The first thing I think of when I read this question is: visualization, goal setting and internal dialogue. These three factors together play an important role when it comes to mental preparation for the pre-season. They help us to focus on our purpose in each training session, to stay motivated week after week and most important of all, to enjoy the race.
However, in my personal and professional opinion, the most powerful factor that we can take advantage of and that stands out from these three factors is undoubtedly VISUALISATION. For professionals, it is an essential exercise in their day-to-day work, in their training and in the face of competitions, so why not start practicing it ourselves? Let’s learn from the best and start visualizing it!
How to take the first step? Okay, here is an exercise ¨easy ¨. Look for a place where you are alone, where there are no distractions, where your mobile phone is switched off, etc. Take an ice cream, an apple, a lemon or whatever you have at hand. Smell it, feel it, cut it if necessary and take a bite, taste it on your palate, swallow it. Now another bite. “Mmmmm, how nice or how sour”. Have you been able to do it? Yes? Great! No? What stopped you from enjoying it? Maybe your thoughts? Thoughs like: ¨Tthis is silly¨! Your impatience? An unexpected interruption? Try again, concentrating on that very moment, on the now. Everything involves a learning process and constant practice.
Visualization is this very thing: projecting an image, living it and experiencing it with all your senses (smell, taste, touch, and hearing). In sport, visualization is used in several ways: visualizing a technique to be improved, visualizing performance during training, visualizing short and long term objectives, visualizing recovering from an injury, etc.
It is at this point that internal dialogue and goal setting becomes important. We need to know where we want to go and how to get there. I strongly recommend the help of a good professional coach who can guide you in your training. He/she can give you daily and weekly instructions on what you need to train and can improve. That said, as you train, visualize yourself perfecting that technique, focusing on the muscles that work, feeling strong, and perhaps playing visualizing yourself running through the mountains. Visualization should be positive, it should empower you, it should give signals to the mind that we are already doing well. You are the one who directs the mind and not the other way around. Internally, help yourself with a positive language that transforms your actions.
Maybe I can explain it better with an example: You love running but you feel a lot of insecurity on the way down. You have the memory of a fall, you didn’t support well, you sprained your ankle before and now it causes you a certain refusal to try again.
Steps to follow :
– Establish a positive internal dialogue. Remember that you are the one who directs your mind and for that, start a conversation with yourself (reinforce the thought) and say “I want to and I can” or “come on, little by little”.
– Long-term goal: Enjoy the descents again, go down full blast, feeling strong (next race in 2 months. Come on!)
–Short term objective: Strengthen your muscles in the gym and as you strengthen, visualize yourself, concentrating on your muscles that are getting stronger. Once you feel confident in your legs, follow the exercise, visualizing yourself running down the mountain. Remember to use all your senses.
Repeat as many times as necessary, act as if you have experience running down mountains, believe it! Fool the mind and little by little you will see a change inside you, being able to project it towards your races and your sports performance.
Last but not least, there is another type of visualization that I do not want to leave in the dark, because it is of vital importance and it is about watching other runners’ races (TV) and imagining that you are flying through the mountains. Recreate yourself in that race, imitate what they do, feel the mountain, the atmosphere, your strength, be one of them. This will help to boost your motivation, your emotions will vibrate high, with illusion and it will bring you closer to your objectives.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Enjoy your sport!