Written by Coaches Chris White & Michael Harvey -
You will often hear professional or successful athletes talking about visualisation as a tool in their toolkit. They imagine what their perfect race looks like, they feel the emotion of crossing the finish line, they problem solve issues that might arise during the race. But surely this can't actually help you and I become better athletes in reality. Or can it?
According to MEC Head Coach, Michael Harvey, "Visualisation is an important part of you becoming a strong, confident and smart athlete. However, just like our physical training, it takes practice."
So what are we looking to visualise?
Overall, its probably most useful to start with a picture of the athlete you want to be, then break things down from there into racing or training for example.
The picture of the athlete you want to be might be a picture of you as a calm, controlled but powerful athlete riding their bike in a perfectly aero position with a smile across your face. When you unpack that picture, you know that you've done the training to get into that shape. You know you've got your nutrition dialled in because you are feeling strong. You know you're enjoying yourself and are doing exactly what you need to be doing. It can be a powerful image full of positive reinforcement.
The key with these visualisations is to be very detailed and precise about them. Press fast forward in your imagination to the athlete you are training to be one day. See and hear the things that they do, think about them racing and doing well (them = you in the future). Watch how confident they are at the start line before the race, how they handle the crashing and bashing in the swim because they are strong and smart swimmers. See how smooth and well practiced their transition is and watch exactly the order they do things and how they make it look effortless. See in detail their decision making about their nutrition and pacing on the bike and run. What do they tell themselves when it gets really hard in the race?
How long does it take?
At first it may seem hard to focus or really see the vision that you are looking for, but before long and with repetition, you will start to see and hear things more clearly.
Spending some time each day, even if it is only for a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening (you can do more if you wish) visualising the athlete you want to become is time well spent, especially when it comes to your ability to problem solve on race day. Most people imagine the perfect day, but don't visualise how they will fix the punctured tyre, deal with the dropped water bottle or handle the malfunctioning watch. The more you can practice and visualise these details before the race, the more likely you will react and behave like you have practiced in your visualisations. They will also save you masses of time and stress because you already know how to deal with them and have rehearsed it hundreds of times in your mind.
Visualise these things consistently and you will start to see your training and racing improve as a result. You will see the overall direction you need to travel, the things you need to improve and the decisions you need to make to become the athlete you aspire to be. The path becomes clear.