Optimizing Human Performance

Motor Imagery

You’ve probably heard of the “power of positive thinking”: Seeing the glass as half full Looking on the bright side of things Speaking words of affirmation And not dwelling on the past And while these are all general sound principles, you also admit to skepticism at one time or another. What if Visualization is a technique that’s been utilized within the field of sport for hundreds of years. When David defeated Goliath, he trusted and foresaw that he would win—with the throw of a stone (despite some self-doubt, he believed and pictured the victory). The first-ever Jamaican Olympic bobsled team (a la Cool Runnings) visualized victory in the snowy mountains, in spite of 90+-degree temperatures during their team practices. Rudy and Rocky pictured success—on the field and in the ring—no matter what doubters stood in their way. If Lebron James wants to be on fire, he taps into the power of his mind: seeing, believing, and then, lastly, achieving. And when you want to break through a plateau, conquer a goal, set a new PR, or simply improve from last year’s CrossFit Open, visualization will take you far—specifically Motor Imagery. Motor Imagery (MI) is the mental representation of movement without any body movement. Imagery refers to the “creation (or re-creation) of any experience in the mind—auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, organic. More specifically, Motor Imagery is directly related to gross motor tasks: visualizing yourself hitting that PR; hitting above 300 reps on a “Fight Gone Bad” style workout; or peddling your heart out on that Assault Bike like there’s no tomorrow. Simply by imagining movements, you activate similar brain areas as you would when you actually move. Motor Imagery helps people, from all walks of life, improve their motor performance, establish motor patterns and learn new motor tasks, such as: · Athletes in sport or the gym; · Nervous 16-year-olds parallel parking to pass their driving test (i.e. “don’t hit anything”, “don’t hit anything”); · Miss America walking across a stage in high-heels (“don’t trip; don’t trip!), · Individuals recovering and coping with neurological conditions (eg, stroke, spinal cord injury, Parkinson disease); · Actors “getting into character” on the Big Screen; · Surgeons imagining the performance of a successful surgical procedure; · A woman, picturing her perfect makeup and outfit for going out that night—dressed to kill; · And physical therapy patients—rehabbing from an injury. So how does MI apply to you? Well…you want to improve your performance, right? Think of MI as the a ‘slight-edge’ tool in your tool belt on your quest for improvement, from adding more weight on the barbell to finishing in the top 100 in the Region come the CrossFit Open Evidence from multiple studies points toward this unique “power of positive thinking (MI) for performance enhancement. Specifically, for MI, applied in the sports context, positive effects have been reported in speed, performance accuracy muscle strength, movement dynamics, and motor skill performance. For instance, one study recruited a total of 22 skilled and 22 novice soccer players, and randomly assigned players to either a 6-week Motor Imagery training program or ‘strategizing program’, wherein the control group (non-MI-training) developed a mental, competitive strategy for their soccer skills and game (that was totally unrelated to their performance tasks). At the end of the study, researchers evaluated two performance measures--response time (i.e. the time to complete the soccer task) and performance accuracy (i.e. errors in performing the soccer task recorded in the form of time penalties), finding that both skilled and novice soccer players from the Motor Imagery group significantly improved their Performance on their soccer tasks (the control group on the other hand, failed to show improvement) (1).http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8497020?dopt=Abstract Another study, evaluating strength gains in trainees found that the athletes who put their mind into muscle (literally) experienced strength increases without repeated muscle activation. Researchers concluded that force gains appeared to result from practice effects on central motor programming/planning (not necessarily doing more in the gym) (2).http://jn.physiology.org/content/67/5/1114.abstract?ijkey=2d4dd484eb64d0f7b8c1f0a82b6d4dd901ba72a8&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha This study proves that, although MI is often associated with “winning” a workout, or keeping your head in the game on the competition floor, MI is also an effective everyday tool for getting the most out of your workouts (i.e. mind into muscle): · Hit your squat deeper; · Fully lock out your elbows your elbows on the jerk; · Get one more pullup; · Add just 2.5 or 5 more pounds to the bar with ease; · And on and on. MI can help you conquer the seemingly impossible or challenging lifts, movements and workouts with better form, gains and the extra ‘umph’ you need to break down barriers. Are YOU getting the most out of your workout? Feel like you’re going through the motions at times? Blog hopping or stuck at a plateau? Consider Motor Imagery. In fact, Motor Imagery PLUS an individualized program, designed through Central Athlete’s remote coaching, will undoubtedly take your game to a whole new level. We at Central Athlete coach all of our clients up not only on the physical, but also mental and lifestyle aspects of their training and goals. As leaders and pioneers in the training industry, we see Remote Coaching as the evolution of the sport of CrossFit and fitness (wherein, if you want to improve, you must work on your individual weaknesses and continue to build upon your personal strengths). Not only will you be given a training program (built solely upon your goals, improving your weaknesses and refining your strengths), but you will also be guided in implementing Motor Imagery strategies into your daily routine (it may even become second nature!). Couple this with an in-depth, monthly 1:1 lifestyle session and check-in with your coach, and you have: Change. Improvement. Gains. Give Motor Imagery a try for your next training session. For example: Prescribed Workout: Strength: 5 x 5 Backsquats, work up to a heavy set of 5 Conditioning : 21-15-9 Thrusters Pullups Motor Imagery in practice: Heighten your motor imagery experience by closing your eyes and visualizing what these movements look like. Squatting below parallel, engaging your glutes on the drive up, knees out, chest nice and tall. You pick the weight—and you are able to handle the load with strength ease. As for the conditioning, you’ve completed this one before—you know what it feels like. Now pick the time in which you want to work today. Envision unbroken sets of 21-15-9—it’s a breeze. Envision engaging your glutes as you drive up, locking out those elbows at the top, flying through your pull-ups. So as we think, therefore we become. Set yourself up for success with positive thinking. Resources: 1.) Blair A, Hall C, Leyshon G. Imagery effects on the performance of skilled and novice soccer players. J Sports Sci. 1993;11:95–101. 2.) Yue G, Cole KJ. Strength increases from the motor program: comparison of training with maximal voluntary and imagined muscle contractions. J Neurophysiology. 1992;67:1114–1123.  


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