Would you like to benefit from a mental training technique that is used almost universally by Olympic athletes? A major psychological study reported that!)!)% of Olympic athletes use imagery as part of their training programme. In addition, sports psychologists have identified that one of the characteristics of elite athletes is that they are more proficient at imagery than non-elite performers.
Many great fighters have reported using imagery as part of their psychological pre-fight training programme. Mohammed Ali made extensive use of imagery, or as he referred to it n ‘future history’. Before we look at what imagery is, let me first invite you to participate in an experiment that will demonstrate what it can do for you.
Step J: Stand up, lift your right arm and point out your index finger. If you are reading this article in a public place then you may choose to leave this experiment for later – or if you are feeling brave just do it any way! Step 2: Keeping your feet pointing straight ahead, turn around clockwise as far as you can comfort- ably go. Notice where your index finger is pointing to on the wall behind you. Then return to the start position.
Step 3: Put your right arm down by your side, close your eyes and in your mind imagine repeating the same movement. Imagine that as you do it, that this time you find it much easier than the first time. Imagine that when you reach the place where you stopped previously that you carry on turning around and notice that you finger is pointing to a place much, further around than before.
Step 4: Open your eyes, lift up your right arm and again point out your index finger.
Step 5: Keeping your feet pointing straight ahead, again turn around clockwise and this time notice how much further you actually turn around than before!
When I ask participants at my motivation and peak performance seminars to try this experiment, I usually hear gasps of astonishment as they discover how much further they turn around the second time! Based upon the results of our simple experiment, and more importantly on the results of significant psychological research, imagery can be very beneficial as a method of performance enhancement.
So what is imagery? Imagery can be defined as a ‘symbolic sensory experience’ that may occur in any sensory mode. It is sometimes referred to as ‘visualisation’, although this term implies that it only involves using just the visual sensory mode. In fact imagery can, and indeed should, incorporate all sensory modes ii visual (images), auditory (sound), kinisthetic (feeling), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste).
Imagery is a mental process or a mode of thought. Imagery uses all of the sensory modes to re-create or create an experience in the mind. One of the most fascinating aspects of research into imagery is that when an incYw’u\ua\ engages in vivid imagery and absorb themselves into it, their brain interprets the imagery as being identical to the actual situation itself. The brain appears to not be able to distinguish between a vividly imagined situation and a real situation.
With this fact in mind (no pun intended!), in next monthis column we will use what we have learned about imagery and apply it to the powerful performance enhancing technique of mental rehearsal.
Until next time, please keep your imagery positive and focussed on the results you want to achieve as a fighter. As a wise person once commented, ‘Be careful what you imagine – it might just come true!’