By Aryn Lloyd, CPT and Health Coach, Rock Valley Health
Citius. Altius. Fortius. Faster. Higher. Stronger. These are the traits that many Olympic athletes strive for during the 2016 Olympic Games.
For many of us, watching the Olympics can be motivating and inspiring but let’s be realistic; most of us are not Olympic athletes. Most of us find that it is difficult to reach simple fitness goals even though we have great intentions to exercise.
The Olympic Way
Sure, athletes are amazing given their talents, but they still are human and have off days or nerves just like we do.
How is it that they can perform under so much pressure?
How do they tune out all the distractions and nerves and still nail it every time?
If you think it is by nature athletes can do this, think again. There is a trick or technique called visualization in sport that helps these athletes perform their best, especially when under pressure.
Imagery techniques have been used for years to help with pain, severe headaches, stress reduction, depression. Now, they are being used to help with sports enhancement.
Visualization – which can be achieved using guided imagery, sports psychology, meditation, and mind training – is a mental image of what you want to happen or feel in reality. This technique creates mental awareness, awakens your senses, and boosts your confidence.
It takes some practice and concentration.
Guided imagery implies that someone is facilitating and walking you through your imagery process.
Guided imagery has been shown to improve sport performance, injury recovery, and confidence to perform.
Many professional athletes work with practitioners or sport psychologists to utilize guided imagery.
You can also use guided imagery CDs, tapes, or record your own script. Even starting with imagining yourself healthy and strong can be of great benefit to reaching your goals or getting started with exercise.
Rehearsing the Sequence of Events
The purpose of using a visualization technique is to re-wire your nervous system and prepare your mind and body for the activity.
If you watch an Olympic athlete right before their event, you will often see them in a “zone,” listening to music and closing their eyes. They are using visualization.
Visualization requires use of all your senses to create a real-life experience. Basically, you step into how you would want to feel in very fine detail.
Take a gymnast for example. Even before grabbing the bar or jumping on the balance beam, the gymnast will visualize each moment from the couple of deep breaths to the initial grasp or jump, each twist and turn, grip strength, release of bar, and cheers of the crowd.
Have a surge of nerves? Shake it out. It is often stated by many coaches that “What happens out there is the result of what happens in here.”
Basically, meaning that by rehearsing the sequence in your brain you will be better prepared to achieve your desired outcome.
Don’t just be a spectator!
Whether the summer games or winter games, I always get excited to watch the opening ceremonies and scope out the schedule of my favorite events to watch. I admire each athlete’s precision and perfection as they perform at their all time best.
I also invite you to try out some imagery by mentally basking in the warm Rio sun.
Now that you know a trick that many Olympic athletes use, can you apply this way of thinking to help with your overall fitness? You bet! And it only takes a few minutes each session and you can do it from the comfort of your own home!
Now, close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths, and start visualizing yourself healthy and strong!
Here is a brief sequence to try for yourself:
- Sit in a comfortable, quiet place.
- Relax by taking a few long, slow, deep breaths.
- Rule #1: Always stay positive!
- Close your eyes and visualize a pleasant or desirable image. The image can be a good experience from the past or one you wish to experience.
- Tune into your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, and smell? If you are outside, do you feel the warm sun? Do you hear the wind? Try and focus on your breathing if you lose focus or get distracted.
- Focus on the detail. What are you wearing? Who are you with? Visualize yourself being confident, feeling less stress, moving with ease, and gaining muscle and strength.
- Rule #2: Practice! Imagery often does not feel normal at first. It is a skill developed over time, but with a little practice, you will be on your way to earning your own gold medal to self improvement and fitness!
|Aryn Lloyd is a Health Coach for Rock Valley Health. A Type 1 diabetic, she has led many chronic disease programs, including the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. She lives in Davenport with her husband, Ben, and their two daughters, Britta and Klara. You can read Aryn’s bio and other blog posts by clicking here.|