Visualisation For Better Mind Muscle Connection...And Better Performance!

Many of the worlds best athletes visualise themselves being successful, completing a race, making a tackle, hitting a ball or lifting a heavy weight before they actually complete the movement. Visualisation is a technique used to get your body acclimatised and accustomed to the movement you wish to complete, and through this your brain and muscle fires itself ready. It’s almost like a rehearsal, the more you perform a dance move, read a line in your head before a show, or envision a play during a match of some sort, the more it becomes second nature. Visualisation recruits the same thought processes as actually completing the action would, meaning it sends the same neurological impulses around the brain and body.

Research suggests that there may be 5 categories of visualisation (imagery):

1.)  Motivational- specific: Seeing yourself winning an event

2.)  Motivational general- mastery: Developing your coping mechanism for when you are in a difficult situation, similar to self mastery

3.)  Motivational general- arousal: Visualisation to take control of your state of arousal i.e. relaxation, stress relief and arousal for a sporting event. If mastered athletes can get themselves motivated for an event, and even increase heart rate

4.)  Cognitive Specific: Involving seeing yourself completing a particular skill e.g. striking a football, completing a bench press or changing into your running trainers from your cycle shoes during the change over point in a triathlon

5.)  Cognitive general: Visualising a strategy or a phase of play such as a pass and finish in rugby, or a tennis serve and volley in tennis

(Brianmac Sports Coach, 2013)

Imagery is a skill, and like any other skill it can be trained, so it’s pertinent that athletes regularly acquaint themselves with the 4 elements of visualisation:

1.)  Relaxation- Being able to relax your body on demand is key to helping you to visualise and feel movement patterns before performing them

2.)  Realism- Visualising so clearly so that it feels like you are actually performing the activity. Research shows that repeatedly thinking of an action releases similar (if not the same) hormonal responses as actually performing it

3.)  Regularity- Try to perform imagery daily, the more you do it the better you’ll get at it. Aim to spend 10-15mins a day visualising, spending approx 3-5 minutes per session

4.)  Reinforcement- Write it down…this can further embed the sequence of events into your mind, as well as keeping your imagery schedule on track

(Hale, 1998)

So when you're next preparing for a match, or even readying yourself to perform your next set on the bench press (for example), think the process through in your head, tune yourself into the action and see the difference it makes it terms of success rate and muscle pump...this said, no matter how many times you visualise a night in with a playboy bunny/Dream boy, i'm afraid visualisation and imagery has its limits!

References

Hale, B. (1998) Imagery Training. London: National Coaching Foundation

Mackenzie, B. (1997) Developing Imagery skills. Retrieved 06th September, 2013, from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/imagery.htm

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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