When the Soviet-era scientists taught Russian athletes visualization techniques in the 1970’s the concepts were little understood by laymen and generally believed to be of questionable value. But a lot has changed since then. We’ve all heard clichés like “mind over matter” and to some degree we may dismiss them as psychobabble. However, the more scientists study the effects of visualization or mental rehearsal, the more evidence they find of its usefulness for athletes and trainees of all kinds (source).
Talking Yourself into Better Fitness Using Visualization Techniques
Legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger has often discussed the power of the mind as a factor in exercise and training success. Perhaps he encapsulated it best when he said, “the mind always fails first, not the body. The secret is to make your mind work for you, not against you.” The implication is we are not using the power of our mind to master our body and this is where visualization techniques come in. You can use the techniques to visualize the body you want to have six months from now, but this may not be concrete enough. Instead focus the visualization techniques on specific steps to get you to your goal. Perhaps focus on correct squatting form or contracting your abdominals during crunches.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like with most things, practicing visualization techniques regularly will help you to master them (source).
At least to start, focus your efforts on mentally rehearsing one task for a while so you can master the techniques.
- Set aside quite time away from distractions where you can relax.
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
- Clear your mind of daily worries.
- Imagine the task you are focusing on: the sights, sounds and feel of the task.
- Progress through the task slowly in your mind, as you would if you were actually performing it.
- See the outcome in your head. How you felt when you accomplished it, who was there, what you heard, and what you saw.
- Repeat this process as often as you can.
How to make Your Visualization a Success
“Now here is the part often overlooked, preventing it from being highly effective. To really get results, you want to use all of your senses. So once again envision the event occurring. Now let’s bring all of your senses into play.
- Vision – What do you see? Notice the details. Light, darkness, indoors or outdoors.
- Smell – Where you are, how does it smell? Any familiar odors or scents? Fresh cut grass, sweat, oil on your equipment.
- Hearing – Do you hear any noises? Is there cheering, clapping, talking?
- Taste – Is there any taste or flavor involved? Feeling quenched or thirst?
- Touch – How does your skin feel? Hot, clammy, wet. Any textures against your skin from your clothing. The feel of your equipment in your hand. Head gear you might have on?
- Sixth sense – Any feeling in your gut? Maybe a sense of knowing (source).”