Visualise

As we enter the final stretch, take tips from Jessica Ennis-Hill and Johnny Wilkinson and try visualisation to make sure you have the mental tools to go out and complete your #MySummerGoal

Visualisation is a vital tool in the final run up to your big #MySummerGoal. Be it participating in a 5k run, joining a sponsored 1,000m swim or riding your bike to work three times a week, visualising yourself achieving your #MySummerGoal can help give you the extra impetus you need.

Researchers have found that visualisation can actually create neural firings in the muscles you’re thinking about. This provides a sort of ‘pathway’ – so when you do the action in real life, your body is already at least partly familiar with what is required.

So effective is the power of the mind that researchers in Cleveland, Ohio even found that participants in a study who visualised doing bicep curls increased their strength by about 13 per cent – without ever actually lifting any weights.

From putting your mind at ease when you’re feeling nervous to helping you refine your technique, visualisation offers lots of proven benefits ­– and there are many professional athletes who employ the technique as part of their preparation.

Use visualisation to get yourself in the zone

Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic gold medallist and Vitality Ambassador, used visualisation in her preparation. “I used visualisation to think about the perfect technique,” she says. “If I could get that perfect image in my head, it helped me channel my physical performance.”

It’s not just a training technique either; visualisation also helped Jess to manage her in-competition nerves. “I normally got nervous before the whole event started, so I got my headphones on, zoned out and visualised every stage of what I was about to do,” she says.

If you’re feeling pre-event nerves about achieving your #MySummerGoal, you too can employ the ‘headphones, in the zone’ technique. Then it’s a case of picturing yourself achieving your goal and imagining how you’ll feel as you cross the line or climb out of the pool.

Visualise specifically how you’ll succeed

For former England rugby player Jonny Wilkinson, visualisation helped him improve the technique he used to kick a goal.

“The psychology of kicking is so important,” he says. “You must visualise where the ball is going to go. Then you have to be able to trace that line from between the posts to the exact spot of the ball, and see that in your mind’s eye when you go to kick the ball.

“I visualise the ball travelling along that path and imagine the sensation of how the ball is going to feel when it hits my foot for the perfect strike. The hard part is completing that action while standing in front of thousands of spectators with my heart thumping.”

Fortunately, when you complete your #MySummerGoal, you probably won’t have to worry about having thousands of spectators looking on. However, your technique, be that how you pedal the bike or the way you plant each foot in front of the next as you run, can still benefit massively from visualisation.

The use of visualisation is not a substitute for proper training, but at this stage in your #MySummerGoal journey, you’ve probably done all the actual physical training you’re going to. Visualisation offers you a little bit of extra peace of mind and perhaps even the extra 10% you need on the day to fulfil your goal.

Already completed your #MySummerGoal? We think the world deserves to know about your success – so share your celebratory selfie at mysummergoal.co.uk or by using the hashtag #MySummerGoal.

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