co-author of The Meadow
Mike O'Hare
July - 7 - 2012 | 0 Comment

Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse. ~
George A. Sheehan

Well, now there’s an alternative that will put paid to that philosophy. It’s all about holistic fitness. So read on . . .

Fitness through the mind


For the dedicated keep-fit follower, there is nothing better than a good work out at the local gym. There are others who, although not so keen, still push themselves into an agenda of participation in the hope of gaining or maintaining good health. It would appear that the incentives are not so great for those who grudgingly keep fit.

For the not-so-keen, perhaps a holistic fitness approach to exercise could be the answer. The concept is not completely new, and some programmes are already in place in many gymnasiums – in the hair and beauty salons and for the older generation, enabling them to partake in gentle exercise, using old practices such as Tai Chi, Yoga and the like.

The practice of holistic fitness therapy has been used for decades, along with the many treatments that complement it. Although mainstream, many people haven’t grasped its meaning and the consequences it has on us as human beings. Most seem to think that it is treating mind and body, but this is only part of the scheme of things. To be truly holistic means to treat the person and that incorporates mind, body and spirit.

Forward-thinking clubs are always happy to welcome good ideas. The regional fitness and studio co-ordinator representing my gym, which is part of a chain of fitness centres, is Paula Turner and she reflects the company’s philosophy when she says: “We are always looking for new and innovative methods of encouraging people to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle”.

Apparently, there are three different worlds in which the human being interacts. These are the physical where our thoughts become manifest, the mental that allows reasoning – our thoughts and imagination – to flow via our emotions, and the spiritual that houses our aspirations, inspirations and, hopefully, our soul. The common denominator among these is our consciousness that intersperses all three.

People in general, including fitness club owners, may be asking what on earth this has to do with gymnasiums and keeping fit. Well, it has everything to do with it. The mind is very powerful and most of us are oblivious to the fact that we can use it in many ways to create better results with our training. What I am about to suggest may be familiar if you take time out to meditate or even contemplate your life in a relaxed mood. If not, read on!

We are blessed with being able to imagine. This mental ability allows us to detach from the physical world, to an internal world, where we find almost anything can be created. One state of imagination is visualisation. When we visualise, we are putting ourselves into a world where we have complete control over our imagination.


One step up from the static bike

Getting fit the holistic wayThere are many training programmes that are used in gyms, with a choice of machines to suit. One of these is the use of static bikes. The common name for the instructor-led mode of bike exercise is Spin, usually referred to as a class. I take advantage of this type of training as a member of my local gym, and fully enjoy the state of fitness it allows me to achieve. 

However, this area is crying out for something in addition to the regular, conventional classes that are held, where boredom can set in due to the repetitive nature of physical exercise. This is where the holistic fitness approach can be introduced whereby visualisation becomes a major contributing factor for enhanced sessions and improved motivation for the client. With the right music and a trained instructor, there is the foundation for an excellent new programme, which would actually make people want to exercise more often. This is good psychology working in tangent with health and fitness improvement.

“We have been very interested in the concept of visualisation and the holistic fitness approach adopted by Mike”, says Paula. “There is little doubt that he has succeeded in utilising this approach and it has helped him achieve his current level of fitness. Our company is dedicated to providing suitable forms of exercise for all ages and levels of fitness.”

When in a class such as Spin, you become a member of a team.  By using your imagination, you still maintain your individuality. The idea of incorporating visualisation into strenuous exercise is to allow a person’s individual goals to be met. You no longer compete with yourself or others. One way is to imagine that not only do you take full responsibility for yourself, but also for the others in your team, helping them to achieve their fitness targets. Of course, you are only using your imagination.

The idea behind such an exercise programme is to imagine that you are the leader of your group and as a consequence, a high example must be given. When appropriate music is introduced, along with the verbal guidance of an instructor, a new-imagined world is created, inviting you to enter.

