I’ve been using mental imagery for years to help me get through those runs that feel more difficult, or when trying to increase my distance. Typically, I picture myself making it to the finish line, or a particular mile marker. Then the other day when I was running in unseasonably hot weather (for the Pacific Northwest), the phrase, “keep on swimming,” from the film “Finding Nemo” kept running through my head. I’ve often used that to get through a long slow day at work or other somewhat excruciating experiences, and it sometimes pops up during other circumstances such as this brutally warm morning.
It wasn’t a far stretch to go from “keep on swimming,” to imagining myself running through water. It was amazing how I was able to transform the way my body felt just from that image in my mind. Suddenly, I felt cooler and my run started getting a little easier. I was bouncing through the water with ease and even pictured a beautiful waterfall that I passed under along the way. Before I knew it, I reached the end of my run, and the realization hit me that using imagery really works!
It’s been well documented that our thoughts, then images, create neuromuscular impulses that bring about a response, and if you’re a runner you have nothing to lose by experimenting by using mental imagery to see if you can boost your own performance, or use it just to get through those inevitable bad days.
If you’ve ever practiced meditation, you already have a head start on using imagery. If you haven’t, try practicing in a quiet place before you head out the door. You can use any images you like; perhaps you can see yourself running with all the energy you can possibly bring to your run, using perfect form and technique. Consider it a regular part of your overall training.
Using imagery can serve to eliminate or reduce negative thoughts and improve focus. Believing you are capable of whatever you set out to do can make all the difference in achieving it.