fbpx Skip to content


Mental Imagery and Running

Mind-body techniques help “nonrunners” complete ultra-marathons

| Earn 1 CEC - Take Quiz

Coach using mental imagery for motivation

In a validation of the mind-body connection and its potential power, a new mental imagery technique, “functional imagery training,” is showing promise in helping self-described “nonrunners” complete their first ultra-marathon.

University of Plymouth researchers in England developed the method—which uses imagery as a motivational tool—and have successfully applied it in a weight loss trial. For this small study, subjects who were assigned to the imagery technique group were five times more likely to complete the ultra-event than those who received only motivational interviewing.

“An ultra-marathon requires a huge amount of mental, as well as physical, strength—even from people who run regularly,” said lead study author Jonathan Rhodes, PhD student and associate lecturer at University of Plymouth. “Trialing functional imagery training on historically self-professed nonrunners was a real test of its efficacy, and to see that it made a difference was a promising finding.

“It shows that multisensory imagery is the key difference between those who reach the starting line and then go on to finish, and those who do not—showing it is critical to maintaining changes and pushing the boundaries of physical and mental performance.”

The study is published in the Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity (2021; doi:10.1515/jirspa-2021-0011).

See also: Motivational Interviewing: Talking Their Way to Health


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up tp date with our latest news and products.