Visualization in Sports – A Secret Weapon of Professional Athletes

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What is visualization in sports and how using the right techniques can improve your performance and well-being? Read more!
man visualizing his boxing move

Our parents and teachers have always cautioned us from excessive daydreaming, but is it that wrong?

Nowadays psychologists have understood the real importance of daydreaming or guided imagery and even implemented its techniques to sports psychology.  

We’ve made a research about how visualization can improve your performance in sports and well-being

Let’s dive in!

What is visualization? 

Visualization is picturing something in a very detailed, clear, and positive way in your mind.

If this is a clear result you want to achieve, a competition, or match you want to win, or even just a small goal you have set for yourself that is waiting to be smashed. 

To achieve this state of mind, a person should choose a quiet and calm place, where he feels safe and comfortable.

You start by closing your eyes and calming your body while thinking about things that you want to experience.

During this process, you want to get as detailed as you possibly can.

How to visualize?

Visualization is a technique that you can master with very little effort, you just need an empty and quiet room, where you can feel safe and comfortable with your own thoughts.

It is recommended that you practice visualization at least once per day to have the most vivid and detailed experience and effect on your performance in sports.

  • Find a quiet place, where you are alone and without any chance of being disturbed. You feel safe and surrounded by positive vibes only.

  • Close your eyes and start calming your body down. Take deep breaths and feel how the air you breathe moves between your stomach and chest, in and out. Notice your body relaxing and your mind emptying.

  • Begin to think about the outcome, object, or situation that you want in your life. Be as simple and clear as possible. Imagine it as detailed as you can with every positive emotion that you can think of. 

  • Practice doing this as often as you can, let it be your mantra

Visualization in sports

Visualization is a secret weapon for every high-level athlete who is constantly competing with others and challenging himself.

The technique of guided imaginary has been part of elite athletes for years and even many Olympic athletes have mastered and benefited from its skills. 

When an athlete visualizes exactly his best performance in his mind, he actually stimulates the same brain regions as he would do when physically performing the same action.

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Benjamin Franklin

The more you mentally rehearse this technique, the more it becomes habituated in his mind.

These athletes who practice visualization daily or even more frequently are able to eliminate the stress factors that usually create a feeling of pressure or anxiety.

It is the best tool to stay mentally sharp and in control during competitions.

Benefits of visualization in sports
Reasons why you should use visualization in sports

Exercises to improve visualization

During visualization, you should use as many senses as possible, as well as restore or create the emotions and feelings that are associated with the actual situation.

Try to feel anxiety, concentration, frustration, excitement or anger – everything related to competing. All these details make the imagination more real.

There are bunch of different excercises, how you can improve process of visualization.

Visualizing your home

Imagine you are in your living room. Look around and pay attention to details.

What do you see? Notice the shape of the furniture
and material.

  • What sound do you hear?
  • What is the room temperature?
  • Is air moving or stationary?
  • What smells do you smell?

Use as many senses as possible and try to capture it all.

Try to do the same where you usually train.

Visualization of positive performance

Choose one element of your sport that needs practicing and imagine yourself doing it and coping with it perfectly.

Perform this element over and over again and feel the work of the muscles that contribute to this element.

Visualization of a successful competition

Try to remember the competition you performed very well.

Find the differences between good and bad moments of the competition.

Try to get as clear a picture as possible of when you’re competing well.

Watching videos of successful competitions will help make this image clearer.

Visualizing technical elements

Imagine working on a technical element that you have had or having problems with.

Examine carefully what you have done wrong.

Now visualize yourself performing this element perfectly, while seeing and feeling your movements.

Visualizing self-confidence

Imagine playing with an opponent who has been stronger than you in the past.

When playing against this player, apply the planned strategy as you would in a competitive situation.

Imagine situations where you are better than your opponent.

For example, a defender may visualize various defense techniques he must use to stop an attacker.

Emotion control

Imagine situations where you get tense, get angry, lose focus confident. Re-create the same situation in your imagination and pay special attention to the feelings that came with it.

For example, feel the anxiety that came with a championship game.

Then use anxiety management techniques to feel the excess stress on your body, and try to take control of everything you see, hear and feel in your imagination.

Visualization and famous athletes who swear by it

There are many elite athletes who swear by visualization and find it’s technique a game changer in competitions.

It’s their secret weapon to eliminate stress, nervousness, and prepare for upcoming competitions. 

At first, visualization became very popular among Olympic athletes to whom it was by default integrated into their training schedules.

But when other athletes also heard and understood about its success, visualization became popular among every serious athlete who wanted to contribute to his success. 

Michael Phelps

There isn’t a single person who hasn’t heard of Michale Phelps and his accomplishments.

Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians of all time with 22 medals to his name including 18 gold medals.

Guided imaginary has been part of his mental training since he has been training under his coach Bob Bowman. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Michael used visualization to prepare for success.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor

Kerri and Misty are one of the most famous female dominating-duo in beach volleyball, who have already won three Olympic gold medals and are still unstoppable.

In order to keep their head clear and focused, they rely on mindfulness and visualization.  “A lot of what we do is visualization,” Walsh told.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold is famous for many reasons, his career in politics or acting, but mostly because of his amazing achievements as a young athlete.

He was a true idol to many men back in the days, or even now in 2020. As a young athlete, Schwarzenegger swore by the power of visualization to reach his bodybuilding goals.

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn is one of those athletes who takes the visualization technique to another physical level.

She doesn’t just keep the images in her head, but she also physically stimulates the exercise.

Lindsay always visualizes the run before she does it, so by the time she gets to the start gate, she has already run the race 100 times in her mind. 

Conclusion

What happens on the field or during your competition is a result of what happens in your mind.

Visualization has been used as a mental training tool among elite athletes for years and it has been proven to be very successful.

Your performance is a result of what happens inside your head or even behind your everyday thoughts and feelings.

Through visualization, you have a chance to improve your accomplishments by being in control of your current state of mind. 

Next time, before an important game or competition, find some extra 10-15 minutes to sit down and visualize how you are going to smash your goal in every bright detail as possible!

And then repeat the same in real life!  

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