Visualisation is just dreaming right? Well sort of.
When we talk about visualisation in the context of sports motivation there are two main parts to consider.
Visualising the end - how will it feel to complete this?
Visualising the actual event - what pace would we ideally be moving at? How will we feel halfway through.
Both can be super helpful in getting us prepared for a race and also help get you to the end.
What are the benefits?
You're ability to plan can be hugely improved by visualising your race. If you can visualise how you are going to feel and what you want to do you can schedule your fuelling and decide when and if you want to kick it up a gear.
This can massively boost your confidence going into the race or event. If you can take most of the mental load away before you cross the start line then you just need to execute that plan you have. Many athletes also use this because your capacity to think clearly (and smartly) when you are pushing your body to the limit, is greatly reduced. This will also help you focus on the event itself, focus on the training you've put in and trust your body to perform at its best.
It can also be hugely motivating during training. Those cold winter runs or early mornings in the gym are HARD. If you have a strong vision for what you want to achieve and how it is going to feel you might find it just that bit easier to keep going during the tough times.
So how do we do it?
As stated above visualisation can be a great thing to do whilst training as a motivator. It can also be a good exercise to do when you are training because you get a sample of what your body might feel like on the day. Feeling like you are starting to cramp up? What is the plan if you feel like this mid race? How can you mitigate this risk or keep pushing through until you can fix the problem? Visualising a plan now can help you keep calm when things inevitably don't go to plan on race day.
If you are into mediation then visualising can be really helpful during these calm points. Relax your body and focus on the task ahead, picture how it will feel to cross the line.
Put it on paper. Some people struggle to hold on to a mental image or plan but there is nothing wrong with putting pen to paper and writing or sketching your vision for the event.
Are there any downsides?
Things happen in real life events. Family emergencies, poor sleep, bad weather etc etc. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve it can be really tough if the reality doesn't live up to that.
Maybe you could try visualising how it would feel if everything went wrong? How would you feel? Put yourself in that position and it might help you deal with disappointment if it comes up. Just be careful not to sit in that mindset for too long, go into the race with some positive energy!
In conclusion visualising your race can be a helpful tool to plan and motivate you during training. It can also help you prepare for disappointment and how to respond to that. It is also worth mentioning that visualising is in the mind, you still have to train, positive mental attitude will only get you so far.