I’m reading this phenomenal book called Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide To Inner Excellence by the late sport psychologist Gary Mack, who worked with the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago Cubs. It is a simple, straight-forward, and interesting guide to sport psychology complete with real life case studies and techniques you can use on yourself. I highly recommend it.
“Limits begin where vision ends” is a direct quote from the book. This really resonated with me. I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks, even since my last post. A bunch of social opportunities came up that I wanted to be part of, my trainer was late in getting me my new plan (which meant no accountability), and work was really stressful. I found that these situational factors clouded my vision for the future. I knew I should be training and eating clean even if I didn’t have my new plan yet, that I could still hang out with friends without compromising my healthy eating, and that exercise would actually help me manage my stress. However, my longer term goals and values took a backseat to my immediate wants because I allowed myself to lose sight of the big picture.
Imagery/visualization is one of the most commonly used items in the sport psychology toolbox for two reasons: 1) it’s extremely effective when practiced correctly/regularly and 2) it has so many practical uses. Among the uses are:
- Mental rehearsal (which research shows is effective, especially when paired with physical practice – more so than just physical practice alone)
If I lose touch with my vision for the future, then instant gratification finds a foothold. So, part of my sport psychology plan for myself is to incorporate imagery on a daily basis. When I go to bed each night, I spend 10-15 minutes relaxing (imagery is more effective when you are in a relaxed state), usually through breathing exercises or listening to calming music. Once I feel sufficiently relaxed, I focus on creating mental images of my ideal self/life. I see myself on stage at my show in July, doing the walks and going through the poses; I visualize how I look physically, and I imagine how I feel in that moment. As I get closer to the show, I might start picturing myself making first call-outs and then getting a trophy. Then I move beyond the competition itself and I see myself going through a typical ideal day. I might picture myself waking up early, going to the gym, eating a healthy meal, meeting with clients in a sport psychology consultant role, writing blog posts, going to a photo shoot, etc. I think it would be amazing to be the official sport psychology consultant of Team Bombshell, so I might picture flying to Florida to one of their camps and presenting to a group of their competitors about principles of sport psychology and competition prep.
Some of my goals still seem out of reach, although not impossible. Making time on a consistent basis to imagine my future helps me to stay motivated, focused, and to believe that is actually possible to accomplish what I am dreaming about. Another time I use imagery is when I’m doing cardio. Cardio bores me, but I try to make the most of it by zoning out a bit and picturing myself on stage. It gives me the boost I need to push a little bit harder or to endure a long cardio session.
Why not give it a try? If you have a goal that you want to pursue, set aside a little bit of time each day visualizing yourself doing what is necessary to achieve it and enjoying the life you want. It might be the kickstart you need! So far it’s working for me!
And here are the bikini physiques that are inspiring me and forming the basis of my ideal in my imagery practice!
(Left to right: Aniedra Lynn, Tianna Ta, Jen Jewell, Jessica Putnam, Christina Vargas)