Mental training is what separates the good from the great runners. Legendary athletes such as Allyson Felix, Billie Jean King, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali all used visualization to deliver game-changing performances that forever changed the sports world. You can use visualization as well to gain an edge over the competition and improve your running. Whether you want to get faster for your next big race or learn to relax and enjoy your runs more, visualization will help get you there.
You can employ the powerful tool of visualization by setting aside just 20 minutes twice a week to practice. Here are 6 steps to visualize running that will help you run faster, stronger and enter “the zone.”
1. Lie down in a quiet place. Take a deep breath in, counting to 5. Hold for 5 seconds then exhale for 6 seconds. Repeat to do 10 deep breaths.
2. As you breathe, imagine your body filling with sand. You feel the tension release from your body as your limbs and torso sink down into the earth.
3. Picture yourself preparing for a run or your next race. Use all of your senses to notice how you feel and what sights, sounds and smells surround you as you warm up. Notice how confident you feel, employing mantras for strength. (For mantra suggestions, check out my Magic of Mantras post).
4. Visualize your run. Use all five senses – sight, sound, taste, smell and touch – to immerse yourself in the experience of race day. Notice the trees, buildings, people and sounds around you. Feel your muscles working as your feet glide across the ground. Pay attention to how strong you feel as you enter the zone. Picture your run in as many details as possible, focusing on how you rise to meet challenges and feel strong and relaxed throughout the run. Employ your mantras to help you stay positive and focused as the race unfolds.
5. Visualize finishing strong. Instead of focusing on a particular number or time, picture yourself running fast and strong. Your body and mind unite to propel you faster and faster toward the finish. Imagine a rope pulling you forward into the finish line. You are unstoppable. Hear the crowd cheering and feel the sweat on your body and face as you finish strong and happy. You gave the race your all and are grateful for the experience.
6. Return to consciousness. Count backwards from 10, taking deep breaths. Slowly become more aware of your surroundings with each breath. Open your eyes as you reach the count of one.
Repeat this visualization exercise twice a week and daily in the week leading up to a big race. The more you practice, the stronger your mind will become. Then when race day comes, your body will simply execute what your mind has already done.