The Sensory Practice of Imagery – Visualization Techniques for Runners
There is no doubt that having positive thoughts in life will assist you in achieving most goals, and getting the best out of yourself. But most runners have barely touched on the power of visualization. Visualization techniques don’t just get you to the finish line, but will also help you supersede your personal best times.
Mentally, one needs to be quite strong to get through any exercise, and the longer and harder you push yourself, the more mental power you need to draw on. This becomes increasingly difficult when you start increasing distance and/or speed.
Your body will only do what your mind instructs it to. If you have given up mentally, your body will just simply stop. So the key to either completing a race, or beating your best time, is to focus on the end result. And, the end result needs to be visible in your mind.
This can be a very trying task for most. It is all fine and well telling yourself, or even others, that you intend to finish your next half marathon in under 2 hours, but if you truly do not see yourself actually performing this act, then you will more than likely not accomplish it.
When you focus in on actually seeing the event happening, you start to believe that it is, in fact, possible. Visualization has been used over many industries and for many purposes, not just sports. The mind is a very powerful tool, and when you fully believe something will happen, and can see it as if it were happening right then and there, it increases the chances of it actually happen.
Believing really is seeing, and not the other way round.
To fully understand what visualization is all about, one needs to engage all of his or her senses. Visualization is a bit of a self-hypnosis session, and once you become comfortable with doing it, you can apply it to other areas of your life.
So, lets focus in on running, and in particular, a race that you wish to take part in as well as finish it in with personal record.
In your mind, you need to visualize yourself, in a third party perception, actually stepping over that finish line. See yourself looking down at your watch, the timer telling you that you made it in the sub 2 hours, or 4 hours, or whatever the time is that you want to achieve.
Conjure up the feeling that you will have once you have achieved this. Really muster up the exhalation that will well up inside of you, and the joy that will make your heart beat faster.
The sound of your shoes slapping the tarmac, the loudness of the crowds cheering you on, and the beating of your escalated heart rhythm pounding in your ears is what you need to hear.
Talk to yourself daily about what you are about to do. Have a little chat with the one person who can make this all happen. Give yourself encouragement, and positive affirmations. Say out loud the exact time you will finish the race in.
When you are so fully immersed in something you can literally taste it. You can consume the realness of the situation, and put a flavor to the goodness of the ending of that moment.
Believe it and Live it
Without belief in yourself and your ability, nothing will come to fruition. A picture is but a splash of colors on a blank canvas. But, it is up to you to believe that what you put on that canvas will be real and vibrant.
When all is said and done, you need to live the image. You need to get out there and actually do what you visualized, what you dreamed of, and what you built inside you head.
And that, my fellow runner, is always the hardest part. But know this. When it’s done, when you have chest swiped that finish line, when you have put your arms up in triumph, and shouted out a “Hell Yeah!”, that is when you will understand the power of visualization.
Now would probably be a good place to end off this article, but there is something more. Of course there is. Could it be that simple, you ask? Well, yes and no.
There is one last aspect to this imagery mumbo-jumbo. Yes, I hear the skeptic in you, loud and clear. It comes across as mumbo-jumbo, but this stuff is powerful. This stuff is what dreams are made of. This stuff is what makes champions.
Every professional athlete and sports person uses visualization. Constantly. Always.
But they take it a step further. They use, not only, their minds to imagine it all happening, but they physically play it out too. And by this, I mean literally taking their bodies through the motions of the activity.
There is something to be said for muscle memory, and putting your body through the paces of what you want it to do at the end of the day, is where it really starts to count.
Every run you go out on, whether it’s a training run or a smaller race leading up to the big gun, you need to tell you body that this is it. This is the replay before the actual play.
Run that training run like it was the race. Run that little 5-miler, like it was the marathon. Feel your body moving, see the road beneath your feet, hear your breathing in and out, taste the sweat running down your face, and repeat your affirmations, all the way.
The mind is a powerful tool. Never forget that what you think will always materialize when you believe in it enough. The reward is when you finally realize this.