Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Thursday, 14 July 2016

Imagination and Sport – Stay in the Positive

Through using your imagination you can improve:

  • ·         Strength
  • ·         Technical ability
  • ·         Focus and attention
  • ·         Faster recovery from injury
  • ·         Improvements in conditioning
  • ·         Emotional regulation

This is just for starters, and all are supported by a firm evidence base.
Understanding the imagination is of prime importance for anyone who wants to maximise performance. Get it right and you’ll get improvements. Get it wrong and your performance will suffer.

Interventions that use the imagination include mental rehearsal, imagery, visualisation, motor imagery – all of which have differences and appropriate uses. Use correctly, success is more likely. Yet used incorrectly, and performance will suffer.

Sportspersons seek me out for this reason – to help them use their imaginations in the right way. I know how to apply these skills, have a good grounding in the science behind them, and also offer my experiences of being a highly successful professional sportsman. I can often offer the nuances that make the big differences.

We use our imagination all the time. It guides us through our environment. Here’s where it can go wrong. If you imagine a poor performance, such as thinking “don’t mess up”, or seeing a move fail, then that is what you are moving towards. Not least because you aren’t paying attention to getting it right!

The classic study into this is by Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001), where they investigated suppressive imagery, “not to do something” in order to avoid a particular error. They found, clearly, that telling yourself not to image something that you don’t want to do will in fact make it more likely you’ll imagine it, and hinder your actual performance.

So keep your imagination in the positive. Imagine what you want to have happen, and more importantly what you need to do in order to achieve that want. Keep your self-talk on the same task. Your imagination is powerful; it guides your body through the environment. Let’s move it right. Keep it positive. Imagine getting it right.

I think I got this one wrong. Me eating a BIG knee from Bjorn Bregy, Stockholm, 2005

Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001)”Don’t miss!” The debilitating effects of suppressive imagery on golf putting performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23, 200-210

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