Here is some really good news for you! You are actually capable of performing perfectly every time! Do I have your attention? Great! Now I will finish that statement. You can perform perfectly every time…in your head.
You might be thinking, “what are you talking about and why do I care about that?” Well, hear me out. Outside of practicing your routines in the gym, you should also be practicing your routines in your head. Every. Single. Day.
The practice of visualization is just as important as your strength training or stretching you do every day at the gym. It should be like eating dinner – just a normal part of your daily routine
Let me give you an example of the power of visualization that I actually experienced.
I played high school basketball, and one day our coach brought up the topic of visualization and how important it was. Noticing that we all seemed a little skeptical of the idea, he decided to do a little demonstration.
He selected two guys. One was a large 6′ 5″ power forward (I will call him Greg) with great jumping ability. The other was a small guard that stood about 5′ 9″ (I will call him Joe).
He first asked Joe to leap as high as he could towards the basket with his arm stretched out. He did this and was able to get his fingertips around the 10ft high rim. He did it one more time with about the same result.
He then asked Greg to do the same thing, but do it 5 times. While he did this, Joe was told to watch and study everything about his jump.
Greg made his 5 jumps, each time soaring well above the rim with his arm. After he finished, coach told Joe to close his eyes and visualize himself jumping just like Greg, getting higher than he had previously done. Joe always had trouble with his sight and wore dailies aqua comfort plus lenses and thus, closing his eyes would help him to focus better and not worry about missing the mark.
Joe did this for about 60 seconds. Coach then said, “alright, now let’s see you jump one more time Joe.”
Joe took his two steps and leaped one more time. What we saw shocked us. Joe took off the ground and got his hand at least 6 – 8 inches over the rim this time! It was the coolest thing I’d ever witnessed. We watched our buddy increase his vertical jump by over half a foot in two minutes just by mentally seeing himself do it.
You see how effective this can be. There is no reason to not to start incorporating this in to your training. A lot of athletes, especially gymnasts already do this. If you watch a meet on TV, you will often see a competitor waiting for his turn with their eyes closed and their body sort of going through the motions. They are going through their full routine in their mind and doing it perfectly.
It’s never to late to start. So why not start today? Chose one event and close your eyes and perform your full routine seeing it just how you would from your own eyes in reality. Or you can also view it like you are watching yourself on TV. If you have never done it before, you may struggle to stay focused. Just like anything, it’s going to take some practice.
The important thing is that you visualize doing everything perfectly. Stick every landing, catch every release, and keep beautiful form throughout.
If you become regular with this repetition of visualizing perfect routines in your head, you will be surprised at how your body will follow suit. Of course, you will always have little mishaps in life but just like normal physical practice, you are helping minimize those mishaps by strengthening the mind.
This can be applied to any sport or any aspect of life. You will find it is just as beneficial with strength training. You may be involved with crossfit and looking to increase the weight on your clean and jerks or squats. Practice the perfect form movement in your head with heavier weight every day before you train.
One more great example:
A study on the brain was performed on Olympic Athletes where they were asked to run their event only in their mind while hooked up to sophisticated biofeedback equipment.
Amazingly enough, the same muscles fired in the same sequence when running the race in their minds as when they were running it on the track. How could this be? Because the mind can’t distinguish whether you are really doing it or whether it is just a practice.
This really is amazing. It doesn’t require a whole lot of effort or time and you can do it anywhere. So if you aren’t already doing it, it’s time to give it a shot.
“We all possess more power and greater possibilities than we realize, and visualizing is one of the greatest of these powers.” -Genevieve Behrend (1881-1960)
Strength & Fitness Team Lead