Most of us daydream, picturing ourselves pedalling effortlessly with the sunshine on our backs. But how about getting control of those daydreams and turning them into a mental practice that will improve your motivation and lead to better and more enjoyable performances?
The use of these mental pictures is one of the most common techniques employed by sport psychologists when working with sportspeople. Using imagery (or visualisation as it is sometimes called) can certainly help in the preparations for the season ahead. I’ve outlined the basic techniques in ‘Imagine yourself better’, below, but there are some key features to incorporate if you are to make the most of this technique.
1 Practice makes perfect
It’s really important that you have complete control over your imagery and that you become totally immersed in the image. Both of these aspects require practice, just like learning a physical skill, so put aside 15 minutes about three or four times a week to build up your ability.
2 Practise it perfect
Your images are most effective when they allow you to place yourself in successful situations, providing you with the feelings associated with great performances. This is when they can have the most effect on motivation and confidence. In the early season, use them to rehearse important aspects of your performance that your physical training is focusing on.
For instance, if improved hill climbing ability is high on your list of targets for the season, use imagery to rehearse successful climbs and the tactics you’ll employ in the season. It can also give you a boost in motivation to tackle that hilly training ride ahead.
3 Practise the hard things most
Many riders find it easier to imagine the skills they perform best, but much more difficult to achieve good imagery for those skills that they are trying to develop. Don’t be tempted by the easy option; practise those areas that need attention because that is where you need the most motivation and confidence to ensure that the training pays off when the season arrives.
IMAGINE YOURSELF BETTER
Imagery is a personal thing but here are a few tips to get you started:
- Before you start, plan out the imagery of the scenario you want to develop.This way you will have a better chance of focusing your imagery on the areas you wish to improve.
- Find a quiet spot and spend 30 seconds relaxing by taking slow, deep breaths before you start.
- Work on developing images that engage all the senses. Picturing yourself in your mind is a good start, but work on the sound, feel and emotions of the performance as you get more experienced.
- Take a few moments at the end of the imagery to reﬂect on the eﬀects that image had on you. How did it feel?What have you learnt? How is it going to improve your training?