Tag: Rio

How Do You Prepare For Rio? Imagery!

imagery

The Olympic games are a competition like no other–a stage that only a select few will ever get to compete on, but millions will watch from near and far. A level of honor, excitement, and pressure that is simply incomparable. Not only are you representing yourself, your family, and your team, but also your entire country. Sure these athletes have competed on plying fields at national or even world competitions, but the Olympic games are certainly unique in their own right. So how do you prepare for Rio? How do you prepare to compete your very best in the largest competition of your life? Train hard for countless hours. Eat, sleep and recover properly. Yes! But that is not good enough. That is not good enough to reach gold. The best of the best also work on their mental game, specifically using imagery.

According to a survey by Jowdy and Durtschi, 90 percent of athletes and 94 percent of coaches at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado used imagery in their sport (Murphy, 2005). Also, 97 percent of athletes and 100 percent of coaches argued that imagery enhances performance. The most elite coaches and athletes are using imagery to enhance their performance and play to the best of their ability. If you want to be the best, start training like the best! To prepare for Rio, you know how to train physically, otherwise you wouldn’t even be thinking about competing on such a prestigious stage. However, if you’ve never been there before, it’s hard to prepare yourself for all of the new emotions and nerves that you will experience. You need to learn how to prepare you mind for this so when the day comes there are no surprises, and nothing will get in the way of your performance and reaching your highest potential.

Imagery is a multi-sensory experience that involves rehearsing your sport or performing a task in your mind, while engaging all five of your senses. Imagery is a mental skill that can be improved like any other skill (Murphy, 2005). It can be used in many different areas of sport such as skill development, stress management, preparation for the unknown, maintaining skills, etc. From a neurological perspective, the same areas of the brain are used when imagining an action and actually doing it. Imagination and action use the same neurological pathways, so practicing one enhances the other.

Ranganathan and colleagues’ study (2004) on using imagery to strengthen muscles demonstrates the power of imagery in creating actual physical results. Participants who did finger strengthening exercises for four weeks using only their imagination showed a 35% increase in physical strength (Ranganathan et. al, 2004). The neurons responsible for the movement instruction are used in both imagery and physical exercise, which results in strengthening the actual muscles. Although you cannot rely on imagery alone and physical practice is certainly necessary, this study suggests that imagery and mental practice can help create real results.

At Premier Sport Psychology, we suggest that in order to improve this mental skill and make your imagery as vivid as possible, it is important to engage all five senses as well as feelings and emotion. When preparing for such an intense event, really try to engage all of these senses within your imagery practice, so that when the real time comes you are familiar with these feelings. Imagine yourself gearing up to perform. What is your coach saying? What does the crowd sound like? Can you feel the sweat running down your cheek? What can you see around you? What does the scenery look like? What are the people doing? What does the gym/field/arena smell like? Does anything stand out to you? Can you taste anything such as your minty gum as you chew vigorously? What does the ball feel like or the cool pool on your skin? What are your emotions like? Can you sense your nerves or your excitement?

To prepare specifically for Rio, or whatever major event you may be preparing for, you can also look online and find pictures of what the gym/field/arena/etc. will resemble. Try to find pictures of what the scene will look like even if it is not quite specific to the playing field you will be participating on. Find any images of what the crowd may resemble, the playing field, or anything else that can help make your imagery more vivid and clear. This will give you a very clear idea and help make your imagery as vivid as possible.

Allison Felix, Olympic Track and Field Gold and Silver Medalist once said, “I am a big believer in visualization. I run my races in my head to that I feel even more prepared” (Forbes).  Imagery and visualization won’t be the only skill that gets you to Rio, but it can certainly help make you feel more prepared and perform your very best when race day comes.

 

Murphy, S. (2005). The sport psych handbook. Human Kinetics.

Ranganathan, V. K., Siemionow, V., Liu, J. Z., Sahgal, V., & Yue, G. H. (2004). From mental power to muscle power—gaining strength by using the mind. Neuropsychologia, 42(7), 944-956. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.11.018

Rosensteel, S. (2012, July 26). Olympic Words Of Wisdom: 6 Inspiring Quotes From Team USA In 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/seanrosensteel/2012/07/26/olympic-words-of-wisdom-6-inspiring-quotes-from-team-usa-in-2012/#6763301260bf

When Dreams Don’t Come True

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

The Olympics is less than a month away. Athletes will travel from all over this earth to compete in the name of their country. Some, like Michael Phelps, are veterans at this point in their careers. Others, like Simone Biles, are making the trip for the first time. All of these athletes are using these last few weeks to fine tune the work they’ve done over the past four years. A trip to Rio is about to make all the sacrifices they made worth it, but they are not the only ones who made sacrifices.

There are many athletes, like volleyball player Cassidy Lichtman, who are not going to Rio. They will not compete on behalf of their country. Their sacrifices will not result in their dreams. As their fellow citizens are flooded with joy, they are dealing with sadness and loss. When we work as hard as these people do to reach our dreams, the realization that we won’t make it will undoubtedly result in heartbreak. Yet, as Cassidy talks about in her own words, not making the Olympics doesn’t change who these athletes are. The sacrifices they made may not have resulted in the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean such efforts were pointless. Olympic athletes understand that their pride isn’t based on whether they made the Olympics or not, but that they even tried in the first place.

These athletes all had a choice to make before they started their path to the Olympics. They all knew more people would be staying home than going to Rio. They chose to pursue their dreams in the face of uncertainty. Such courage tells us more about these people than the fact that they did not make the games. Yes, their dreams did not come true. Yes, they have to deal with heartbreak, maybe even the most they’ve ever had. But they are not “failures” nor will they remain heartbroken. They had the strength to pursue their dreams and that strength remains, regardless of the outcome.

When it comes to your own athletic endeavors, whether they be on the Olympic stage or something closer to home, take a page out of Cassidy’s book. Give everything you have. Train as hard and as smart as you possibly can. The sacrifices you make will never be worthless. The journey towards your dreams will be filled with challenges. The courage to face these challenges will give you strength. This strength will build as you continue along the journey. At the end of the journey, whether you reach your goals or not, this strength will remain. Just like Cassidy will move on and find another dream to pursue, so will you with the strength you’ve gained from your own journey.

Premier Sport Psychology can work with athletes to help them when they don’t reach their dreams. Maybe your dream was to play Varsity your freshman year, but now you’re on J.V. Premier will help you develop a plan to make the most out of your situation and create new goals going forward. Perhaps you’re at the end of your career and you gave everything for your dream. Premier will help you transition from one lifestyle to another, creating a new identity along the way. Whatever your dream was, Premier believes that you are not defined by whether you reach your dreams or not. Your decision to even pursue them in the first place does.