Too often we get wrapped up in the physical aspect of competition…
I need to get faster.
I need to get stronger.
I need to be more agile.
I need to be more flexible.
This is a flawed method of thinking that is actually hampering your results. Today we are covering the power of visualizing and what it can do for your training.
Western culture tends to scoff at the ideas of meditation and visualizing. Typically it’s viewed as either new-age hippie dippy, or Chinese Chi mumbo-jumbo. The truth of the matter is that until you alter your mindset, your true potential will never be realized.
Ever heard the term “self-fulfilling prophecy“? It goes something like this:
Loser Leo: “Man, I’m so weak. I’ll never be able to do 50 pushups.”
At this point Leo either gives up right there or tries to do the 50 pushups.
Loser Leo: “See? I only did 20 pushups. Not even half! What’s the point of even trying? I’m never going to get to 50.”
Not with that attitude you’re not, mister.
Step one to visualizing your way to success is to change your internal dialogue.
“I need to get faster” becomes “I am getting faster every day.”
” I need to get stronger” becomes “I am becoming stronger every time I work out.”
Let’s look at Loser Leo once he changes his internal dialogue around:
Leo: “Man, I really want to get in good shape so I can easily do 50 pushups.”
Leo then tries to do the 50 pushups.
Leo: “20 pushups? Pretty dang good for a starting point. Every day I’m going to beat that number no matter how hard it gets until I reach my goal.”
Loser Leo just became Leonidas.
Ok….maybe not, but he’s adopted the never-give-up attitude that will one day get him there.
The second tool is to visualize yourself performing the action.
This can be done a multitude of ways depending on your own personal preferences and learning styles. The key is to visualize yourself performing the action perfectly; how you want it to be done.
Just as there are different learners (auditory learners, visual learners, etc), there are different visualizers.
- Kinesthetic/Tactile visualizers tend to visualize how the exercise/drill will feel. How will their body feel in the different positions. What parts of the body will stretch and contract during the exercise?
- Visual visualizers (redundant isn’t it) will tend to focus on how their body will look throughout the movement. They might also visualize their opponent and performing the strike on them.
- Auditory visualizers will focus on the sounds during their training. I actually fall into this category of visualizers (with a smidge of Kinesthetic/Tactile). Before performing a technique or combination on a target, I tend to visualize the sound I want the target to make. It is going to be a loud THWACK! or a deep thud? Is it going to be a quick pop-pop-pop or a pop-pop…..BAM? I have utilized this method of visualizing the sound to great success in training.
So what type of visualizer are you?
It’s really not hard to determine what style best suits you. You will naturally gravitate towards one or two styles. One exercise you can do right here at your computer is think of a drill or combination that is moderately difficult. Now mentally work your way through the drill. Note what senses you use to get through the drill.
Try visualizing throughout the day and during training. Focus especially on skills you want to improve. Want higher roundhouses? Visualize how your hips will rotate throughout the kick. Focus on your how your feet should pivot. Feel the stretch. Imagine the satisfying pop your awesome kick will make on the training target.
How effective is visualizing? It all depends on how much you invest into it. If you don’t do it seriously then don’t expect any serious results. I will tell you this however…
All of the elite athletes practice visualization in some way, shape, or form.
Finally, let’s delve into meditation. Hold on there, friend! Don’t leave the page yet. We’re not talking about sitting in weird positions and chanting ancient mantras under a waterfall for hours on end. On the contrary, you can derive benefits from meditating simply 5-15 minutes everyday.
In my experience, there are two forms of meditation. One simply clears the mind while the other is a form of self-hypnosis (No, you still can’t click away yet).
Using meditation to clear the mind can be a very powerful tool with amazing benefits. How often do we come to training stressed and feeling overwhelmed from all of our daily obligations? Fretting about the deadline at work isn’t going to help your performance in the gym. When meditating, clear your mind and focus on slowly breathing in your nose and out your mouth. You should be relaxed and comfortable, but not so much that you’ll fall asleep. If you find your mind wandering, gently push those thoughts aside and redirect your focus back to your breathing.
Meditating as a form of self-hypnosis is pretty similar but instead of clearing your mind, you’ll focus on the internal dialogue we discussed at the beginning of the article. As you relax, focus on traits and skills you want to improve on. Tell yourself, you’re getting better at these skills everyday. Visualize yourself mastering these skills.
To conclude, utilizing the mind-body connection is a very powerful tool all athletes should be taking advantage of. 90% of your training is mental. If you’re just training your body without a strong mental foundation, you’ll eventually crumble.
‘Til next time.