Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques as part of training and competition. There are many stories of athletes who have used these techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being and confidence. These techniques can also be used for recreational athletes just looking to master a certain maneuver or sport — not necessarily for an increased competitive edge but more of an accomplished feeling.
Visualization the process of creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel in reality. An athlete imagines a scene, complete with images of a previous best performance or a future desired outcome, he or she is instructed to simply ‘step into’ that feeling. While imagining these scenarios, the athlete should try to imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way.
They can be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Using the mind, an athlete can call up these images over and over, enhancing the skill through repetition or rehearsal, similar to physical practice. With mental rehearsal, minds and bodies become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.
Research is finding that both physical and psychological reactions in certain situations can be improved with visualization. Such repeated imagery can build both experience and confidence in an athlete’s ability to perform certain skills under pressure, or in a variety of possible situations. The most effective visualization techniques result in a very vivid sport experience in which the athlete has complete control over a successful performance and a belief in this new ‘self.’
Guided imagery, visualization, mental rehearsal or other such techniques can maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your training. In a world where sports performance and success is measured in seconds, most athletes will use every possible training technique at hand. Visualization might be one way to gain that very slim margin — could mean the difference between a championship and a dynasty or a personal best and a world record.