Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Training Technique Ever - Visualization

If you've seriously participated in any sport for a little while, you've surely come across visualization techniques.  Even though visualization is becoming more common, most people still don't utilize it's full potential.

Visualization has been around for a long time.  People all over the world have successfully used it for thousands of years in everything from martial arts to business to medicine.  The power of the mind is extraordinary and you can also tap into it for any type of distance running or adventure racing.  Any veteran of the Wilderness Classic can tell you that the most important thing to finishing the Classic intact is mental strength.  You can and should use visualization to not only survive the Classic but excel at it.  You can also apply these techniques to anything else in life.

This post is just scratching the surface of visualization.  There are numerous books about the subject but many people still think it's only for Olympians or professional athletes.  It's more simple and more effective than you might think.  For more reading, take a look at Think and Grow Rich which, despite the title, is very applicable to sports visualization and was one of the original books about visualization.  You can also do a basic Google  search and you'll find more than enough books to keep you busy.

Here are the basics:  the power of the mind resides in focus and you can increase your concentration through regular practice.  (Slightly off the topic - fish oil and other supplements that are high in antioxidants like gingko biloba will also help.)  Since your mind has control over your physical body, your body will respond to visual images in your brain. The goal is to convince your physical body, through visual imagery, that it is capable of doing something. 

Start by maintaining a positive mindset about your racing and training.  Take some time and figure out exactly what your goal is. This could be anything from a specific race finishing time to a specific mental state after a hard 20 mile training run.  Write down your goal. When writing your goal, be specific and use the words "I will . . ." instead of "I want to . . . ".  Here's an example:  "I will run the Wilderness Classic in 3 days, 15 hours and 12 minutes". 

Memorize your goal word for word.  Read and recite it in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before you drift off to sleep.  If possible, say the words out loud. See yourself completing your goal.  Think about how it feels to have already accomplished your task.  Take your time and feel every aspect of your accomplishment.  Put some emotion into it.  Be proud of yourself and revel in the wonderful feeling of completing a goal. Convince yourself of it.

Play a video in your brain of yourself completing your goal.  Play this video over and over, particularly when you start the day and also just before you go to sleep.  Keep visualizing every day until it's time for your race and you will have the confidence you need to complete it.  Come back to it again and again and don't be discouraged if you don't meet your goal exactly or if you have doubts.  Simply refocus and bring your mind back to visualizing your completed goal. 

If you're new to visualization, all this may seem silly but this is what successful professional athletes do all the time.  Try it out.  You'll like it. Your confidence will grow and you'll be more successful in life. 

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