Creative visualisation (sports visualisation) refers to the practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one's thoughts and expectations. Creative visualisation is the basic technique underlying positive thinking to change the outcome of the future.
Every champion or successful individual from any walk of life when asked, will explain the importance of visualisation. If you can’t imagine yourself to achieve something then how can you ever expect to be successful in your chosen field when faced with a challenge!?
There are many different types of Creative Visualisation but I consider the following 3 to be the most important:
- Motivational-specific (MS) - This involves seeing yourself winning an event, receiving a trophy or medal and being congratulated by other athletes. MS imagery may boost motivation and effort during training and facilitate goal-setting, but is unlikely on its own to lead directly to improved performance
- Motivational general-mastery (MG-M) - This is based on seeing yourself coping in difficult circumstances and mastering challenging situations. It might include maintaining a positive focus while behind, and then coming back to win. MG-M imagery appears to be important in developing expectations of success and self-confidence.
- Motivational general-arousal (MG-A) - This is imagery that reflects feelings of relaxation, stress, anxiety or arousal in relation to sports competitions. There is good evidence to suggest that MG-A imagery can influence heart rate - one index of arousal - and can be employed as a 'psych-up' strategy
To be effective, like any skill, imagery needs to be developed and practiced regularly. There are four elements to mental imagery - Relaxation, Realism, Regularity and Reinforcement. This is more widely known as the 4Rs which was researched, written and published by ‘Hale’ in 1998.
These 4 R’s are:
A relaxed mind and body is essential to help you feel the movement patterns and experience any emotions generated. It will help to use a relaxation technique prior to imagery training.
Create imagery so realistic you believe you are actually executing the skill. In order to obtain the most realistic imagery possible, you must incorporate definition, action, emotion, detail, and a positive result into your imagery:
- Definition - Make the images as vivid as possible, include colour
- Action - Break down the image into small components and visualise those components. (Sprinting - consider the action of the arms, legs, trunk, head, feet, hands, breathing etc.)
- Emotion - Try to include emotional feelings in your images. Refresh your memory constantly by emphasising specific sensory awareness during training
- Detail - Incorporate as many of your senses as possible into your imagery so the scene is as clear and realistic as real life itself
- Positive result - This is essential, "you only achieve what you believe". If you do not believe in yourself then how can you expect your mind to body connection to ever be created.
Spending between 3 and 5 minutes on imagery seems to be most effective. It should be included in training and time outside of training should be spent on imagery. (10-15 minutes a day)
The writing of imagery scripts will help you plan the content and timing of your imagery training. By reinforcing this imagery you can condition and train your mind to become successful.
Further to the key points and principles mentioned above, if an individual is to combine and apply them to their chosen goal. There is a much higher chance that they will become successful. As we all know, the mind is the most important part of any decision because without the strength of the mind, we have no will. A successful individual within sports such as bodybuilding needs to develop the will to want to go to the gym everyday, the will to eat 7 plain meals whilst dieting, the will to wake up at 5am to complete the early morning cardio sessions and more importantly, the will to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve their goals.
Use visualisation techniques to achieve the things in life that are important to you. Once mastered, you will develop a skill that you can then apply to almost anything. The one piece of advice I can give is that you should never pretend that you have visualised something, you need to believe it and live it because once you do that you will experience a type of motivation that is almost indescribable. It will become so powerful that nothing and no one will ever be able to challenge your belief in yourself. It is only then that you will become a champion!
Thanks for reading :)