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Through the thick-paned windows we see him pedaling the exercise bicycle. His forehead is moist, but he still seems to spin the wheels in peppy rhythm with the music from the
stereo. There is a secret that this scene of a man working out does not reveal. As he pedals, he is subconsciously programming himself to have the fantastic physique he's wanted
for years. The tape he is listening to contains subliminal music.
More and more people are using subliminal message tapes to become more physically fit or to play their favorite sport better. According to USA Today, golf tournament winner Billy Casper credited "one of his best putting rounds in some time" to listening to subliminal message tapes. There are tapes to make people better golfers, skiers, bowlers, tennis players and joggers. There is also a tape especially designed to help bodybuilders reach their goals faster. What's the idea behind subliminal tapes?
You have set your mind to imagining a strong, healthy and attractive body. What you have imagined for yourself in detail, you will achieve. According to the tape manufacturers, messages like these are hidden beneath the sounds of soothing music. These inaudible messages bypass your conscious mind, so you don't have a chance to analyze or resist them. Your subconscious mind then readily absorbs them.
What proof is there that these messages really work? Many people claim subliminals have changed their lives, but the research appears to be scanty-except in supermarkets. In recent years many stores have flooded their shopping areas with music containing inaudible messages like "I am honest" and "I will not steal." Most of the store owners have happily watched their employee theft rates go down significantly. The music also apparently turned a number of would-be shoplifters into angels, but it did not drastically reduce the overall shoplifting rate. (It could be that many customers aren't in the store long enough for the messages to take effect.)
Subliminal tapes are designed to put bodybuilders through a sort of practice session-the only thing is, the practice is done from the eyebrows up. According to Tim Kelley, national sales manager of Potentials Unlimited, the company that makes the bodybuilding tape, "In sports you do something more successfully once you've done it in your head. This tape helps you visualize yourself building the perfect body."
Even so, how close can bodybuilders come to this oft-dreamed-of goal: The Perfect Body (PB)? Maybe better than we think.
Scientists say that the average person uses only 5 to 10 percent of his or her mental capacity. The average Joe might only be using 5 to 10 percent of his physical capacity as well. We've all heard stories of people in emergency situations getting surges of adrenaline and lifting heavy items they couldn't even budge under normal conditions. A father might be able to lift the heavy iron rod that just fell on his son, but ask him to lift it a few days later and suddenly you're facing a retired weightlifter. If Dad has the potential to lift the iron, what's happened? Why isn't he using his full potential every minute of the day? It could be that the only thing holding him back is his belief that he can't.
Consequently, if bodybuilders could free themselves from beliefs like "I can't lift any more than this" and "I'm not good enough to win in that competition," they might find themselves moving much faster toward their goals.
Tape manufacturers tell us that we already have a subliminal "tape" playing in our heads. They call this "self-talk." We get a lot of our "self-talk" from parents, teachers, friends and the media. "Susie, go play with your dolls and let the boys rough-house with Dad. You don't want to show your muscles-it's unladylike." "Eddie, you're a born loser." As a result of these messages, we may find that Susie never develops her muscles and Eddie never wins any of the weightlifting competitions he enters. Subliminal tapes, then, are supposed to replace old, negative messages like these with new, positive ones.
You have within you all the determination, all the will power, all the wisdom to achieve your bodybuilding goals. A popular fitness write recently wrote, "It's no accident that many of the bodybuilders and lifters who make the fastest progress train with people who scream encouragement like there's no tomorrow. Did you think cheerleaders were just for the fans?" If you can change your self-talk so that it's upbeat enough, you may have hired yourself a built-in cheerleader.
"Subliminal cheerleaders" are designed to spread other things besides cheer. By whispering in your ear, they might be able to help you change your eating and exercise habits. One way to reach your PB goal faster is to eat the nutritious foods that develop muscle mass and give you greater energy for heavy workouts. To eliminate unhealthy eating habits, you might consider programming yourself subliminally with messages like: As there is a wide range of foods that are not for the highest use of your body, you will begin eliminating them from your world.. .white bread, cakes and cookies steadily and consistently lose their appeal, for they don't look good, or taste good, or smell good.
Some subliminal messages are designed to boost your enthusiasm for exercise: You look forward to your workouts and enjoy them immensely.
Messages like these may help you stay regular with your program. There are also tapes that will purportedly help you lose weight, stop smoking or drinking and stay free of drugs.
Many lifters get stressed out before-and during-a competition. Tapes designed to increase self-con-fidence and relieve stress and anxiety might be useful for curing "competition stagefright."
When you get an injury, doctors will usually advise you to rest the injured part. Then you get to fall behind in your training, which isn't much fun. But take heart! There is a subliminal tape that supposedly programs you to speed up your own healing. Does this sound too far out?
Scientists have already demonstrated that people can lower or raise their blood pressure or heartbeat at will using a technique called biofeedback. It may not be too farfetched to think that you can help a wound heal faster by redirecting your thoughts.
Susan Savage, a nutritional counselor in Los Angeles, listened to a subliminal tape called "Releasing Natural Healing Forces" once a day for three months. She claimed that the tape trained her body to heal faster. Reported Savage, "During that time I broke my shin, and the painful part of it healed rapidly."
You may have a particular body-building problem or goal that's not covered on a mass-produced tape. If so, you may want to have a tape custom made and even write some of the messages yourself. For example, if you tend to overtrain, you could add the message: / train for just the right amount of time every week. To prevent injuries: / exercise in the proper form so that my body accepts each movement gracefully and easily. If you want to build your back: / am building up muscles in my back to the ideal size. If you get stressed out before competitions: I am relaxed during competitions. One place where you can get tapes custom made is the nonprofit Anderson Research Foundation in Los Angeles.
Before you go jaunting around in fields of subliminal blossoms, however, some words of caution: Read the messages on the paper insert before you buy the tape. If they aren't listed, you should call the manufacturer and ask what they are. Often the messages are spoken audibly on the reverse side of the tape, so if you go ahead and buy it, be sure to listen to the messages first. Remember that they are designed by mere humans, who have their own prejudices about what people should and should not feel, think and do. For example, the message "You prefer eating only those foods that add life to your body...uncooked fruits and uncooked vegetables" may not be your idea of fun. Always be consciously aware of the tape's message so you know how you're programming yourself.
A few people get headaches from subliminals. Savage gave up listening because she got a headache every time, and she feels it was because the tapes were pouring too much information into her brain at one time. Mary Lou Simonelli of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, feels her children get headaches because they're mentally resisting the tape's message. If your head starts throbbing, you might try cutting down on your listening time.
Finally, many people think that the research on subliminal tapes is still not enough to prove that they work. We might be able to lift heavier weights after listening to the tapes, but maybe it's only because we've psyched ourselves up to think they're working. Dr. Lena Cloren, a Los Angeles psychologist, said, "I recommend subliminal tapes to my patients who have eating disorders. The patients often start eating more sensibly, but I don't know if it's because of the tape-it could just be the placebo effect."
To that, some bodybuilders might say, "Placebo or schmabeebo, if you're getting built from it, use it!"
Which is exactly my sentiment.