Every now and then, something comes along in life that reminds me of the power of visualization.
While I was fighting off The Sickness last week, I spent a lot of time watching Crossfit videos, particularly on basic skills like squats and cleans. I watched the videos over and over, trying to memorize the proper techniques. I spent much of the week in bed, but my brain was doing a lot of thinking about Crossfit.
Then came my return to the gym. I expected to lose what little strength I’d gained, but to my surprise, I was able to clean 5# heavier, and quite a bit easier than 2 weeks prior. What changed? I was still under the weather and hadn’t worked out in nearly 2 weeks, but found the whole process of doing cleans to be much easier.
I think my improvement could in part be attributed to all the thinking I had done on proper technique and cleans.
Now, I do believe there is a fru-fru, coo-coo line when it comes to affecting the physical world with positive thinking. It’s certainly not magic, and thinking things into being takes a whole lot of work and not just flowery thoughts. But I do believe that there can be strong mind-body ties, and I do believe that there’s really no downside to positive thinking.
My experience at the gym yesterday sent me on a google hunt for articles on positive thinking and sports. What do you know – the first article I read cited studies done with weightlifters. Psychology Today had this to say:
A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting. In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone.
That sounds exactly like what I experienced, in that the movements came more easily to me, as if I’d been practicing them. But the only practice I had done was in my head!
The New York Times ran an article earlier this year on Olympians using imagery as mental training. They preferred the term “imagery” to “visualization,” as it implied invoking more senses, thereby making the visualization more effective. Rookie athletes described feeling more prepared for their events through practicing imagery, and the imagery process was described as “reassuring and empowering.”
I suppose this is why I look up each WOD the night before I go to the gym. It gives me a chance to envision how I will approach the workout and prepare by looking up and studying any unfamiliar moves. I think about how I will complete the workout, and that definitely feels reassuring and empowering.
Call it what you want, but the evidence is strong: think it, be it!
Photo credit: George