Elite athletes have used visualization as part of their training for decades – picturing entire performances in their minds in vivid detail. But it’s not just the elites who can benefit from visualization; everyday riders can all gain an edge through visualization.
Visualization is a way to focus and guide your imagination to create a mental image of a future event; it harnesses the power of your brain to unlock your full potential. In other words, it connects your mind to your body.
Here are five ways visualization can help your performance.
- Visualization decrease stress and reduces performance anxiety. When you visualize yourself performing well in an arena or show environment, in essence, you are living that moment on repeat – successfully. Think of it as a dress rehearsal. You’re preparing yourself for the big event, envisioning what could go wrong, and fixing those problems before they arise so when show day or lesson day arrives, you’ll be calmer knowing you can handle any situation thrown your way – and still excel. It’s a way to control an uncontrollable situation.
- Visualization boosts confidence. Believing you can do something is the first step in actually doing it. Visualization puts you in the moment, and whether it is a movement, a challenging line of fences, or a championship qualifier, through visualization you see yourself accomplishing your goal. When you visualize, you remain in control of the action, which make you feel confident about your ability to succeed at your goal. Not to mention, studies show picturing yourself getting praise can improve your self esteem. That’s right. Just imagining people congratulating you at – for example – the of the course will make you feel confident enough to complete in that event.
- Visualization improves your abilities. The mental side of equestrianism is just as crucial as the physical. In fact, studies have found your muscles benefit from visualization – that a mental practice is almost as effective as a physical practice. That’s because to our brain visualization is the same as actually physically performing a task – thinking about riding a cross country course uses the same neurons as actually riding a cross country course. So visualizing yourself getting faster, stronger, and performing at your peak does more than just prepare you mentally for a challenge – it also literally improves your body.
- Visualization alleviates pain & helps you heal faster. Seeing yourself getting better from an injury – for example, imagining a bone healing in your body – has shown to help you be on the mend faster. It also helps with chronic pain and with headaches. Definitely something us riders could do with!
- Visualization enhances motivation. Acting as an inspiration boost, visualization helps you see yourself accomplishing your goals, finishing a workout, giving a task your all. In other words, it helps you see the best side of yourself, which can help motivate you to push through a challenging lesson or a difficult competition.
These are just a handful of the benefits all riders can experience through visualization.
I would love to know how you are getting on, remember its normal to struggle. Treat visualization like any other habit – it needs practise to become better.