It’s time to start seeing yourself at your full potential. I’m not talking about a ‘fake it till you make it’ moment. I’m talking about actually seeing yourself through mental images. Athletes, inside and outside of roller derby, use visualization to develop skills and improve performance. It’s time to see your best and to be your best! In this Mental Muscle post you will learn how to get started on a visualization routine.
Photo courtesy of Booty’s favourite skate shop, Rollergirl.ca, featuring Buffy Ste. Fury (aka Harvey)
What is Visualization?
Visualization is your ability to create high quality mental images. These images can be a snapshot in your mind or a series of images like a movie.
You probably used a form of visualization at some point in your life. Have you ever recalled or replayed an event in your mind? Well, that is a form of visualization because those images were created by you and were not happening in front at that moment.
Now visualization is more than just projecting mental images. The quality of images is just as important than the images themselves. Visualization incorporates not only your sense of sight, it also could includes your sense of sound, smell, touch, and even taste: it really depends on the specific images in your mind. The more senses that are involved, the more realistic the mental images become. You can see these images through your own eyes or as seeing yourself outside of your body. The point of view of these images depends on your preference and purpose. Regardless of what method you choose, what is more important is the quality of your visualization.
Why Visualization is Helpful to Athletes
So why do you want to create realistic mental images? Your brain itself cannot distinguish actual events and images from these events. The purpose is to make new pathways (links) within your brain.Therefore the more realistic these images become, the higher the chances that your brain will think that these images are real.
With strong visualization technique, you can program your brain to think that you have accomplished or you’re able to achieve a certain task or skill. You can use visualization to:
- Breakdown complex techniques step by step
- Help correct mistakes
- Practice team strategies
- Rehearse competition plans or pregame routines
- Strengthen key mental skills (distraction control, emotion control, etc.)
- Compliment an injury recovery plan
This is why it’s important to make sure that these images are realistic, positive, and that they are in your control.
When and Where to use Visualization
The beauty of visualization is that you can use it at anytime you please! The location and timing of your visualization session really depends on the purpose and what you want to achieve with your session.
If you’re new to visualization, then it’s better to start in controlled environments. I highly suggest scheduling visualization sessions into your training regime. The reason being is that visualization requires some skill, so in order for the quality of your images to improve you need to practice.
Here are some tips that might help with your first sessions:
1.Pick a time of day where you feel focus
If your mind is already wandering, it’s going to be hard for you to visualize realistic images. If you find yourself too excited to concentrate, then you should take a few minutes to relax before starting your session.
2.Find a room that has little to no distractions
In order to put all of your focus on the images in your mind, it would be better to limit any potential distractions.
3.Put your phone down and make sure it’s on silence
Again, this is to limit any unwanted distractions that might take your mind off of your images.
4.Close your eyes if you notice that your mind is wandering
Visualization improves with practice and it’s possible to visualize with your eyes open. However when your eyes are open, whatever is in your line of sight can draw your attention away from your images.
5.Go in with a plan of action
Before you start state a purpose for this session and know what you want to achieve. Focus on a blocking technique or specific footwork. You can choose a specific game situation or see yourself correctly applying a strategy. Keep it simple at the beginning, and try not to throw too many elements.
6.Remember that QUALITY is more important than the quantity
If you first sessions only last 20 seconds, so be it. The purpose is to create those links in our brain, and not about meeting a certain time limit. Quality means making those images realistic and positive. I suggest that you think about what senses you can include prior to starting your session.
7.Take it Slow
Your sessions do not have to be in real time at the beginning. Slow down the pace in order to make sure that you’re using more senses. This will allow you to have control of the images.
8.Stop while it’s Good
If your mind wanders or if your images turn negative or become unrealistic: STOP. The purpose of visualization is to create new pathways in your brain. You don’t want to create self-doubt in your abilities. Visualization is a strategy that can help you improve performance, but seeing repeated negative images can have an opposite effect.
As mentioned before, once you are able to create and hold quality mental images, you can use visualization anywhere. With practice you can use visualization to improve your performance during roller derby practices and games. Such as:
- Getting into your optimal performance zone
- Reviewing and understanding drills
- Rehearsing your pregame routine days prior to games
- Controlling your emotions/arousal for starts (or the first jam)
- To correct errors during post-game video reviews
I challenge you to schedule in three visualization sessions this week. I want you to see your best in each session. Choose a specific technique or strategy that you’re currently trying to improve at practice. I can’t wait to hear how your visualization session impacted your on-skates training!
Post in the comments about your experience with this challenge – let us know how we can help :)