Motivational Monday: Visualization Is a Great Option to Prepare For Races – and Promote Success

caeleb-dressel - Blocks

Visualization Is a Great Option to Prepare For Races – and Promote Success

It’s sometimes difficult to mentally prepare for big races. In fact, those final few moments spent standing behind the blocks can be rather overwhelming. People are yelling, whistles are blowing, and you’re frantically tightening your goggles to make sure they won’t fall off. All the while, your brain is spiraling while trying to prepare for the race ahead.

While nothing can fully prepare a swimmer for the intensity of these moments, there are techniques that can help. Perhaps one of the most prominent of these options is visualization. This approach involves picturing, or “visualizing,” the entirety of an athletic performance. For swimmers, this means imagining your race from start to finish. You envision yourself standing behind the blocks, diving in, swimming, turning, finishing, celebrating that you met your goal time – and everything in between. Some users of this technique prefer to write down the ideas that they visualize. A good piece of advice to swimmers is to try both types of visualization (mental and written) and then decide which one works best for you.

Visualization for swimmers should include any and all aspects of their race. The more specific details a swimmer focuses on, the more “real” the imagery will feel. Picture the environment you’ll be racing in. Your coach and teammates on the side of the pool, the suit you’ll be wearing, your family sitting in the stands. It’s even good to visualize things that could go wrong: cramping muscles, losing your goggles, inhaling water. This way, if these problems do occur, you will be better prepared to handle the situation. The more nitty gritty you get with your visualization, the more prepared you’ll be when the big moment finally arrives.

The timing of visualization is key for its success. If you attempt to visualize your race in those chaotic few minutes behind the blocks, you will most likely become distracted and overstimulated by everything going on around you. Waking up earlier in order to visualize in your hotel room or at home may be a good idea, but could also mean sacrificing sleep. Visualizing the night before a swim meet is a great option. Whenever you decide to visualize, make sure you are in a quiet space with minimal distractions. It can even be helpful to spend a few minutes taking deep breaths before you begin the process of visualization. This will allow you to focus and dial in on the goal you want to achieve!

Many professional athletes are advocates of visualization and its benefits. Michael Phelps used visualization to stay calm in some of his most high-pressure situations. Runner Allyson Felix once said: “I am a big believer in visualization. I run through my races mentally so that I feel even more prepared.” Visualization allows you to think about your race well in advance. In this case, in those last few moments behind the blocks, you won’t have to stress about what’s going to happen. With visualization, you’ll be well prepared to conquer whatever challenges may lie ahead.

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