Warmup sets, double scoops of pre-workout, maybe even a generous dabbing of deep heat for those lifters still feeling the effects of yesterday's deadlifts - we spend so much time preparing physically for performance, that we often forget the mental side.
But mental preparation is often the missing piece when it comes to finding peak performance in the gym, and rituals like visualisation are easy, accessible and available to any level of lifter, from beginner to bodybuilder.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Psychologist Emma Hall who works with elite athletes, weekend warriors and everything in between to optimise performance, mental health and wellbeing through mental preparation. As part of our series on brain training, we asked Emma to give our community an insight into how they can use the power of visualisation to find their next level of lifting.
So, what exactly is visualisation?
While it is most commonly referred to as visualisation, Emma prefers the term imagery, as it incorporates all of your senses. Imagery is a form of mental rehearsal for what you think your peak performance will look like in the future, whether it’s a new deadlift record or scaling new heights on the stairmaster.
Visualisation (or imagery) involves creating a mental video of your future performance, where you see yourself performing the way you’d like to. You can use your visualisation to enhance your performance, cement technique changes and even control anxiety & nerves.
What’s happening in my brain when I visualise?
When you use imagery, you’re strengthening the same pathways in the brain that are also utilised when you’re performing the physical movement. What you’re doing is simply reinforcing these neural pathways, however this extra level of strengthening can sometimes be the difference between breaking down and your best-ever set (especially as you get more experienced in the gym, and the margins of improvement become finer!)
When can I do it?
Visualisation is something you can do at any time, from before you start your workout, as well as right before you’re about to do a heavy lift. We’ve teamed up with Emma to create a short, two-minute visualisation below for you to implement into your next session.
Emma Hall shares her best advice to those wanting to integrate more visualisation into their training, and harness the power of imagery.
-Visualisation isn’t just about what you see. It’s a mental rehearsal that utilises all of the senses. If you can picture the smell of the sweat, the whirr of the treadmills, feel your muscles contracting & relaxing - your visualisation will be even more effective.
-Focus on deep breathing when you’re using imagery. You can clear your mind this way and get yourself into a calmer, more rational headspace.
-Commit to 10-15 minutes a week. Like your lifting, mental preparation is a trained skill. Be consistent and allocate time every week to work on mental skills that will be useful to you.
Loved this? Check out our full discussion with sports psychologist Emma Hall on our Ryderwear What The Flex? Podcast