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NLP for Athletes – Guest Post by Logan Christopher

By Logan Christopher

Josh recently wrote a post here about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which gave me the idea to write this piece. NLP is something I’ve been studying for over a year as part of the mental training I’m doing to become even stronger and more skilled.

I first heard about NLP many years ago. It intrigued me so I picked up a copy of Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume 1 and a few other books. Unfortunately they all went so far over my head at the age of 16 that I pretty much abandoned this mental science.

That was until a couple years ago when I came across a master practitioner. Actually seeing someone that could effortless elicit timelines, read accessing cues and then utilize these along with sub-modalities to effect lasting changes on another person renewed my interest in NLP. I wanted that power!

So I began to study once again, finding some easier sources to start with. And with that base it’s easier to go into some of the more technical texts.

Anyway, let’s get to the meat of this article. I want to show you how you can use simple principles from NLP with yourself to get better results in the gym. Sound good?


Most people have at some point in life tried visualization. Visualization has been proven as an effective way to build skills many times. There‘s also some references out there to even adding strength and size to muscles. If you look at the idea of epigenetics and how beliefs and environment can make changes on a DNA level, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

An easy concept to grasp and use is the idea of modalities. These are the senses. In NLP they’re referred to as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory. In plain English that would be seeing, hearing, feeling, smell and taste.

Now the name visualization is a poor choice of words. Because when you’re visualizing you don’t just want to use your visual senses but instead incorporate them all, at least the major ones. (You don’t actually taste your barbell do you?)

Another important aspect is to realize what your primary modality is. While we use all of our senses to interact with the world there is one that we use more than others. For many people this will be easy to determine. For others not so much.

I will give you a hint. If you enjoy exercise of any sort, there’s a good chance you’re a kinesthetic person like me. Not everyone will be, but if you actually enjoy grasping a heavy barbell and how your body feels after a workout then there’s a good chance you’re kinesthetic. You can also look at the language patterns you use (like grasping and feeling I just used) as well as their physiology (for example, visual people look up and tend to talk faster).

Any time you’re visualizing you want to engage all your senses, but especially your primary sense. This will also be useful for other tactics like anchoring.


Now let’s move onto sub-modalities. These are the components that make up the whole of the sense. We’ll talk about visual sub-modalities because those are easy to play with. Here are just a few examples:

  • Distance
  • Color
  • Association
  • Size
  • Intensity
  • Speed

There are many times when you want to change these sub-modalities. When you visualize something you’re going to do certain things by default. Go ahead and pop an image of an apple on your mental screen. Where is it located? How big is it? How colorful? Is it still or moving? These are all sub-modalities and they can all be changed.

How to Visualize

Want more confidence? Visualize yourself standing 10 feet tall with everything else normal size. You should notice when you do this you’ll feel better. Oh you mean if you change one aspect of one sense and it changes another sense? Yes!

Need to remove a fear? In the NLP fast phobia cure they have you double dissociate from the image, turn it to black and white and run it backwards at super speed.

But generally if you are visualizing to gain skills then you’re going to make the picture as real as possible. This means it will be in color, it will be life-size and run in normal time. And you want to see it from a first person view, not as if you are standing outside yourself.

If you are a visual person making the picture should be no problem. But if you’re not all you have to do is practice. I recommend looking at a picture, or even what you’re looking at right now, closing your eyes then recreating every detail in your mind. And you can work on the other senses in this same way.

Then you can apply this visualization to going over any physical technique. Have a technical exercise you’re trying to do? Visualize it several times over then do it physically. You’ll likely find its much easier to do then.

And with NLP techniques you can increase the effectiveness of your visualizations. You can also learn to easily control your states, as these mental pictures (internal representations) lead to changes in states and physiology and vice versa.

Work on improving your senses and manipulating the submodalities to fit what you want to do and you can gain greater control. This can be used in the gym and out.

About the Author

Logan Christopher has a whole bunch more information on NLP and other mental training that can be used to gain strength, lose fat, and build skills. Click the link for a free report that gives you the 10 biggest mistakes people makes when it comes to mental training for athletes.

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  • Tomas December 3, 2011, 6:35 am

    Great guest post, Logan! Conscious mind is just the tip of an iceberg, subconscious is a source of infinite power, wisdom and courage.