Visualize Your Success
A key component to high performance, whether it be event related or not, is confidence. We gain confidence through practice, overcoming trial and error as well as checking off all the items on the list of preparation. Visualizing your success is one more element of building confidence. Take time to envision your performance. It's a chance to bypass all of your worries and even insecurities about skill or fitness level. See yourself ripping that techy downhill section of your favorite trail. Put yourself in that situation of crushing the long climb that has been your nemesis for years.
I thought about the tool of visualization as I've been watching Olympic coverage over the past few days. Reporters have profiled the virtual reality tools used by downhill skiers. It takes visualization to a new level! Another fun bit of video I enjoy watching over the past few days is the bits they show of mogul skiers as they wait for their run, eyes closed, reaching with their poles, going through the arm motions of their jumps and how they will plant their poles on landing. Imagine their visualization not in front of the camera at the last moment.
Here are a few researched effects of visualization:
Research done in 1992 by Isaac showed that 5 minutes of mental visualization compared to 5 minutes of basic tasks produced a difference in performance, even in professional level athletes.
Roure in 1998 showed that mental rehearsal kicked off autonomic responses that improved athletic performance.
Another researcher, V.K. Ranganathan, in 2004 found that visualizing strength training workouts showed increases of roughly 13% in muscle strength. Actually lifting weights showed a 30% increase. While 13% is quite a bit less than 30% it's still a 13% increase!
Preparing and focusing on our proprioception creates intention in movement and output. When I visualize I tend to see the performance or movement in a perfect form. Create all of the specificity you can in your visualization exercises. You can build your confidence by seeing yourself crush it. Take the time to visualize ripping a blind turn, sending it at the MTB park or setting a personal best on that high elevation alpine climb. Your performance will show your commitment to intention!