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By David Osorio
Originally posted on 12.19.2013
We're currently in our seventh week of our 10-week cycle, which means that the weights for all of your lifts should probably feel pretty heavy. In previous posts, we've discussed having a ritual and cultivating confidence when approaching your work in the gym. Today, lets talk a little about visualization.
Visualization is simply a mental rehearsal of what you're about to attempt. Many studies have show the efficacy of this practice and countless successful athletes will attest to the importance of being able to "feel or see" an event in their minds eye before attempting it. While the action may seem somewhat intangible, it is still a skill that needs to be practiced in order to be of any real utility. If you're not already visualising your lifts, here are some tools to get you started.
1. Get into the habit of replaying the physical sensations of each lift AFTER they occur. The best time to summarize what just happened is immediately after you execute movement so try to "feel" it again, making note of anything that seemed to stick out. Try to create a physical memory of movement basics. Where was your weight? What kind of tempo did you feel through the movement? Did you feel braced and engaged? How did the weight feel? Walk yourself through it again in your head and try to recreate or slightly augment that sensation before your next attempt. Learning to review what just happened is the best way to start developing the internal resources to properly visualize.
2. Start practicing! Visualisation takes time and a specific kind of mindfulness that doesn't necessarily come easily to most folks. Set an intention to practice visualizing your lifts during your warm-ups and especially before work attempts. In essence, you want to try and experience the lift in the most idealized way possible before you start. There won't be an internal dialogue to guide you through, simply perform the act in your mind. If you're aware of a movement fault you're working on, correct it in your head and then attempt to recreate a similar sensation when you actually go to lift. This also doesn't need to be limited to the gym, you can do it right now. Pick a lift, close your eyes, and feel yourself doing three reps of it in "real time" in your head. You'll note that you might want to rush through it, but don't; instead, take your time to feel it.
3. Practice visualization from different perspectives. Some people prefer to simply close their eyes, "tune out" of reality, and experience the movement from a first-person perspective in their heads. Others might benefit from seeing themselves perform the movement outside of themselves, noting key elements they're focusing on. Another way would be to not only see it but feel it as well, by miming the lift physically while maintaining a careful presense-of-mind. Finally, you might even consider focusing on the sensation of executing a perfect lift, seeing yourself stand up with the heavy barbell as if it wasn't a big deal. This final method ties into what we wrote about developing and using confidence as a training tool.
Play around with this and let us know how it works for you. What you definitely don't want to do is allow non-productive thought streams to seep into your training time. And remember: Performing a lift, and then immediately focusing on a conversation with your partner, checking the time, looking around the room at something interesting, or just zoning out, can actually be detriments to your training. Stay focused, and stay present.
The Cost of Paying Attention The New York Times
What It's Like To Go Without Complaining For a Month Fast Company
The Happiness Conspiracy The New Republic
Do you practice visualization techniques, in CrossFit or other endeavors?