Mental Training? Part 2 : Imagery

If you missed Part 1, clic here : Mental Training? Part 1 : Goal Setting

BlogWhat is imagery? Using ones sense to re-create or create an experience in your mind. Once you become experts at imagery you should be able to include all of your senses.

Now if any of you are thinking I am crazy, just wait… Of 235 Olympic athletes in 1984, 99% reported using imagery. Not only did they use it, they mastered it, using imagery for 2-3 hours before events. By no means are we asking you to do the same right now, you may not have 2 -3 hours to spare, however this proves that imagery is used and executed by the best of the best. The emotions that go along with these images are also important, focus on positive emotions, satisfaction, pride, and self esteem are ideal while using imagery.

Now lets discuss the proper time to use Imagery. It would be highly recommended to practice imagery several times a day, however the time period of only 5 – 10 minutes makes it easy to fit into your busy schedule. Setting aside 5 minutes before and after exercise is a great place to start.

Ways to use Imagery

1) Learning and practicing sport skills through imagery

  • Choose one skill that you have recently learned
  • Try focusing on this for 5 minutes before exercise, see yourself going through the skill.
  • Using a trigger word would be a great way to help you remember this image, for example if you are a running back who learned a new running pattern, perhaps the word “explosive” could relate to the images you are playing through your head.

2) Correcting mistakes.

  • We all make them, so what do we do when we hear someone trying to help us learn, sometimes we don’t pay enough attention. Here imagery can be a great tool to learn and become a better athlete.
  • Next time you are given some instructions, take a split second to use imagery.
  • See yourself doing the drill or action again, but this time see yourself doing it with the help you received, you will be surprised how well you perform the next time after using imagery.

3) Practicing performance strategies

  • Imagery helps with tactics, systems, and decision making during exercise. This is accomplished through the use of imagery before games or physical activities and running possible scenarios through your mind will help with reactions in real time…… Who doesn’t want to have faster reaction times?…. I know I do….
  • Lets say you are an inside linebacker, you see the quarterback drop back into the pocket plant his left foot and look in your direction. Using the tool of imagery you can see yourself shuffling your feet to put yourself in the most optimal position to intercept that ball. A prime example of how practicing performance strategies can enhance your performance in real time.

4) Preparing a mental focus for your environment.

  • A great way to use imagery is to build the physical environment in your head, go through the motions, keeping in mind you want to be as positive in your imagery as you can be.
  • For example, if you are playing football and you know the ground is hard, it’s windy out, and cold, use imagery to picture yourself out there sweating because you are so warm. The wind doesn’t bother you in the slightest bit, and you can’t even tell the ground is soft or hard, you are to busy completing the play.

5) Automating pre-performance routines

  • By using imagery before you start your pre-performance routine you are reminding yourself of all the critical warm up routines you have set for yourself to be as prepared as you can be.
  • Before you even enter the field or gym, take a minute see yourself putting on all your pads, stretching, running your drills, feel your muscles warming up as you go through the motions in your mind. It is highly unlikely that you can ever be to prepared.

6) Energy management

  • Players use imagery to psych themselves up before games, – or calm them down depending on ideal state – Energy room is a image of you walking down a dark hallway into a room that provides the ideal source of energy state
  • Find images that you can relate to, if the hallway works then use it. If picturing a race car blowing flames hypes you up then use it, if seeing a bunny jump around calms you down great, find what helps you and keep it consistent, using the same images for the same purpose will help enhance the ability of the energy management tactic.

7) Stress management

  • As an athlete you will come into some stressful situations, having 2 -3 relaxing images you often use over and over during high stress periods will allow you to control your mood.
  • A prime example of a relaxing image, snow falling from the sky.

8) Aiding in recovery from injuries

  • During recovery time you can use imagery skills to practice plays in your mind, helping you be as prepared as possible when you are back on the field.

Closing notes, you should practice imagery in many different places and positions. When using imagery keep the timing as close to real life as you can. Try your best to imagine vivid mental, physiological, and behavioral responses to situations, this will allow you to build a well executed scenario. Lastly be specific in all uses of imagery

In summary you can see why I mentioned earlier that a minimum of 3 weeks is necessary for just a single goal. There is a lot involved in becoming a goal setting master. A great way that has helped me learn the process was making a list of the 8 steps short form, print it and post it in a place I saw everyday. Maybe your locker, or bedroom wall would be a great place for you. Try your best to read it over everyday and think about the list in addition to your goal setting action plan before and after practice.

Take aways: Using Imagery for….

1) Learning and practicing sport skills through imagery
2) Correcting mistakes.
3) Practicing performance strategies
4) Preparing a mental focus for your environment.
6) Energy management
7) Stress management
8) Aiding in recovery from injuries

Check out Part 3 of this article : Mental Training? Part 3 : Confidence

About the Author

Coach Chuck Dertinger is an accomplished fitness and nutrition expert, holding a Masters Degree in Science with a concentration in Exercise Physiology. Chuck lives, breaths, and loves to promote healthy lifestyle choices. He went from skinny to brawny gaining over 50-lbs of muscle in a couple of years through the use of sound training and nutrition tactics. Feel free to add him on Facebook and ask any questions with relation to nutrition or exercise.

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