One very simple, yet very effective tool to help with develop an edge in any sport is utilizing visualization. Visualization is rehearsing in your mind your interpretation of how the competition is going to unravel. You see all the techniques, strategies, executions, and ultimately the win all within your mind long before the real competition happens.
Consistent, sustained visualization before competition is extremely helpful for several reasons:
- Whenever you physically do a task, your mind essentially builds a picture and acts out the process long before you physically act. So in essence you are performing the task twice. Just like conditioning the body with exercise, visualization conditions the mind’s ability to create a detailed picture prior to acting.
- You will move toward what you focus on most. If you have ever had a start to a bad day and all the negative things just seem to pile up one after another, then you understand how your focus can attract more unwanted actions. I know you have heard people say, “It’s going to be one of those days!” or “Today’s just a bad day!” They are experiencing the snowball effect of attracting what they focus on. This ability to attract what you focus on can be used in a positive manner as well. If you consistently visualize your successes in competition, you will attract that on the actual day of competition.
- Visualization will help mediate your arousal associated with competition. Many athletes have difficulty with controlling their emotions prior and during competition. Many may feel extreme anxiety or fear that saps their energy, while some may be under-aroused and fail to execute with enough intensity or feel “flat”. Both of these states can be detrimental to success as they are extreme when it comes to pre-competition moods. Visualization allows you to rehearse the pre-game emotional levels and become familiar with what emotional level feels the most productive for you. By visualizing before competition you also become aware of what to expect before, during and after competition. This lessens the fear of the unknown within our minds and helps to keep us calm.
- Visualization can also help perfect our actual physical movements and techniques. Your unconscious mind (the part of the mind that actually controls motor functions) does not differentiate between reality and imagination. If you consciously visualize your executions your unconscious mind records your entire imagination. It notes every single reaction, such as excitement, anxiety, and fear. At the same time it is firing electrical impulses to all the muscles that are associated with your imagined actions. These impulses create a type of code or “blueprint” that becomes associated with certain movements. When the time is right our body chemistry later reads the “code” and executes the moves without thought. These impulses also strengthen and condition the neural connections between the mind and the muscles being controlled. Basically, every time you visualize movements, the “road” the impulses travel get a slight upgrade, until one day it becomes a super-highway.
When you first start out visualizing, it will be difficult to sustain it for long periods because the visualization “muscle” is undeveloped. Your mind will wander and you will lose focus and that’s okay. I recommend starting out with short periods of 1-2 minutes at a time and just let your mind focus on anything associated with your sport. It does not need to be the direct competition you are training for it just has to be focused on your sport. If you consistently practice visualizing everyday and work hard at it, you will increase sustained visions for longer periods each session. This will lead to major improvements in competition. Click to read more about topics related to MMA conditioning and A Primal Diet For MMA.