This is Part 12 in the series on Mental Strength and High Intensity Athletic Performance.
A champion will take the time to see what they want to happen, while the also-ran’s will only see what they hope will never happen. In both cases, these individuals are doing some form of mental rehearsal. The biggest difference here is one allows for peak athletic performance to be achieved, while the other one holds the others back.
Our peak performance happens long before we go into a competition (even before we meet up at CrossFit) to do a high intensity athletic performance. This begins in the head and finishes when we are in the moment.
You will notice there is a lot written about mental rehearsal, so this could come across as being redundant. However, there is a point I need to make about the manner I use to coach mental imagery: your mental rehearsal will use all your senses VAKOG (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory) in order to experience the peak performance beforehand as completely as possible. Why? A mental rehearsal goes beyond visualization, which only uses one of your senses.
With mental imagery, the athlete will use all his senses and take the time to imagine himself in an environment doing a specific activity. This could be in the final moments of a game on the field or pushing themselves harder during a certain CrossFit WOD and giving that extra effort to really make an impact while doing their high intensity athletic performance. In each scenario, the athlete should be successful and try to feel — physically and mentally — the success of the performance.
Why is mental imagery important?
- Familiarize an athlete with a competition site or course.
- Motivate athletes by having them pull images that are associated with the goals for the session and to recall feelings and images when they were successful against a competitor or when they hit a new peak during CrossFit training.
- Perfect the skills and skill sequences an athlete is using in order to reach high intensity athletic performance.
- Focus on the positive outcomes rather than on the negative outcomes that are possible.
- Alter the focus of athletes when necessary. If things seem sluggish, have them focus their attention on things that can get them back to their A game.
- Find success where the individual sees himself performing skills properly and reaching the desired outcome each time.
- Prepare the athlete for success, by having them do a mental run-through of the performance, focusing on the essentials and ensuring that they have the feelings and focus they need — whether it is during an event on the field, during practice, or during a CrossFit event or other high-intensity performance.
The athlete’s imagery shouldn’t focus on the actual outcome, but the actions needed to reach the desired outcome.
How do I apply mental imagery?
Jack Nicklaus is a world famous golfer, and he used mental imagery for every shot. He wrote the following to describe this:
“I never hit a shot even in practice without having a sharp in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. First, I ‘see’ the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I ‘see’ the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there’s a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality and only at the end of this short private Hollywood spectacular do I select a club and step up to the ball.”