyle?