Saturday, May 22, 2010

Improve Your Running with Visualization

A few nights ago I listened to Philip Dunn, 3 time Olympian, talk about his Olympic experience and training methods at the San Diego Track Club’s monthly get-together.  While Dunn talked about training and nutrition I was more interested in something else he mentioned; visualization.  Most of us have heard about visualization techniques, maybe we even read about them in the book ‘The Secret’ back when everyone was raving about positive thinking, but the majority of us don’t actually use it.  Personally, I use it in my yoga practice but have yet to carry it over to my running.  Philip talked about visualizing himself running through the finish line feeling great when he is at mile 20 with over 11 miles to go.  Like many other high-level athletes it helps to give him that edge.

I am fascinated with the mind-body connection so I sought out a colleague that is a certified hypno-therapist from a healing arts school for more information.  According to Jef Olson, “visualization, sometimes called mental imagery, is a great way to gain confidence, increase mental awareness, reduce or eliminate stress and some even believe it can relieve pain and speed up the healing process”.

There has been a great deal of research that suggests visualization has a significantly positive effect on performance.  One study conducted by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago was done where he split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make. He had one group practice free throws every day for an hour.  Another group visualized themselves making free throws and the third group did nothing.  After 30 days, he tested them again. Basically the group that practiced and the group that visualized improved the same amount, despite the fact that one group never even touched a basketball.  The group that did nothing, obviously had no improvement.  That my friends is the power of positive thinking!

This does not mean that you will be just as good of a runner if you visualize in place of actually running, but it clearly has a positive effect on performance. The mind is an extremely powerful tool and we should use it to our benefit.  As Angela, an exercise physiologist, puts it “Visualization is a great way to improve your running without putting the extra mileage and stress on your body.” 

Jef Olson stated that visualization can be used as part of meditation prior to race day and can also be used while out on the course.  It may sound hokey to some of you but it doesn't hurt to try.  If you’re interested in learning more about visualization, click on this link.   

Happy Thoughts and Happy Running!


  1. Maybe that's what i'm doing. I can visualize myself running running running. Maybe soon i'll do a 5K for a cause. I think about running all the time. Your blog inspires me. I wish I could run the distances you run. I know I have to push myself harder. I really want to be fit and healthy.

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