It is no secret these days that visualization is a key ingredient for improved athletic performance. Naturally, we all do it to a certain extent. It’s easy to dream about winning your race, whether it is running, cycling, swimming or any other sport for that matter.
True visualization goes a step beyond just daydreaming about winning, though. It should become a real deliberate strategy which is almost equally as important as the hours you put into your physical training.
The perfect aspect of visualization is that it takes no equipment and costs nothing. It is one of the easiest tools you can implement in order to improve performance without actually even moving from your bedroom. Here are 3 ways to improve your visualization and thus improve your performance.
Rehearse the Perfect Race
It’s likely that you have at least heard of the concept of rehearsing your race beforehand. Whether this comes naturally to you or not, it’s a worthwhile task. Not only should you imagine what your perfect race looks like, but you should really try to immerse yourself in that thought and imagine how it feels. What does the track feel like? How does the grip on your handlebars feel?
This is such an effective technique because your brain finds it difficult to tell the difference a physical and imagined experience. This means that if you visualize your race to this extent when it comes down to your actual race day, it should feel like you’ve done it before.
Visualize the Process, Not Just the Race
As well as mentally rehearsing your final event, it has been proven equally important to visualize the process required to achieve the goal.
In a study conducted by researchers at UCLA, two sets of students were asked to visualize in order to improve academic performance. Results from the study showed that those students who visualized the process of getting good grades (i.e. rehearsing the preparation and studying) achieved better results than those who simply visualized getting good grades.
It was concluded that this was down to reduced anxiety and better habits leading up to final exams. In order to transfer this way of thinking to your own training, you should try to visualize perfect practices and good habits, like eating well, training hard and practicing with good technique.
Visualization During Practice
So far, we’ve talked about visualization out with your training or race environment. However, this form of visualization takes it right to practice.
In a study conducted on track athletes, runners were asked to visualize right before a sprint. A staggering 87% of those who did so actually performed better than those who didn’t. So, taking this to your own practice sessions… Between sets and reps, rather than drifting off to a daydream, you should aim to mentally rehearse your next movement. This will help you to stay focussed on the task at hand. Try to imagine each stride or arm movement and exactly how it feels.