Whatever level of golf you play, whether for fun or to compete, there are simple techniques you can practise to help enhance your performance and prepare you for any competitive event. Learning to relax and use focused visualisation helps to increase concentration, boost stamina and raise energy levels, helps you maintain your level of fitness and keep you feeling calm and in control in any situation.
Visualisation is a powerful tool. Just as physical preparation is important, such as stretching to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise ahead, by mentally preparing yourself you will be able to handle any situation that may occur and will eliminate the ‘what if….?’ factor.
Practising visualisation exercises limbers up the brain in much the same way that exercise benefits the body.
The following full visualisation is ideal for mentally preparing yourself for your activity.
* Allow between 10 and 30 minutes for your mental preparation.
* Make sure you are warm and either lie down on your bed or sit on a comfortable position, arms and legs uncrossed.
* Without tilting your head up, roll your eyes upwards as if you were trying to look at your forehead. Be careful not to hunch your shoulders!
* Hold your eyes in this position whilst you take 5 deep breaths in and slowly exhale each of them.
As you exhale on the 5th breath allow your eyes to close.
* Take another 5 deep breaths and as you slowly exhale each one, say to yourself mentally the words ‘relax and let go’.
* Allow your breathing to then find its own relaxed rate.
* Imagine yourself relaxing in your favourite place in nature. It could be a beach, garden or anywhere that you like and that is peaceful.
* Just imagine that the sun is shining on your body, warming it.
* Imagine that feeling of warmth flowing into your head and slowly moving down, into and through every part of your body, warming and relaxing as it goes, right down to the tips of your toes.
* As you image the warmth flowing through each part of your body, just allow your body to become totally limp and relaxed.
Continue with specific details outlined below:
* See yourself at the event or game. It is a perfect day, you are feeling warm and comfortable and ready to start. You are feeling calm, enthusiastic, happy and fit.
* Imagine yourself limbering up your joints and muscles by stretching and bending, or whatever routine you usually follow. Feel your body loosening and humming with energy, feel your muscles warming ready to perform.
* Take up your start position. See yourself ready to go, strong but relaxed, calm and confident.
* Imagine that you start out: whatever pace you choose imagine yourself taking each stage at a time, focussing fully without anxiety or concern, being content with staying fully in the moment, experiencing the pleasure and enjoyment this gives you.
* If you are running or jogging see yourself negotiating the terrain confidently and effortlessly, breathing and moving rhythmically, pacing yourself and therefore working at maximum efficiency without burning unnecessary energy. Being aware of your body, feeling the energy surge through you, keeping that energy level high and the stamina going.
* If you are performing in front of spectators, imagine that they are smiling and applauding you. Become aware of their positive interest, support and enthusiasm for what you do, use that energy to boost your confidence and physical energy levels.
* If you are playing a sport such as golf, basketball, football or any other sport where your focus needs to be on a moving target, such as a ball, then imagine that you see that target quickly and clearly. Imagine that you can track its progress regardless of anything else around you. Feel yourself linked to the target, moving quickly, imagine that you are in the perfect position at all times to maximise the best shot, or kick, or swing etc.
Imagine the perfect performance, from beginning to end. See yourself working at your very best.
* See yourself finishing the game or event, imagine your body slowing down, your breathing returning to normal, winding down, feeling great, satisfied and pleased with your performance.
* Remain relaxed feeling warm and comfortable until you are ready to come back to the present moment. When you are ready, count up from one to five and SMILE! Open your eyes when you are ready.
You can do this exercise as quickly or as slowly as you like, and if you practise it regularly you will find that you can achieve the best results.
For the experienced sportsperson who has specific areas they would like to improve, you can use your previous experiences to focus on those target areas and correct errors. Replay and revise the experience and mentally make the necessary improvements. Visualise all the possible outcomes and find one that works for you. Ask yourself: ‘How could this experience have been better? What could I change to make it ideal? What was good, what was not so good? Was I motivated enough?’
You can then spend more time visualising the specific aspects of your performance i.e. increasing stamina, moving faster, pacing yourself, maintaining energy levels, strengthening muscles, boosting confidence etc.
Dealing with Distractions
You may like to incorporate into your visualisation positive statements to help you stay focussed, such as: ‘I am focussed and alert.’ ‘Nothing will distract my enjoyment or performance. I am aware of any potential dangers’. You can create your own positive statements, specific to your needs. Increasing concentration on the task in hand whilst enjoying the experience cuts down on unnecessary stress and helps you to relax.
If you have suffered form any injury or other traumatic event and are finding it difficult to regain your confidence, or physically difficult to train or maintain a level of fitness, then visualisation can be very effective to help you through the anxiety and stressful stages of re-healing. Visiting a professional, clinical hypnotherapist can help you overcome any blocks that you cannot shift yourself through meditation or practising visualisations at home.
Like any new skill, visualisation requires practise to make it most effective. You do not need to spend hours every day utilising these techniques, but regular practise will keep you on top form mentally and you will quickly notice the positive changes taking place in your performance and your attitude.
By Deborah J Monshin © 2003