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Monday, October 26, 2009

Visualization in Sports

My brother is an athlete and has been since the day he was born.  Pretty much, if there was a season, he was playing the sport.  He not only played sports, he practiced sports, he watched sports and he dreamed about sports.  Today, he teaches Physical Education to junior high students and coaches high school girl’s volleyball, but his resume includes coaching all ages and skill levels in baseball, basketball and volleyball.

I say this because my brother taught me two huge lessons about life through his love of sports.

First, you never get where you are going without practice – even if you have a gift.  I remember the summer he wanted to increase his vertical jump.  I remember him DAILY, endlessly, even in the dark….he would stand outside and simply jump…..over and over and over.

Second, our minds are directly connected to our abilities.  The summer that he jumped, when he wasn’t jumping, he thought about jumping - quite literally.  I remember him laying on his waterbed, with his walkman loudly pumping the Hoosiers soundtrack.  He was visualizing himself (you guessed it) jumping higher.

I don’t remember the number of inches he added to his vertical in the matter of three months, but I do remember his excitement (that annoyed me at the time!).  I also remember him being able to jump over the heads of his peers in basketball. **Update: after verifying with my bro, he actually increased his vertical 6 inches in 6 weeks!!  How's THAT for encouragement**

As a coach, he now encourages his teams to visualize the outcome.  Visualize that perfect volleyball serve at each point: the feel of your knees slightly bent; the weight of the ball in your left hand; the sound of the ball connecting with your right; the sight of the ball making its perfect arc through the air; that ball landing in the sweet spot on the other side of the net….the crowd going wild.

Several studies have shown that muscles physically respond to visualizations as if the movements had actually been done.  Olympic athletes are often seen “running” the race with their eyes closed before their feet ever hit the track.  There is also evidence that shows using similar types of visualizations, athletes are healing faster after an injury.  Michael Phelps has been very public about his visualization techniques:

“There are times in my sleep when I literally dream my race from start to finish. Other nights … I visualize to the point that I know exactly what I want to do: dive, glide, stroke, flip, reach the wall, hit the split time to the hundredth, then swim back again for as many times as I need to finish.”

This technique can be helpful in achieving any type of goal, really.  In weight loss, picture yourself at your ideal weight.  See yourself working out effortlessly on the treadmill.  Watch yourself jogging the 5k instead of walking it.  Visualize eating and enjoying the taste of celery.

It works.   Just ask my brother.  But I don’t think he’ll lend anyone his Hoosiers soundtrack….I think he’s still listening to it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LaLa Land

I've had quite the blog hiatus! I've been in LaLa Land, quite literally.  I've been dreaming dreams - trying to figure out which ones are ones worth pursing and which ones are just nice to think about.

I went to a writing conference this weekend, close to home.  There were 250 other writers in one place for 3 days and I was in Heaven!  I learned so much, but there is one huge take-away I'd like to share.

No matter what your dream or goal, you can't attain it if you don't start.  And to start, start with the basics.  A story can only be edited after it's written.  Weight loss can only happen after a lifestyle change - even a small one at first.

So, to finish --- we must start!