It was a strange sense of accomplishment; feeling the joy of victory before the event had taken place. Well, that is not entirely true. I had swum through the race in my head a hundred times and as I sat there on the diving board waiting for the event to roll around, I was debating whether I had the stamina and conditioning to win this last event. It had been a long weekend of Conference Champs racing and I was coming up on our premier event, the Men’s 100yrd Freestyle. My main competition had scratched his previous event in an effort to be as fresh as possible for this show down. I had been racing heavily and playing an active roll on some relays that had taken their toll on me and I was reading my body and hearing signals that told me that I might not have enough to win this race. After all, my competition had posted a faster seed time.

I decided right there that I would go through the race in my head, moment by moment, frame by frame, and allow the power of visualization to influence the outcome of the race. So that is precisely what I did and since then I have found this method works very effectively for visualization preparation in any role and any activity.

How to do it.

I go to a quiet place, where I know I will not be disturbed and close my eyes in a comfortable position. In my mind I position myself at the scene I need to be in, in this case my race i.e behind the blocks of the swimming race and under starters orders. Then I allow the tape of the event to roll in my mind, all the while manipulating and controlling the outcome of every moment along the way, with great detail. As I allow the scene to play out if ever anything occurs that I don’t like, or that happens without my control, I stop the tape, rewind to a place where I had strong control and things were going as I needed them to, and begin allowing the tape to roll again. I continue to proceed this way, careful not to allow the concentration or the difficulty of focus to lapse for one second. Creating the precise outcome I want to see, right up to the finish and the time I want to see on the timing boards afterward and the position I want to finish in.

Only once I can go through the whole race from start to finish seeing everything I want to see and feeling everything I need to experience along the way, will I allow myself to start the process all over again from the beginning. The object of repeating it all from start to finish is to try to get through the exercise without once having an occurrence that is out of your desire or plan. Once you can run through the visualization of the event you want to influence, from start to finish without one negative or unwanted outcome occurring. Then you can stop the visualization exercise for that event. For more information on performance related Visualization see: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/sport_psych/a/aa091700a.htm

Non negotiables.

  • You must be vigilant and never allow any scene or detail, no matter how small, to go uncontrolled or without your decision and will being imposed on it.
  • You must believe everything you see. e.g If you don’t believe the swimming time that you create on the board as the winning time, then it will not work. You must go back and change the time and see yourself looking up at that time at the end of the race and know in your heart that you believe it. That it is true. That it is an accurate reflection of what just happened.
  • This exercise could take 40 minutes to get mental control over a 45 second race, so don’t be shocked if it doesn’t happen in 3 minutes.
  • Simply by going through this visualization exercise, I am so engaged in the process, I can drive my heart rate up from a resting rate in the 60’s to over 120 B.P.M. This is usually a good sign that you are believing your visualization.

Once I got through the exercise, a strange and VERY real sensation came over me. It was surprise. I realized I was about to compete in a race that had not been swum yet. History had not been created and yet I knew who won the race. It was me and I liked it. This is not an exercise in arrogance or manipulation. It is a tool for retraining your mind to believe what is already possible. Then came another emotion I wasn’t ready for. A sense of undeserving swept over me as I realized what I had just learned how to do.

Visualization is a powerful and essential tool for anyone approaching something bigger than themselves. It increases the likelihood of success dramatically and clarifies and focuses your efforts. It dissolves the usual nerves before the event and replaces them with a focused calm that is quietly confident in the pending outcome.

Two questions then:

  • Are you approaching something bigger than yourself?
  • How could visualization help you overcome that opportunity?