There are many important elements that contribute to high-performance outcomes that trail runners, alpine athletes, and marathoners have in common. In my experience, efficient use of time is one of the most important factors that these types of athletes need to develop. One of the main reasons for this is because, in the world of endurance performance, athletes have to successfully complete high quantities of high-quality work in a limited amount of time. So, when I’m providing mental skills training to endurance athletes using COROS GPS Watches, one of the first things we evaluate is how effective they are during their active recovery time.
For example, I have been working with an athlete who is in the beginning stages of preparing for an ultra-marathon. This particular individual has an incredibly demanding schedule. They were trying to find a way to develop their mental approach in order to improve their physical performance and make the most out of the COROS GPS Watch features. During our initial evaluation, the client and I agreed that the best time to practice mental skills was during the recovery time that COROS had suggested. In order to enhance the recovery experience and improve his running movement patterns, I helped the client develop an imagery routine.
For those that are not familiar with this skill, imagery is when an individual creates (or re-creates) any type of experience in their mind. An example of this would be right before an athlete performs a bench-press exercise, they visualize themselves actually lifting the bar. Sports psychologists and other professionals within the field of mental performance regularly teach this skill. Research indicates that when athletes use imagery routines, the athlete’s brain identifies this experience in the same way it identifies the actual physical activity. Furthermore, researchers have also found that imagery routines can increase the quality of both physical performance and active recovery routines. So, it would stand to reason that if you are an athlete that has invested in a COROS GPS Watch and is looking to enhance your experience, then creating an imagery routine can only help you improve your performance.
Now that we have established what imagery is, it’s time to discuss what you want to accomplish. For example, if you’ve just been recommended a recovery period by your COROS running watch, you can create an imagery routine that focuses on muscle relaxation and/or pain management. Assuming this is an area you would like to focus on, there are several features of your imagery routine that will need to be present in order to get the most out of your experience.
First, researchers have found that when imagery is more functionally comparable, it is more likely to improve the desired outcome. Really what this means is that if your imagery routine specifically targets certain areas of the body (e.g. imagining tight lower back muscles relaxing), you are more likely to enhance the physical relaxation response. Second, your imagery routine should focus on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want to happen. Research in sport psychology seems to indicate that ‘negative’ imagery can actually have an unfavorable effect on the athlete’s desired outcome. So, if you are employing relaxation/pain management imagery, focus on imagery that is positive and generally associated with relaxing sensations rather than only thinking about what you don’t want to happen.
During your recovery time, try to find a quiet and relaxing space where you can close your eyes and listen to a recording of an imagery script. Here is an example of muscle relaxation/pain management imagery:
Put yourself in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Start taking deep breaths and focus on the feelings of inhaling and exhaling. Keep taking deep breaths in and deep breaths out. While you are continuing your breathing, visualize the muscles in your body. Start with the muscles in your shoulders and just pay attention to any areas of tension or soreness. If you notice these sensations, try to remember how these muscles actually felt when they were relaxed. See if you can try to feel those positive sensations. Continue scanning your body and paying attention to any areas of muscular discomfort. Again, when you face that discomfort, specifically target that area. Visualize what it looks like in a relaxed state and try to remember how that previously felt.
Now that you have an example of an imagery script, it is important to remember that this is a skill that takes time to develop. You’ll need to experiment with this skill and try different plans to figure out what works best for you (e.g. developing your own imagery script, finding the right environment to practice, etc.). Furthermore, it’s important to remember that if you took the initiative to invest in training gear like a COROS GPS Watch, then the next step needs to be investing time into developing your mental game. With that being said, I encourage you to get started with training your mind today and get ready to see an improvement!
This post was written by Ben Foodman, a mental performance specialist and strength & conditioning coach. Learn more about his practice by visiting his website here.