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Visualize movements for better results

The secret of champions and generally of sportsmen and sportswomen is certainly constant training. However, what can also play a vital role to improve performance are the scientifically proven techniques like visualisation. We are talking about Mental Training, a widespread practice among professional athletes and consisting of a series of methods and tools for their mental training. Let's take Formula One or Moto Gp drivers as an example, where it is essential to have a trained mind and be able to manage stress to avoid situations that could affect the outcome of a race. Memorizing the course of the track or the gestures are all elements that contribute to the success of the performance.

There are many athletes in different sports who, in order to concentrate, choose to visualise the movements or entire phases of their training in preparation for competitions; before going to bed or first thing in the morning, or just before the performance as if it were a form of meditation to do at any time and wherever you are.

And so also in training, adding visualization techniques to our routine can be a valid support to the athletic preparation at both amateur and professional levels. There are many benefits deriving from this technique which allows us to:

  • Improve sports performance
  • Promote the learning process (movements, athletic gestures, etc...)
  • Control performance anxiety, especially before the race
  • Create a general feeling of psychophysical well-being
  • Increase concentration
  • Focus on the goals.
A study by the Ohio's Cleveland Clinic Foundation revealed that visualising a specific exercise in your mind before doing it can increase the strength of the muscles involved by up to 53%. Another study by the University of Chicago found that visualisation can improve sports performance almost as much as a real time training session. Research participants made free throws of basketball in the gym for 30 days, while another study group closed their eyes and simply imagined making a basket, visualising the gesture in its entirety. The athletes who trained improved their performance by 24%, while the group who just imagined successful baskets improved by 23%.

In our daily routine we can apply this to cardio training as well as to other training focused on strength or stability. It's all about finding ways to train your concentration as well as your body.

1.Visualization to face a 5 km race

Think of a goal you have in mind or a skill you would like to improve (in this case running). If it is a race, start by watching the beginning of the day. See yourself getting dressed, eating and then arriving at the starting area. Are you with many people?

- Imagine the pace during the race. Would you start slowly?
- Feel your footsteps when they hit the pavement and your arms swing with the steps. You can also imagine what the air on your skin might be like.
- Feel your posture as you run. Then imagine that running becomes a little more difficult. Is there a hill to push more?
- Imagine you feel a little tired as you approach the end of the race. Feel the slight tension in your legs.
- Would you like to sprint to the finish line? Imagine doing so, giving all the energy you have as you run towards the finish line.
- Imagine exactly what it would feel like to cross the finish line. Are you exhausted? Do your legs hurt? See your family applauding?

The key to getting results with the visualization technique is to see whatever you want to get from start to finish, and imagine doing exactly what you want to do. Make sure you actually feel you are moving, even if it is only in your mind.

2. Train strength with visualization

- Sit in a quiet space and breathe slowly.
- Imagine you are at the gym or home gym standing and using a dumbbell, feeling everything about the exercise (dumbbell weight, shape, etc.).
- Imagine yourself doing the exercise in the exact position you would be in if you were actually exercising.
- Imagine what it feels like when the muscle contracts, whether it is the quadriceps during a squat or the abs in the middle of a series of crunches.
- Mentally perform the same number of repetitions as if you were in the gym.

Try to believe: the exercises will seem simpler and you will be more motivated from the first repetition.

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