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Practicing Visualization for Success in Athletics

Practicing Visualization for Success in Athletics

Have you ever daydreamed about winning a race or a game? Have you spent any time watching YouTube videos to improve your technique? Perhaps, stood over a golf ball and played the perfect trajectory out in your mind or mentally watched an impossible backhand cross-court shot catch the line? Ok, put your hands down. We all have. 


You may not have the imagination equal to Bill Murray’s Cinderella story in Caddyshack, but the practice of visualization is ingrained in any sports-minded human. From when we were children in the backyard throwing touchdown passes to win the Super Bowl or practicing bending it like Beckham on the soccer field, visualizing success comes naturally to everyone.


The use of visualization for adults can be a powerful tool for all activities and levels of abilities. 


Visualization Practice Makes Perfect

Mental imagery is widely used across every imaginable sport. Competitive swimmers and runners are known to tape a goal time above their beds so it’s the last thing they see before closing their eyes and the first thing they see in the morning. Collegiate Crew teams will enlist sports psychologists for guided visualization of the perfect race. And mountain bikers improve off the trail by “virtually” ripping through challenging sections.


One key to actual gains through visualization is consistency. Give your visualization practice some time to take off. It’s a skill that everyone can develop over time. Set aside 10 minutes each morning before the noise of the day creeps in. Keeping your focus on a specific performance goal can be difficult at first as the mind is always wandering. 


Close your eyes and relax physically and mentally. Imagine yourself performing at your peak, the sounds of the environment and the feel of your equipment. Draw on the feelings and emotions that are associated with the start of a race, the critical portions of a training session or an intensity level you want to achieve. And do it again. Every morning.


Remember that you are visualizing positive outcomes or improvements. The great thing about mental imagery is that there are no injuries or exertions to recover from. Simply restart the system and practice to perfection.


The Science of Visualization

Ok, so maybe your thinking this visualization stuff is all in your head. You would be exactly right! 

Guang Yue, an Exercise Psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, found that study subjects that used visualization for virtual workouts over three months were able to increase muscle strength by 13.5% compared to 30% by the people who actually did the same workout.


But the fact is that many of the world’s greatest athletes take visualization and imagery very seriously. The goal is to create a full sensory, lifelike experience that the body and muscles believe is real. Replicating positive athletic scenarios in the mind enhances performance and helps prepare for the real thing. 


So have it at folks. We all have a Cinderella story inside waiting to play out. 


“It’s in the hole!”

How to Run a Marathon

Running a marathon

Running a marathon is no easy feat. Even for experienced athletes, running a marathon requires a lot of preparation and training. From the amateur athlete to the seasoned, proper training is necessary as it can minimize your chances of injury and help prepare you for a long-distance run. While tactics for runners and trainers alike can vary, there are a few pointers you can follow when it comes to training for a marathon.

Having Experience and Time

In general, the safest rule is to start training 3-6 months in advance. In addition to planning time to train, you’ll want a bit of experience with long-distance running. Being able to run three times a week consistently is a great indicator you are ready to take on an intense training schedule. Not to that level yet? Sign up and train for a 5K or 10K to start as it’s a great way to build your endurance.

Alternate Your Training

Running at least three times a week with alternating difficulty is recommended. Runners training for a long-distance run such as a marathon shouldn’t train with the same mileage or intensity over time. Your weekly training should differ day-to-day with the introduction of fast, slow, long, and short runs. Rest days in between are also important to include, so if you are committed to your training schedule, you shouldn’t get bored.

Increase Your Mileage

To build your endurance, it’s recommended in the first 10 weeks to increase your distance by 10-20% per week. Note that the weekly increase needs to be gradual as increasing distance too quickly is a common mistake and can cause injury. An easy way to help build your mileage is to run a few shorter races. Running 5Ks and 10Ks during your training can teach your body what to expect on race day and get your muscles and mind ready.

Take it Easy Before Your Race

For optimal results in training, you should start to decrease the distance in the end. In the last 3 weeks, start to decrease your training by 25% to 50% per week. For example, if your training is set at 16 weeks, your longest run would be at 13 weeks. This will give your body and muscles time to rest and recover before taking on your longest run. Make your last week of training the lightest and do not run the day before the race. Your muscles will be primed and prepped but relaxed and ready for action on race day.

Marathon running is not easy for anyone. It takes a lot of planning, prep, and hard work when it comes to commitment and training. While training methods can differ from athlete to athlete, it’s best to ensure you give yourself enough time to train, keep your runs dynamic, and build then decrease mileage before the race. Obviously check with your doctor before taking on the commitment, but find the fun, diverse training program that works for you to get you across that finish line. 

 

The Definition of Motivation

Definition of motivation

Have you ever wanted to run a marathon? How about buy a house or get a new job? While dreams and aspirations are great, nothing comes to fruition until we utilize motivation. Motivation, known as the drive or the passion behind all great (and even mundane) ideas powers us to do things. Technically defined, the word motivation is “the process of stimulating people to action, in order to accomplish goals”. But what really is motivation and how does it work? To break it down, we have to take a look at the components that make up our drive to “do things”.

Motivation as its core can be subcategorized into 3 major steps: Activation, Persistence, and Intensity.

 Activation

 Activation is the decision we make to initiate action. This could be as simple as the “just do it” state of mind. What to enroll in school? Fill out that college application! Want to get fit? Signup for that aerobics class! We know that everything starts with action, but it doesn’t happen until you make it happen. So, to get started on your goal you have to take action on the first step.

 Persistence

 Persistence is a continued and consistent effort toward a goal, regardless of what issues or obstacles may arise. If action is what gets the ball rolling, persistence is what keeps it moving. If you start something, you often need the motivation to see it through, and that might mean training or studying at a regular basis, realigning expectations, or keeping at it no matter what gets in the way. The point of persistence is to keep your goal attainable and do whatever you need to do to achieve it.

 Intensity

 Intensity is the extra effort, hard work, and dedication you put toward accomplishing a goal. Just like persistence, intensity kicks in when we realize that we need to put more effort in, work harder, or go beyond the expected parameters to achieve the goal. This might mean taking a night class to add to your knowledge of the subject or signing up for a personal trainer to get in the shape you need to start your race training schedule. 

 As much as we’d like it to be, life isn’t as simple as “shooting for the stars”. We need more than just the thought or plan behind a goal, and this requires real effort or true motivation. While it may sound simple, there is a process, and the components of action, persistence and intensity will drive us to accomplish our goals. So, do what you want to do, but make sure you go out and get it. Now that you have the magic formula, anything is possible.