Visualization for the Win: Master Your Next Race In Your Head


Visualization for the Win: Master Your Next Race In Your Head

By Vanessa Steigauf, Swimming World College Intern

Have you ever wondered what else you can do to get yourself ready for the next big race coming up? You’re probably already getting after it in the pool – and there is a certain limit where you shouldn’t push your body further to avoid overtraining. But you might still have physical and mental capacities you didn’t know you had before. Visualization will help you to tap into your full potential and get you in a position to win the race before you’re even on the blocks.

Swimming is Physical And Mental

The mental part in sports plays a big role when it comes down to who ultimately wins a race. If we spend hours in the pool and weight room to get our bodies in shape, then why don’t we invest more time to get our minds ready to go? Visualization is one method you can integrate in your training routine to get yourself closer to reaching your highest goals.

How Does Visualization Work?

To prepare your mind for your next big event, you should first go to a quiet place, where nothing will distract you. This is probably the most important part of the process as you will want to keep a high level of focus for several minutes. Once you get settled and sit comfortably, you can begin to visualize. Select one specific race you want to get ready for and start by imagining the environment right before the race. This should be as detailed as possible. You can involve all your senses to create an accurate visualization. What will the pool deck look like? Who will be there with you? Try to imagine the well-known smell of chlorine in the air. The cheering of your teammates hyping each other up. What suit will you be wearing? How will it feel against your skin? Include as many details as possible to make the visualization more realistic and effective. Can you already feel the adrenaline flowing through your body?

The Race in Your Head

Next, go through the whole race in your head. From the whistle and the moment you step on the blocks, to your start, underwaters, actual swimming, turns, and your race finish – include every single moment in your imagined race. The important part here is to play it through in real time. This might not work the first time, but with more practice and higher focus you will be able to create it more and more realistic. You can even get a friend to stop the time for your visualized race. See how close to your personal best you can get!

During this imagined race try to really focus on the details you want to implement in your actual race. Did your coach tell you to match a certain tempo or have a specific stroke count? Include that in your visualization to help your mind get ready to actually do those things in real life. It is important that you always stay in the first-person perspective. You should see and feel everything as if you were actually in that race. After you touched the wall don’t stop with your visualization right away. Look up at the scoreboard, see your time, and recognize the feeling of a successful race! Do you hear your team cheering for you?

Mental and Physical Preparation Combined

The method of visualization definitely gets your mind in a place ready to race. It helps to reduce nervousness on race day and prepares you to step up and perform at your best. But it also has physical benefits. When you play certain movements in your head, you are not actually using your muscles. But the neurons that fire to excite the muscles during the race are still activated. This is like exercise for the neurons to strengthen their connections to the muscles. When you then use the nerves and muscles during swimming, they respond more quickly and work more efficiently.

What Can You Control?

But there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re using visualization to prepare yourself for a race. While it is important to include as many details as possible, it is also crucial to not fixate yourself on those details. You will never be able to predict exactly how the race will go. If you rely too much on your imagined race and things go slightly differently in the actual race, this might throw you off and the whole effect of visualization is gone. To prevent getting shocked by reality, integrate slightly different variables in your visualizations from time to time. Change the speed of your opponents, the suit you are wearing, or even the pool you are swimming in.

After all, there is only so much you can control about your race. Many variables are out of your control and you can only be ready for sudden changes. But if you prepare all those variables that are under your control, you can gain a lot of power over the race situation. And this will ultimately give you the right amount of confidence to put you in the best place to succeed in your next race.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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