Because you have taken on the responsibility for yourself and your group, a new mode of thinking enters your psyche and your adrenal glands respond and provide you with the energy to fulfil this task. The satisfaction gained can be phenomenal and as a result, your physical exercise has moved up a notch. Here is an example:

Of course, the number of scenarios is endless, but for the purpose of this demonstration I am going to suggest that you are a member of the Red Arrows and the others in the team are members of your squadron. Using appropriate music – which is essential – and the verbal guidance of the instructor, imagine you are on the runway, travelling at great speed, ready for take-off. At this point, the instructor says that you and the machine are the same and, as you begin to climb, your legs become the pistons that power the engine.

Imagine you are now in complete control and that your team members will follow your actions. Every vertical climb, every loop and every manoeuvre will be your responsibility. Even the best Hollywood boffins can never duplicate the mental pictures that you form. The music and instructions take you to even greater heights, thus elevating your exercise to new levels as a consequence of the adrenalin that is flowing.

At the end you feel you’ve had an exhilarating journey, yet you have never left the bike that you are training on. Due to the nature of the programme, your imagination has been given free licence to produce a world that you can enter and be in total control. All this has been achieved with the guidance of the instructor and the use of good, appropriate music. The concept of using imagination combined with physical exercise is up to date and very exciting. It is waiting to be exploited.


What the experts have to say

Tony Flounders, hynotherapistTony Flounders is a Member of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis and is trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Here’s what he has to say regarding visualisation linked with keep-fit: “Often people will set their own limits when exercising and give up at or just past this. At that point they feel as if they can’t go on any more because they know that they will be exhausted. They have decided in advance.

“The use of a good visualisation technique will cause the critical, self-limiting part of the conscious mind to become distracted and thus allow the body to continue exercising without any mentally pre-set limits. Also if the visualisation is one that a person enjoys, then the exercise session will become easier. When the appropriate use of music is added, with an energetic beat that the person will unconsciously begin to pattern, the level of exercise can be dramatically improved.”

Steve Norton sports psychologistAnother expert in the field of psychological fitness training is Steve Norton. As a registered member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy and an approved TFT practitioner, he holds the Diploma of Hypnotherapy and is the author of The Principles of Life: All you need to know to live the best life ever!  He sums up by saying: “I wholeheartedly recommend Mike’s holistic fitness approach to exercise. Having worked with many athletes in my hypnotherapy practice, I can testify that the use of visualisation for athletic performance is a huge benefit to those seeking greater fitness. Mike’s unique concept would be a great addition to any forward-thinking health club.”

What better way than to finish with an endorsement from people on the ground – the instructors who know what works and can benefit others.  Johnny Cole, Andrea Douglas and Cheryl Laycock are veterans with a chain of gymnasiums. After trying this method they were in agreement and replied by saying: “When participating in this new concept of visualisation training, we noticed that when we closed our eyes and pictured different scenarios, it allowed the pain of intense training to be taken away, leaving only the mental images on which we could focus. This meant that the level of training and our targets could be easily achieved with very little conscious effort. As training instructors, we found the experience enjoyable and rewarding and is to be highly recommended.”


There are no losers

If such a venture becomes popular, both the club and its members are first to reap the advantages. Due to the uniqueness of these training sessions, people would soon want to join the latest craze. Soon after, helped by reputation and word of mouth, the news spreads. It doesn’t take long for the media to hear about it and before you know, a new exercise culture has been introduced. You can’t patent imagination, but you can harness the idea that stems from such a programme and convert it into a successful commercial package, suitable for fitness clubs. 

I have adopted this mode of thinking into my training programme and it has served me well for many years. As a person who has spent a lot of years on the Earth, I can still hold my own when spinning at any reasonable level. I can only imagine what could have been achieved earlier in life, had I been privileged with a fitness programme, holistically designed to my needs such as a visualisation class. If you want to take your club to a new and exciting level, maybe it’s time you considered a new holistic fitness approach for your clients.

John Lennon was a great songwriter. The message in his most famous composition is to Imagine.

You can visit Steve Norton’s web site on www.freeyourmind.info.

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