Time off the field or court provokes anxiety. Injuries often create a sense of helplessness. Improvement may seem like it’s at a standstill.
During times of injury, rest is essential. One way of getting the most out of your resting period is utilizing imagery. Imagery is most effective when all five senses are incorporated. It is essential to create the most vivid scenarios in your mind. With practice, imagery has been proven to help keep your mind in the game, especially for when you have to take time off for injuries. Here’s how to get the most out of your imagery sessions.
1. Start with sight. What are you seeing? As clear, and as vivid as you can imagine. Are you looking through your own eyes, or as an outside spectator? Are you alone or with your team?
2. What do you hear, the buzz of the overhead lights, the roaring crowd, or your coach giving instructions? Incorporate sounds you are likely to hear throughout your performance.
3. What does it smell like? Is it fresh cut grass, cleaning supplies, or the sweat rolling off your brow?
4. What are you feeling? This could be the dimples on a basketball, the grip of your golf club or baseball bat. What temperature do you perform in? Hot, cold, indoor, or in the water? Are you wearing your jersey, cleats, or even pads?
5. What is it that you taste? Is your mouth dry from working hard, or does it taste like your favorite sports drink? Whatever best represents your typical performance.
Practicing imagery while really focusing on all five of these senses will keep your mental game sharp when you’re having to rest your body and withhold from physical training. When your injury recovery period is over and you’re back on the field, you can use these mental skills to help perfect your game on the field or court. You won’t have missed a beat on the mental sic
By Dan Himmelstein, a graduate student at the University of Denver’s Sport and Performance psychology program. He is a former wrestler of 12 years who now coaches and dabbles with other mixed martial arts.