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Mind-Body Performance : Get With The Flow! by June Kaminski, MSN
Whether you are walking, playing tennis or team sports, applying the
capabilities of your mind to your physical movements adds amazing force and
focus to your efforts.
Some of the most common mind-body techniques taught by sport psychologists,
coaches and teachers include mental rehearsal, cross training your brain and
body, visualization, imagery, and goal oriented affirmations.
Researchers have found that rehearsing a physical activity in your mind,
step-by-step, in the sequence that you would perform it causes muscular, tissue
and supporting structure responses that can be measured. Learning the proper
technique and movements, then rehearsing them in your mind will help your body
to learn the movements and perform at a higher level once you actually begin to
engage in the activity. Visual aids are very helpful in imprinting the correct
sequence of movements into your memory. Once you have learned the correct moves,
mentally rehearse the activity movement by movement until it is clear and
familiar to you.
Cross Training Your Brain and Body
People who work in logical, left-brained jobs are advised by sports
psychologists to balance their mental activity with right-brained physical
workouts. Right–brained exercise is playful, unstructured, and expressive.
Examples are tai chi, yoga, dance, and gymnastics. On the other hand, people who
work primarily using their right brain in creative and process-oriented careers
should engage more in left-brain physical activities. Structured, logical, and
routine-based workouts will give you mental balance. Examples are repetition
based activities such as weights, doing intervals and following a goal oriented
The central principle of sports psychology is the application of mental
techniques coupled with physical activity principles. Mental visual pictures of
how the body optimally moves and reacts to certain movement activities can
enhance your performance as you engage in your favorite sports or exercise
One of the most powerful ways to use visualization for fitness is to mentally
see the muscles and body involved in the activity you are engaging in. This
means you need to learn and visualize the inner workings of your body in your
mind’s eye. Learn the basic bone, muscle, tissue, ligament and organ layout in
your body then focus your mind on the body parts being used within each movement
as you do it. See your muscle fibers contract and extend, filling with
oxygenated blood and becoming stronger and denser. See your abdominal muscles
tightening and building to work with your back muscles, creating a strong
central sheath of support for your inner torso organs. And so on.
Martial artists have used imagery for centuries to create amazing routines
that resemble the movements of particular animals. Sequences based on the
natural gestures of the cat, monkey, tiger, dragon and other animals are still
taught in dojos around the globe. This mental technique can be used in any
activity to help you stimulate a natural, instinctual level of motion as you
workout. Some experts suggest that you mentally imagine that you are like a
natural element, such as freely moving water or strong and resilient metal.
Metaphoric resonance can help you to effectively move your body in similar ways
to the animal, element or other object that you imagine yourself being.
Goal Oriented Affirmations
Affirmations are inner messages which you can give yourself by incorporating
them into your routine mental "self-talk". We all mentally talk to ourselves. By
willfully using positive and affirming mental statements during your workouts,
you can help increase your energy and motivation for doing fitness activities.
As well, this reinforces the mental images used while combining fitness with
visualization, imagery and mental rehearsal. The most effective affirmations are
ones that you choose yourself, tailored to reflect your own unique preferences
and activity choices. Examples include, "My body is strong and limber, it loves
to run and throw the ball"; "My body is free and nimble"; "I can jump
effortlessly and lightly, easily clearing the bar."
Why Mental Training?
an article by sports psychologist, Karlene Sugarman offers more
information on mind-body training.
Introduction to Imagery and Simulation offers an overview of how to use
imagery in your fitness regime.
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