Many elite athletes use visualisation techniques as part of training and competition. There are many stories of athletes who have used these techniques to encourage not only a competitive edge but also to create improved mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being, and confidence. All of these factors have been shown to contribute to success.
It is the act of mentally recreating experiences by making use of information that is stored in the memory. Generally, it involves an athlete visualising himself or herself achieving a preferred result or performing a specific movement.
Sport visualisation has the ability to produce some great results because when you envision yourself performing a certain movement or exercise or activity in a desired manner, you are actually creating neural pattern in the brain. Those are the same patterns that would occur if the action was actually performed.
Mental imagery conditions our minds to react in a certain way so that when the action actually happens, the mind is familiar with how it has to process information which turns into a better performance of the athlete.
If you struggle with visualisation, you’re normal. Sure, there are some people who have the ability to close their eyes and instantly bring up clear images, but for many of us this is a skill that needs to be developed over time. With practice however, everyone has the ability to visualise.
There are two keys principles to keep in mind when practicing visualisation . The first is, your practice needs to be consistent.
10 minutes a day every day, will always beat an intense hour-long session once a week.
It helps to make a commitment to practice your visualisation the same time every day.
One of the most powerful effects of good visualisation is that it programs the subconscious brain. You want to think of the subconscious brain as a self-guiding missile. When a self-guiding missile is fired, it starts moving towards its programmed target. As it moves towards its target it assesses its coordinates in relation to the target, and makes mini adjustments to correct its path. Our subconscious brain works in the same way. It identifies our coordinates and naturally moves us towards our target.
You can execute skills flawlessly, you can dominate your competition, and you can ensure victory. By visualizing success, you program your subconscious to move towards success.
It is commonly accepted that being associated in visualisation (looking out from your body just as you would if you were really there) is the more powerful of the two perspectives. Being associated helps you connect to the feeling of the visualisation , which as you’ll see shortly is critically important. However, being disassociated also has some really valuable uses. Other useful times to disassociate include working through a painful experience to gain wisdom from it, or in the initial stages of visualizing a performance that is completely outside your current reality. The key is, play around with being both associated and dissociated and find out what works best for you.
The visualisation is important, but what’s even more important is the feeling it creates inside of you. A visualisation without feeling is like a car without fuel. Feelings lead to emotions, and emotions are the fuel of your performance.
Create powerful emotions, and you’ll create powerful performance states.
Based on this, a huge key to visualisation is pumping the experience, or in other words increasing the intensity of your emotions.
Most people have a haphazard approach to visualisation . The process involves closing their eyes and just doing it. Separate yourself from the pack. Follow a system. Following a system is important because of the nature of visualisation . With practice, you will develop better control of your visualisation , but you can really give yourself a leg up by following a system.
There is also good reason why the world’s top athletes swear by the effectiveness of sport visualisation — it works!
If you are a serious about competing or you just want to be the best athlete you can be, implement sport visualisation into your training and get an edge on the rest of the pack.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with visualisation , as well as some of the challenges you’re currently facing, so feel free to get in touch and share your story.
Get in touch through social media and let us know how these tips have helped improved you and what has worked best for you. If things ever get too much and you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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