Archive for January, 2014

Using Imagery for Olympic Games Success

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

 

Training for the Olympic Games involves developing both physical and mental skills such as imagery. Creating vivid images that stimulate senses of sight, sound, touch and taste is an important and powerful mental skill for athletes who experience challenges during training and competition.

Imagery can involve mental pictures or a film in action featuring an event or activity without performing physical movement. The activity takes place in one’s mind but with the full engagement of other senses.

How imagery works

In this type of simulation, the athlete visualises himself as performing a skill or participating in a competition such as the Olympics. Every movement and every detail of the mental image is experienced through all senses without any physical activity. Through constant practice, the mental image or film creates muscle memory in the nervous and muscular systems as if the athlete had actually exerted real physical effort. The memory created enables the athlete to execute the visualised activity during actual competitions and performances.

Athlete’s visualisation perspective

Internal: In this perspective, the athlete observes the image through his, or her, own eyes as if he, or she, actually performed the activity.
Tip: While practising imagery, you must feel the movements and use all other senses to obtain a complete experience in the present.

Benefits of imagery

Athletes who possess good visualisation skills can:

  • Improve athletic performance
  • Provide continuous practice of physical skills during periods when it is not possible for the athlete to train because of illness, fatigue, and other constraints
  • Boost self-confidence as a result of regular mental practice
  • Increase energy levels through visualisation of energetic activity and effortless performance
  • Induce calm and relaxation by visualising a peaceful and tranquil place when feeling stressed or nervous
  • Minimise sleep difficulty by visualising a place of relaxation.

Tips for using imagery in sports

  • Practise visualisation regularly. Repetition drives the image into your memory.
  • Relax before imagery.
  • Use all senses during imagery. Engage all your senses as you visualise an event, performance or occasion.
  • Turn to imagery for training and competition whenever it is not possible to physically train due to poor weather, injury and other problems commonly affecting Winter Olympics’ athletes.
  • Visualise yourself as a successful athlete who is in control of performance.

Imagery is best used as part of training and preparation for the Olympics. Not all athletes are able to utilise this visualisation technique properly and may need the professional guidance of a sports psychologist or mind coach. Beyond the Olympic Games, imagery can also be used in non-sports related situations such as a tool for relaxation and stress reduction, goal setting and achievement.

Winter Olympics Athletes to Utilise Sports Mental Training to Stay on Track

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

 

The winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia, this year, beginning on February 7 and ending on February 23.

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014As one can imagine, the participating athletes have been preparing for years, physically and mentally. Much of the world is watching the Olympics, and the athletes can no doubt already feel that pressure.

Even though Olympic athletes have been preparing for months, they can still experience self-doubt when it gets close to competition time. They can find themselves engaging in self-doubt minutes before an Olympic event or after an injury that occurred during training.

Athletes that compete in the Olympics consult sports psychologists, or mental coaches, to mentally prepare for the big games. A mental coach is much like an athletic coach, except the emphasis is on developing the mental toughness, self-confidence, and motivation required to succeed.

Strategies that help athletes in the Olympic Games

One athlete that competed in the 1998 winter Olympics stated that her mental strategy was to pretend that the Olympics were like any other day, and on the flip side, to treat every day like the Olympic games.

How is this possible if there isn’t a loud, cheering crowd or cameras following the athlete’s every move?

  • When training, pretend there is a crowd watching what is going on. Imagine the cheers and yelling mentally.
  • When practising a skill, imagine that how you perform the skill that very day is the difference between a bronze and a gold medal.

Australian athletes preparing for the summer and winter Olympics are provided a clinical psychologist. The athletes are taught relaxation and stress-management techniques, such as counselling, and sleeping and breathing techniques. Others listen to music and practice positive visualisations, such as remembering past successes. Athletes have even used hypnosis to obtain optimal visualisation results.

Katya Crema, an Australian skier, has stated that mental preparation for the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games is just as important as her physical preparation. Crema believes that the Olympics are a mental game as well, so it is essential that she believes in herself and that she is as good as the athletes against which she is competing.

Australian athletes will be working with sports psychologists at this year’s winter Olympics. Not only will they be learning stress management techniques, they will also be learning to focus on the process of the sport in which they are competing and not the outcome. Additionally, they will be utilising techniques that will help them adapt to change and be more flexible in unexpected circumstances, like having a roommate that has a completely different training schedule.