As printed in the Jersey Girl Triathlon July 2014 newsletter
The sun shines on your face as you head into the last half mile of your race. Your breathing is rhythmic and in sync with your running cadence (in, in, out, out, in, in out, out). A refreshing ocean breeze cools the sweat on your forehead and arms and you savor the salty ocean and beach smell as the finish line comes into sight. You hear the cheering of the spectators and it gives you that extra boost to pick up your pace another notch. Your running form is smooth and effortless as your feet land lightly on the ground under your body. You start to kick it in as you get closer and closer to the finish line. Just as you reach the timing mats, you raise your arms in victory and smile for the camera. You’ve completed what you trained so diligently for. You are a triathlete!
Did you feel yourself finishing the Jersey Girl Triathlon? Where you able to see, hear and feel yourself crossing that finish line? That’s just a sampling of visualization.
The physical training you have been doing to complete your goals is important, but if you want to reach your full potential then you can’t neglect the mental side of the sport.
Henry Ford had it right when he said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” The mind and body are connected and higher confidence levels leads to better performance. So you could be a well trained athlete, but if you lack confidence or are too anxious about an upcoming race, then you will fall short of all that you are capable of.
Visualization, also known as imagery, can be used for both training and racing successfully. You can imagine practicing a new skill flawlessly or going through your entire race exactly as you would like it to go. You can also use this tool to imagine what you would do in unexpected or difficult situations during a race. How would you react to a flat tire during the bike leg? How would you handle the difficult last miles of a run? Picture yourself staying calm, changing the tire, and continuing the race. Imagine your determination and mental toughness in the late stages of a race.
Visualization helps with:
- Improving existing skills
- Learning new skills
- Improved focus
- Reduce anxiety & stress
- Being able to better handle unexpected situations during a race
Some points to remember while visualizing:
- Be specific and involve all of your senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch & taste) so that you feel the whole experience as if you are actually in that moment.
- Don’t just watch yourself, as if it were a movie, but see everything from your own point of view.
- Put some time aside to visualize. You may find it hard to visualize at first, especially if you’re new to it, but don’t give up. Practicing will make it easier.