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Your (Other) Personal Training Ground

by Nicole Westlund, PhD Candidate
Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
Mental Coach, Eclipse Performance

Have you ever pictured yourself winning the state championship?

After having the game of your life, have you found yourself replaying it over and over again your head?

Well you might not realize this, but what I am talking about above is actually called imagery.

Imagery, or mental visualization as it is commonly known, has been studied by sport psychology researchers for decades. It has also been famously used by athletes such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Phil Mickelson and Michael Phelps, to name a few.

Imagery is referred to as creating or re-creating an experience in the mind. It works by activating the same parts of your brain that are activated when you are actually undergoing that experience. The more you activate those brain pathways your body is more likely to produce the correct response the next time you need to do it.

I like to refer to imagery as your personal mental videotape. Over the years, your brain has amassed countless images of your own sport performances – practices, games and competitions, not to mention all of those performances you have seen by your favorite sports stars, all stored in your memory bank. Using these memories as the tapes, you can choose what event you would like to play; slow it down, speed it up, fast forward, rewind or replay your image to view whatever point in the game or competition that you want to focus on. It is like having ESPN’s SportsCenter on demand, but in your head!

There are a number of ways that you can use imagery to help improve your sport performance:

1. Learn and practice sport skills

2. Rehearse strategies and game plans

3. See your goals

4. Improve your confidence

5. Manage your emotions

6. Plan for the unexpected

7. Review your performances

8. Recover from injury

In the coming months, I will go into more detail regarding each of the examples named above. By the end, I hope you will be able to incorporate some of these uses into your own routine, giving you an edge up on your competition and helping you be the best you can be!

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