The Visualization Process For High Performance Athletes

This cognitive technique can really work to benefit all of your performance goals.

Many professional athletes in all sports have successfully used the process of visualization to tackle any challenge laid before them. To see your intended goal happen in your head before you actually execute is a great way to start the process of the actual execution. As a powerful and proven tool for athletes in any sport, visualization and the techniques that go along with it can really work to benefit all aspects of your training and performance.

With so many people preaching how to visualize and how to imagine their success, you will hear people mention how you should see it before you do it, imagine you are in that setting and how it feels, and try and put yourself in the mindset of the pressure you will feel in that moment. By visualizing your environment before you actually get there, the allure and overall atmosphere of a high intensity environment will seem second nature to you (1). But learning how to do it can definitely be something of a challenge.

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What Is Visualization?

Visualization is an experience and a preparation for the big moment ahead. Also known as guided imagery, this process and technique is sort of a mental rehearsal for what lies ahead. By creating a mental image and nailing down your ultimate goals and intentions, you will start to make that goal and that dream a reality (2).

Focusing on what you intend to do is important and is something not only necessary in sport but also other facets of your life. If you enter a meeting where you seek to pitch a million dollar idea to investors, by visualizing a positive outcome in that meeting, you will feel more relaxed and will be better equipped to execute in that meeting.

For our purposes of sport, if you are facing a monster deadlift in Strongman or a powerlifting competition, seeing everything laid before you can help with execution. Imagine the atmosphere, the cheers, the immense pressure you will be under. See your feet under the bar, your hands on the grip, and maybe even a bead of sweat dripping onto the floor from your head. Imagine how it feels, the weight slowly being lifted off the floor as you look up, that bar trailing your shins, moving past your knees, and reaching your hips. Then think about how you did it, how you are holding that weight knowing you lifted all of it and accomplished your goal before dropping it back down. That is visualization.

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Benefits Of Visualization

Improve Focus & Concentration

By taking time away from the distractions of life, you will start to work your mind into focusing on what you care about. By concentrating on one thing, you will start to get better at narrowing down exactly what you want and that will cross over into other areas of focus and concentration.

Promote Relaxation

Finding peace and quiet and exploring your mind is a great way to promote relaxation. By working to achieve your goals and seeing yourself succeed, you will not only help yourself see that performance goal come to life but also feel good knowing you are tackling that overwhelming sense of whatever is bothering you. Eliminate distractions and all that anxiety and find a moment of relaxation for your mental and physical health (3).

Increase Positivity

Leading up to any competition, the nerves really get going and your mind starts to wander, filling your head with all that self doubt. By working to visualize your goal and tackle the issue at hand, you won’t feel all of that negativity and the overwhelming feeling that comes with it. Kick all of that negative self talk and foolish nonsense out of your head and trust that you have worked hard to get to where you are and where you want to be.

Think BIG

Seeing that goal in front of you can help you think bigger. Don’t narrow yourself into a corner because of what you think you can do, but of what you know you can do. If you visualize yourself lifting a set weight, try adding ten or fifteen pounds in your head. It doesn’t have to be an astronomical difference, but just enough to keep you progressing and pushing yourself to be better everyday.

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Visualization Techniques

Find a quiet and comfortable spot to really settle in. As a form of meditation let your mind wander, slowly finding your breathing and adjusting to how you want your focus to be. Start to rehearse potential situations in your head as you begin this visualization journey. Where you will be, what you will think about, and how you will execute are all good starting points. Slowly start to create this imaginative world into one of reality as you face the challenge head on. Moving through the motions of what will happen, start to convert those desires and dreams into attainable goals and beliefs. Be sure to breathe, maintain a strong, comfortable posture, and start to make those goals a reality.

Wrap Up

Visualization and the process it entails can greatly benefit your overall performance. By picturing exactly what can and will happen at the time of the event, you will start to feel at peace knowing you have what it takes to do it. The mind has full control of the body and pushing your limits requires just as strong of a mind as it does muscles, joints, and ligaments. Don’t let poor planning hurt your overall goals and really work to achieve greatness by starting to see greatness before you even begin. Give visualization a try and really see your goals become reality.

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*Images courtesy of Envato

References

  1. Munroe-Chandler, Krista J.; Guerrero, Michelle D. (2017). “Psychological Imagery in Sport and Performance”. (source)
  2. Ekeocha, Tracy C. (2015). “The Effects Of Visualization & Guided Imagery In Sports Performance”. (source)
  3. Pelka, Maximilian; Heidari, Jahan; Ferrauti, Alexander; Meyer, Tim; Pfeiffer; Kellmann, Michael (2016). “Relaxation techniques in sports: A systematic review on acute effects on performance”. (source)
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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.