For years, sports psychologists have helped Olympians and elite athletes reach their potential through the powerful mental exercise of visualization. It’s a technique that can also help both competitive and recreational figure skaters improve their performance on the ice.
Too often, visualization is associated with mentally picturing the end result – the successful completion of an event – like winning a medal or accepting an Oscar in a fabulous acceptance speech. But this is missing the point of the exercise. The key is to visualize the process.
Imagine doing your routine from start to finish from your perspective. The more detail you include in your mental picture the more effective the technique. Think of how you start your program: what do you see? Do you begin looking down, at the ice, or into the crowd? What do you feel? How are your legs positioned? Do you feel your toe pick planted in the ice? Then continue through the rest of your routine, second by second. Hear the sound your blade makes as it connects to the ice. Pay attention to how your muscles feel in your spin or your spiral. If it’s easier to start visualizing with your program music playing softly in the background – do that.
If you have negative thoughts interrupt your mental simulation, stop and start over. You are trying to get your brain to know how it feels to skate at your peak. There is no place for self-doubt in this process.
When you first start, don’t be alarmed if you’re having difficulty drawing a complete picture in your mind. The more you practice visualization, the better you’ll be at it. Practicing 5-10 minutes each day is more effective than 60 minutes once a week. Several studies have shown that a consistent visualization practice has positive physiological benefits. Your body will actually get stronger in the activity you imagine doing over and over.
So give it a try. If it helps Olympians get that extra edge over their competition, imagine what it could do for you (pun intended).