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Three Top Uses for Visualization


Top performers harness the power of imagery to perform at their peak. Here are three reasons why your clients may want to follow their example.

1. Skill Mastery

Recall that when you mentally rehearse a performance, using all of your senses to make the event as vivid and controlled as possible, your mind can’t distinguish between really doing it and not. Imagery


movement patterns, making specific actions more familiar and automatic. Even before you physically attempt a skill, and long after your body is done physically performing for the day, imagery works to accelerate reaction times, improve coordination and accuracy, and enhance overall performance (Weinberg
Gould 2011).

2. Pain Killer

Often the mind gives up before the body needs to. Imagery can push you through any discomfort in order to realize heightened levels of performance.

There are two ways visualization can cope with pain. The first is by

controlling your interpretation of pain.

The defeatist mindset interprets pain to mean,

This sucks; I obviously didn’t train hard enough, and now I’ll never achieve my goal.

The competitive mindset, on the other hand, interprets pain to mean,

My body is talking to me to let me know I either need to adjust some aspect of my activity or dig deep for that extra motivation to power through.

To find that last bit of motivation, you can distract yourself away from the pain by mentally practicing skill mastery—for example, mastering the next push-up or mile run or warrior II pose. In other words, once you know the pain is there to test your willpower, you can tune out the pain by imaging a specific and successful aspect of your performance.

The second way visualization copes with pain is through

symbolic imagery.

In my consulting practice, I teach athletes to imagine their pain as a separate character, such as the mucus commercial character (you can Google it). They then take control of the character and image it moving away from the area of discomfort, leaving their bodies with the strength and stamina to keep moving forward.

3. Anxiety Control

Symbolic imagery works to control your anxiety as well. Instead of experiencing the nervous butterflies in your stomach flying around frantic and out of control, in your mind place them in an inverted V-shape similar to a flock of geese traveling efficiently and fast. Using imagery to take control of your nerves, you can reduce the amount of anxiety you experience and better utilize your arousal levels for peak performance.

To read more practical guidelines for using imagery to improve performance, please see “Visualization as the #1 Mental Toughness Tool” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

Haley Perlus, PhD

With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Dr. Haley is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, seminar leader at top sport and fitness conferences, is the consultant to national team and Division I athletes, published author of The Ultimate Achievement Journal and The Inside Drive as well as appointed an Industry Leader by IHRSA. A former elite athlete, Whistler Cup Champion, coach, group fitness instructor and trainer, Dr. Haley is an expert at empowering individuals to achieve peak results.

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