As children, we used our imaginations all the time. Whether it was cutting holes in a cardboard box and sitting in it pretending to blast off to another galaxy or , our imaginations knew no bounds or constraints. We imagined anything and everything. The universe (and beyond) seemed entirely within our grasp.
However, as we grew, we stopped dreaming as big. Aspirations became more “grounded” or “realistic” leading many of us to become short-sighted or pessimistic at times.
But, the truth is that just because you get older, you don’t necessarily have to stop using your imagination or thinking you can accomplish the seemingly impossible.
In fact, research shows that using your imagination can actually help you achieve your goals, including athletic performance and weight loss goals!
How Imagination Helps Achieve Fitness Goals
Visualization and mental imagery are techniques commonly employed by high-level athletes.
But what exactly is visualization and what's the best way to go about it?
Researchers have broken visualization/mental imagery into two types:
- Internal perspective
- External perspective
Internal imagery occurs when an individual uses an image from the first person point of view (i.e., seeing a scenario play out “from behind your own eyes”).
Here, an individual may see some of their own body (as well as the surrounding environment) as they normally would in real life.
Using internal imagery, you are able to simulate an athletic feat (or part of your transformation challenge).
This can help you experience the feelings of what it’s like to accomplish your goals and thus feel confident about your ability to succeed in whatever endeavor you pursue.
External imagery involves the 3rd person view, where an individual can see their body and environment in action.
For instance, it would be similar to seeing yourself going through the activity or physical endeavor on TV.
One major benefit of the 3rd person perspective is that (with practice) an individual can control the image and environment from any angle imaginable, which can allow you to manipulate any variable or obstacle in your way to ensure success.
What’s more, the more you practice these visualization and imagery techniques, the easier it will become and you’ll actually be able to swap back and forth between internal and external perspectives as the situation dictates.
Putting Imagination to Work for YOU
Your imagination is just as powerful now as it was when your were a kid. It’s just that you’re likely out of practice.
So, no matter if you’re looking to lift more weight in the gym, lose fat, or even succeed in the office, visualization can help!
First, visualize the goal you want to achieve (new PR, 5 pound weight loss, ace-ing a mid-term, etc.).
Now, imagine yourself achieving your goal. For instance, if you’re about to attempt a new PR in the gym, visualize yourself approaching the bar (or machine), setting up, and successfully lifting the weight.
WIth that image firmly fixed in your mind, set about your task focusing on being successful and realizing what you just envisioned.
Finally, replay the exercise in your mind.
Use this time to assess and correct (if necessary) any problems or hiccups you may have encountered. If everything went according to plan, you can then start visualizing about lifting more weight, performing more reps, pushing harder during your next cardio session, etc.
Remember, no matter what your goal -- fat loss, muscle gain, career success -- your imagination can be a powerful ally.
Unfortunately, many people let their imagination get the better of them at times and allow it to turn hope and anticipation into doubt, fear, and despair via negative imagery. DON’T FALL INTO THIS TRAP.
If a workout didn’t go exactly as planned or you slipped up on your diet, don’t beat yourself up and dwell on your mistakes. Get right back on your plan with the next workout or meal. Think about what caused you to slip up and use it as a teaching moment.
By doing this, it can help you to become smarter, stronger, and more resilient. And, if you need help staying on track with your fitness goals or need some extra advice and encouragement, make sure to check out our Private Facebook Group where you’ll interact with like-minded individuals who are striving for similar goals and may have dealt with many of the same struggles you encounter during your transformation challenge.
As always, we’re here to help you achieve your fitness and physique goals, no matter what they are. It starts with proper diet, training, and sleep, and if you’re looking for that added boost in performance, recovery, and results, we offer a comprehensive line of supplements for men and women to help you at every step along the way!
- Rhodes, Jonathan, Nedza, Karol, May, Jon, Jenkins, Thomas and Stone, Tom. "From couch to ultra marathon: using functional imagery training to enhance motivation" Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, vol. 16, no. 1, 2021, pp. 20210011. https://doi.org/10.1515/jirspa-2021-0011
- Richter, Jeremy MA, CSCS; Gilbert, Jenelle N. PhD; Baldis, Mark PhD, CSCS Maximizing Strength Training Performance Using Mental Imagery, Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 5 - p 65-69 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182668c3d
- Parker, John K., Lovell, Geoff P. and Jones, Martin I.. "An examination of imagery ability and imagery use in skilled golfers" Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, vol. 16, no. 1, 2021, pp. 20210006. https://doi.org/10.1515/jirspa-2021-0006