How can I incorporate guided imagery into my workout?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
By setting a goal and seeing yourself reaching that goal step by step, you can incorporate guided imagery into your workout. This is a kind of mental rehearsal for the actual work out. When you visualize it, it becomes easier for your body to perform it. Many elite athletes do this and it can improve their time and performance.

You do not have to be an elite athlete for this to work. You can use guided imagery to learn a dance, or improve your weight training or to improve your time on a local running or bike race. Mentally take yourself through the activity and see yourself succeeding and you will.
Imagery is a script written about any behavior that someone wants to change or enhance. The best imagery script is written in your own 'voice' with your own personal experience. It is prepared including use of all of the senses, written in a positive tone and performing the behavior in the correct way. If the behavior has been previously preformed in a positive way that experience can be written into script form to be used as imagery. Using a past behavior helps to realize that there are skills already present, provides a sense of self confidence and allows for further growth of those skills. 

If you don't have a past, positive experience with the behavior you are interested in changing or enhancing with imagery then the next best way to write a script is utilizing an icon or someone you've seen who is really good at this behavior. For example, if you just started playing tennis and are struggling with your serve and have seen the serve of a professional tennis player that you identify with, watch them over and over and then write a detailed script about what the behavior looks like to you. 

Dreaming is very similar to imagery. Dreams are about something that's happened, something that's about to happen, something we wish to change/have happen or something unconscious we are sorting through and figuring out. Dreams are vivid. They are similar to television: colorful, active, and include pictures that draw out our sense of smell, taste, sight and hearing. Developing imagery is similar but we want to focus on positive images (past positive images if you have them) and the use of our senses to learn, rehearse or strengthen a behavior. For example, you can remember an instance when you were 10 flying down the road on your bicycle. You were all alone, in the middle of the country and remember the sense of freedom and fun. Write that experience down on a piece of paper with as many specifics as you can remember including: smells, tastes, sights, movements and things you could hear. Reliving that moment alongside actually getting out and cycling will recondition your mind and body so you'll be prepared to start cycling again. 

You can use small pieces of this throughout the day; similar to a ticker-tape. You can use longer pieces to help drift you off to sleep or you can use small, medium or longer pieces before the behavior to help you prepare. 
Irwin Isaacs
Find a picture of yourself from when you had the body form you now seek.  Study the picture while telling yourself that you were once in this shape, and you choose to give yourself this beautiful body once again.  To reinforce that process you should find an item of clothing that you were able to wear when you were thinner, and attempt to put it on.  Tell yourself that you will once again be able to wear that item of clothing as a result of your exercise and nutrition decisions.  This process is maximized if incorporated into a process of self hypnosis, thereby utilizing the awesome power of your unconscious mind.
Whenever you have free time and are away from any distractions use this time to visualize yourself accomplishing your fitness goals, and see yourself looking and feeling the way you wish to. Keep this image in your head as you work out and try to sync the image in your head with the reality of what you’re doing.
When you are on an elevator, waiting for someone or have few seconds to spare imagine exactly what you want your body to look like from head to toe. The more you focus on your goals the quicker they will turn into reality. If this is hard for you rip pictures out of magazines. While you are working out-visualize the exact muscle you are burning and get a clear picture of what you want it to look like.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.