Monday, May 8, 2017

Is it Possible to Maintain Muscle Without Stepping Foot In the Gym?

In the movie, The Secret, there's a scene where the Law of Attraction experts discuss the power of the mind and visualization in the reality creation process.  They discussed how athletes visualized themselves performing at a high level on the field of play.  As they created mental pictures in their minds, their muscles would signal as if the activity were actually happening.

Soon they realized that visualizing the successful execution of game moves in their minds brought nearly as powerful benefits as hours of real practice.  This is why visualization is so well-regarded  when it comes to the manifestation process.  We see it in our minds, and it feels so real.  Our belief skyrockets but, more importantly, our bodies really respond.

Today I learned that this physical response might actually help you in your fitness journey.  Let me explain.
From a non-scientific perspective, I've incorporated visualization a couple of ways in my fitness journey.  The first, and most powerful method for me, is using mental imagery to create the desire to work out.  The toughest part about working out consistently is actually getting dressed and getting to the gym.  Once I'm there,  the workout goes well once the endorphins start kickin' in.  I'm well aware that if I could just get myself to go, I won't regret it.  But sometimes knowing isn't enough.

I have to convince my subconscious to buy in.  What works well for me is taking a few minutes to picture myself in the act of working out.  It doesn't take long for the resistance to flee.  By simply picturing myself at the gym, I suddenly have the desire to actually be there.

Apparently, you can incorporate visualization in a way that directly benefits your body. Researchers studied several groups of people. One group wore an arm cast from elbow to finger tips. The control group did not wear the casts.  Of the group with the cast, half were asked to perform an imaginary exercise on a regular basis.  All they did was clearly picture themselves engaging in exercises using the immobilized arm.

Four weeks later, all the participants were tested for muscle strength.  As expected, those wearing the casts all lost muscle compared to the control group.  But those who were tasked to mentally exercise their wrists lost half as much muscle as the group who just wore the cast and did nothing else.

Basically, they discovered that imagery had the power to impact our bodies on a physical level.  That's pretty exciting.  Especially if you've suffered an injury and aren't able to work out regularly.  But I'm also wondering if this technique will work even if you're able bodied but just can't get to the gym.  Researchers studied the brains of weight lifters and found that their brain patterns activated  in the same way when they imagined lifting 100 lbs as when they actually did.  The researchers believed that this suggests that muscle strength could increase because of the signals fired in the brain from visualization.

Obviously, working out is the ideal way to maintain a healthy body but it's good to be reminded of the power of the mind.  If creating mental pictures can make a real difference in our bodies, shouldn't we incorporate visualization as part of our success strategy?  It may not feel like you're doing anything but visualization makes a real difference.  Those clear mental pictures have the ability to impact your neurological mechanisms in ways we can't even imagine.  Don't forget to visualize.

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