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Can Imagination and Visualization Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

In the age-all question of whether or not imagination and visualization can help you achieve your goals (be it fitness, weight loss, career, or another goal…) science says yes. And mental performance experts agree.

Studies published in the Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, the results researchers got were almost unbelievable: using a motivational invention also known as functional imagery training (or FIT,) seven non-runners were able to complete an ultra-marathon. 

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at the recent research that mental performance experts have agreed on and learn how we can use imagery and visualization to achieve our own goals. 


Completing an ultra-marathon requires a ton of mental and physical strength. Even if you’re a regular runner. But study researchers who worked on the study cited above concluded that multi-sensory imagery is one of the key differences between the people who reach the starting line (and then go on to the finish) and the people who don’t. This shows us it’s critical to maintain changes and push the boundaries of our physical and mental performance through visualization. 

By imagining the short-term future, an athlete can retain their motivation during critical points during a race of a training session. And during a hard workout, an athlete may even imagine how they’re telling their significant other later on in the day how they can cruise up that hill with little to no effort. 

And the more in-depth that imagery becomes, the better – picture sitting on your desk at home, sipping a steaming cup of coffee, telling your spouse about the great hike you had that day (or feeling proud about how you finished your fifth long walk of the week.) That feels good, doesn’t it? And that image, right as your training session or hike becomes boring, can really give you that final stream of motivation you need to hit the finish line.

And the key is in involving as many senses as possible. 

Imagining a workout, for example, might mean you have to use a few of your senses. You can hear yourself breathing heavily, you can taste that saltiness of your sweat dripping down, you can feel the wind on your skin as you’re running. The more you can incorporate different senses into one image, the more effective that imagery becomes at motivating you.  


Instead of picturing yourself winning an actual marathon, you should use motivational general mastery function in imagery. This sounds intimidating but it just means imagining yourself with an outcome like being more athletic, more focused, more confident, or more mentally tough during the important moments. That’s how you can get out the door on the mornings when you don’t feel like running or walking.

Imagery is a fantastic way to motivate yourself, and it’s something we’re all capable of doing. Not to mention, you can get better at it with practice. Children are especially great at it because they still have extremely vivid and active imaginations. As adults, we don’t capitalize enough on this ability so we might need a little training to get it right. 

For instance, imagine that you’re eating an apple. Close your eyes – feel the watermelon in your hands. What’s the weight of it? How does it feel? Focus on the color, the flavor, the smell, the taste. Imagine the sweetness of that first bite, and the feeling of apple juice on your taste buds.

Once you’ve mastered the apple imagery technique, you can shift into a sport focus. You can use imagery to go through a “getting ready and out the door” scenario to start your next workout. 

This will help you develop a sort of functional equivalence. Basically, you’re getting a blueprint in your mind that you can follow when it’s time to actually get up and go out for your workout. The same neurons that fire in your brain when you physically do something are the same that fire up when you imagine it (just to a lesser degree.) Basically, you’ll be training your brain so it’s ready when you need to take action.

Unfortunately, many people will end up using imagery in a way that hurts their goals rather than help them. Because we’re quick to start focusing on the negatives, picturing how we did something poorly, and this can really hurt our confidence. 

If a workout didn’t go your way or you actually haven’t gotten out for a walk all week, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, use imagery to think about how you could do things differently and get back on track.

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