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Sunday, June 5, 2016

This Fake It 'Til You Make It Works: In the Gym!

As a swim fan, the excitement building towards the swimming Olympic Trials gets me thinking about some of my favorite sports memories. And one came back to me as I was reminded about how important it is to engage our minds as well as our bodies if we want to be fit! Before Megan Quann ever won her gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games (now Jendrick) used to over and over visualize her 100 meter breaststroke race in her mind. Stroke for stroke, and in interviews she'd mention how her swims went. I could almost have to catch my breath and slow my speeding heart waiting for her to say the time she swam, visually! She would even mentally miss touches and turns if her visualization and stroke count was off. She was brilliant! Eventually science has shown, that the seemingly absurd statement of fake it 'til you make it really works. Our body is so responsive to our minds that visualization of yourself working out really works!  Detailed exercise studies show that brain signals control muscle movements, and the more you engage your brain the better your muscle improvement is.  Some of the earliest studies were done with Dr. Guang Yue an exercise physiologist at the Cleveland Clinic published his findings in 2015. He gathered a group of exercisers and sure enough, with strength training he had them increase their muscle strength by about 30%. He then gathered a group that just visualized their workouts, 'aka the fakers' and they increased their muscle strength as well! They only increased by about half as much as the actual lifters, but it worked. Not only have these techniques helped with athletic performance, but overall competitive edge, mental awareness, confidence, strategy, well being, musical pitch and rhythm, and health are all improved by mental visualization, mental practicing, mental imagery, and mental 'faking' what ever you are trying to achieve. Your brain connects up the neurons whether there is real or perceived physical work. Everyone has their own techniques that they use, some image internally, and some imagine they are the audience thinking about viewing the task or performance. Some physicians go so far to say if you do not have this mental component you will truly never heal or be successful. And there is no excuse for 'no time' to visualize, it can be done in a variety of down-time settings! So just how are you going to up your game? I don't know, but I suggest just thinking about it!


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