Coach Sean Chamberlain is our resident Sports Psychologist and wrote this awesome piece about using imagery to perform during workouts. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org
Athletes from all sorts of sports use imagery to perform better. Not only does research show it will help you perform better, but using imagery ALSO activates the neuromuscular patterns used during those movements as if you were physically performing the movements themselves... Let's read more from Coach Sean:
Using Imagery in a WOD:
Imagery is used among many athletes to help with performance outcome before during and after they perform. There are many types of way to use imagery to help with performance. I will be going through different ways that you as an athlete can use imagery to help with your daily WODs or to help perfect a movement. Imagery is used to recreate or create an experience in the mind using as many senses as possible. Therefore, imagery can assist individuals in seeing themselves perform a task successfully before they actually do the task.
Use of Imagery before a WOD
When you find out what the daily WOD consist of, what begins to go through your mind as an athlete? Is it, ‘oh sh&t burpees’, or is it ‘oh that looks like fun.’ A lot of things may be going through your mind but it is important as an athlete to train your mind just as much if not more your body. When you see the daily WOD you should begin to create a ‘game plan’ in your mind about how you will excuse the daily WOD. Take the time during the stretching period to see yourself doing the movements, go through each rep. Imagery takes time and practice to perfect, so be patient. When you visualize it is important to use all senses to recreate images (i.e., smell of the gym, sounds around you, the feeling of the ground). Preparing for a WOD or anything that you do outside the gym will actually improve the task because preparation can lead to more confidence.
Use of Imagery after a WOD
You can use imagery during a WOD, but I suggest that you do not spend much time sitting back and visualizing the WOD. The use of imagery during a WOD is very quick, may be very faint, but it is to help push you. Use imagery during a WOD to see each movement before you do it, to help you see each rep. Unconsciously before you do a movement your brain will visualize how to that movement, it is a way our brain connects with our body to actually perform the movement. The important thing is to become aware that you are thinking about each movement. Again, this may be only a split second, but if you are able to be in the moment and focus…the images will appear in your mind right before the next movement. Imagery can be used to perfect a movement in the middle of a WOD as well. Let’s say you pick up a barbell to do a clean and something didn’t feel right…when you set the bar down, ‘replay’ the movement in your head and ‘fix’ the part that ‘hindered’ the performance. If you are not sure what part messed the whole movement up; I am strongly sure one of your coaches will be telling you (that is a passion, to make sure you doing movements correct). So take the feedback you hear from a coach, another athlete or yourself to recreate an image to help with performance.
Use of Imagery to Perfect techniques (examine photos or clips)
Examining each WOD is a very helpful tool and will help with your future performance. Imagery is an important tool to help you go through the pass WOD to examine movements or times in the WOD that may have hindered your performance. Remember, in CrossFit “every second counts.” Ways that you can examine a WOD is by either looking at photos or video clips and examining them; or another good tool is to recreate the WOD and write everything down in detail. After you have written everything down, re-read that paper and make sure that it is detailed and if another athlete was going to read the sheet, they could imagine the situation or WOD. After you have perfected the written down pass performance and you have an Imagery Script, you can begin to read the script over and over until the images become ‘alive.’
There are many tools that can be useful to help with your daily performance. Imagery is a very powerful tool because it really allows you to use your mind to recreate, examine and perfect performance. Sometime this week before a WOD, take time during your stretch, water break or whenever you have time to think about the WOD, I want you to think of one movement in the WOD that you think you may have trouble with and visualize yourself doing the movement well. Just try this…don’t try to do too much at one time. Then afterwards follow the advice above to exam that one movement. Then repeat for the rest of the week. At the end of the week tell Coach Sean how it went, what was good, where did you struggle, etc.