Of all the various mental training techniques used today, visualization (or what sport psychologists prefer to call imagery) is the single most powerful one used to optimize performance.
Regardless of what you’re training for or what goals you have, you can leverage imagery to be successful.
Here are three ways professional and Olympics athletes harness the power of imagery to perform at their peak and how you can too
1. Skill Mastery:
When Olympic athletes are hooked up to biofeedback machines and image their event, the same muscle fibers fire off in the same pattern as if they were physically performing. This is because, when you use imagery to rehearse a performance, be it a mile run, Pigeon Pose in yoga, bench press, or a specific tactical move, the mind can’t distinguish between really doing it and not.
Imagery helps code movement patterns thus making actions more familiar and automatic. No wonder imagery is an essential component in peak performance training.
Even before you physically attempt a skill, and long after your body is done for the day, imagery works to enhance overall performance, improving your chances of getting exactly what you want.
2. Pain Killer:
Often the mind gives up before the body needs to. Despite any physical pain, Willpower, predominantly controlled by imagery, can push you through any discomfort in order to get to the end of a training session or a difficult part of your plan.
One great way imagery can cope with pain is by controlling your interpretation of pain.
The defeatist mindset interprets pain to mean this sucks, I obviously didn’t train hard enough and now I’ll never achieve my goal.
The competitive mindset, on the other hand, interprets pain to mean my body is talking to me to either let me know I need to adjust some aspect of my activity or dig deep for that extra motivation to power through.
To find that last bit of motivation, distract yourself away from the pain by using imagery to experience yourself making it through the night of no snacking or finishing the entire workout (for example).
In other words, tune the pain out by imaging a specific and successful aspect of your goal-setting plan.
3. Anxiety Control:
Everyone can experience a bit of anxiety when it comes to achieving your goals.
Will I be able to achieve my goals?
Once I achieve my goals, can I hold on to them?
How can I know if I’m following the best plan for my body and lifestyle?
Perhaps you experience nervous butterflies. If so, the best thing to do is redirect those nervous butterflies to fly in formation. Instead of experiencing the nervous butterflies in your stomach flying around frantic and out of control, in your mind, place them in an inverted V-shape similar to a flock of geese that travels fast and efficiently.
By taking control of your nerves through imagery, you can reduce the amount of anxiety you experience and better utilize your arousal levels for achieving all of your goals.
Your mind can be your biggest enemy or your greatest ally. The next time you find yourself approaching self-doubt, pain, or anxiety, use these imagery techniques to harness your mental strength and get results.