Visualisation is a technique used by many of sporting’s elite, following evidence showing that it is important to train not only the body, but also the mind. It is about creating a mental image of what you want to happen or feel in reality and practise ‘visualising’ it in your mind’s eye. Visualising yourself winning will make it more likely to happen, the theory goes.
Visualisation like this will help improve your child’s swimming performance if done correctly. But as with any skill training is essential, as is rehearsal and repetition.
As a parent of a swimmer, it is useful to have an understanding of why visualisation is key and how you can help your child to build visualisation in to their training programme. Here are the six steps to visualising.
- Your child should find somewhere comfortable and quiet where they can concentrate and relax.
- Encourage them to take long, slow breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to slow the heart rate and help to relax.
- Next step is to close the eyes and create the image. This could be creating a winning experience or going through the routine of a successful race where a PB is achieved. The subject of visualisation depends on the required outcome.
- Encourage your child to make the image as detailed as possible. Tell them to think about sights, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes, to make sure all of the senses are aligned to the image and it’s a real as possible. They need to think about what are they wearing, what can they hear, and how they feel. Detail is vital.
- If they get distracted, or the image doesn’t go the way they want, they can open their eyes, take some deep breaths and restart the process. It may take some practise to develop the focus and skills that visualisation requires.
- Ensure the visualisation ends on a positive image, to help boost confidence and self-belief, and to reduce any feelings of anxiety.
More than competing
Visualisation doesn’t always have to be specific to competing. It can also be used as a relaxation technique.
If your child is getting wound up about an upcoming competition or an exam, or is even struggling with the work load from school, you can encourage them to use visualisation to help.
Use exactly the same technique, but imaging a peaceful setting, such as lying on a deserted beach, with the waves lapping the shore. Just a few minutes of this, paired with long, deep breaths, will encourage calmness.
It can also help your child recover from injury by keeping the mind focused and motivation levels high. Read more in this Recovering from Injury article