Source: 123rtf, used with permission
As I noted in my most recent blog post, Olympians use imagery as a tool to help them prepare themselves mentally to perform their best. In my ninth of 12 vlog segments devoted to athletes and coaches, I describe what mental imagery is (here’s a hint: It’s not just picturing yourself performing in your mind’s eye). I also explain why mental imagery is such a valuable tool (here’s another hint: It triggers your muscle memory just as if you were actually performing in your sport). I call mental imagery the Swiss Army Knife of mental training because it provides so many different benefits to you in your sport efforts:
- Get better technically and tactically (you fool your body into thinking that it’s actually performing in your sport,
- Gain confidence (successful images and feelings help you believe in yourself),
- Adjust your physical intensity (if you get nervous in real competitions, you’ll get nervous in your imagery and can then calm yourself down),
- Improve your focus in training and competitions (imagery takes consistent concentration which will helps you focus better in real life),
- Prepare for specific competitions (you can imagine yourself performing your best in the days leading up to the competition).
A key point I want to emphasize is that, like any form of sport training, mental imagery will only be beneficial if you use it consistently. This means making a commitment to incorporating imagery into your training/practice efforts and your pre-competitive preparations. Additionally, you should approach your imagery away from your sport the same way you do your physical conditioning. What makes your conditioning program effective is that it’s structured and consistent. I see imagery as “conditioning for the mind,” meaning you should develop an imagery program away from your sport that is also structured and consistent. Such an imagery program involves scheduling and engaging in imagery several times a week (see below for how to do that).