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Mind Your Head Brain Training Book by Sue Stebbins and Carla Clark
by Sue Stebbins &
Carla Clark

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HERS Magazine - August 2004
By: Michele Bender

To get more out of your workout, exercise your imagination.

When athletes visualize their training sessions, "Research shows that imaging lights up identical parts of the brain that would be energized if you were actually working out," explains Colleen Hacker, PhD, a sports psychology professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, who has been the sports-psychology consultant for the Olympic women's soccer team.

Other research shows that when you vividly imagine a biceps curl, for example, electrical and chemical changes occur in the body so that you actually activate some of the muscles involved. "Imaging improves your psychological readiness for your work-out so you're not only more motivated and excited, but you get greater benefits that start the minute you begin exercising," Hacker says.

For a few minutes before your sweat session, close your eyes and use all your senses to vividly imagine your workout - whether it's a run, lifting weights or taking a body sculpting class.

Visualize everything - the smell of the gym, the fatigue of your arms when you do a push-up, the taste of the sweat as it drips into your mouth, the sounds of your breathing as you lift.

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"Being as vivid as you can is one of the keys to making imaging work for you," adds Hacker.

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"Olympic athletes think like champions, and that's one key to their success," says David Yukelson, PhD, a Pennsylvania State University sports psychologist who has worked with members of the U.S. Olympic track-and-field team. "If you expect the best from yourself, then you're more likely to get it."

Start thinking like an elite athlete by using positive affirmations. Statements that include phrases like "I will" or "I can" affirm what it is you want to achieve. For example: "I will be successful in running hills today" or "I can have a great workout."

Make your affirmations specific to the task at hand. "This works because it creates significance, purpose and focus," says Yukelson.

"You may be hurting or having a difficult day, but by telling yourself 'I can do this' you're setting your mind to believe that you can push through adversity and succeed."

If you make a habit of doing this, positive thinking becomes an automatic response even in the toughest of times.

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