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Using Hypnosis, Imagery And
Autogenic Training To Enhance
Gymnastic Performance →
Contact barryj@barryjones.com for more information
Hypnosis and Imagery To Improve Con
fi
dence and
Performance For Gymnastics
This blog discusses and merges three concepts
regarding the interface of mental training and sports
performance:
• A science-based model of imagery (PETTLEP)
where hetero-hypnosis and autogenic training are
successfully incorporated
• Using mental conditioning to bene
fi
t athletic
performance
• Merging these concepts to create a new training
resource
Imagery, Hypnosis and
Autogenic Training
Each of these disciplines/techniques are stand-alone
methods for enhancing sports performance. I have
incorporated them into a unique and highly successful
multi-sensorial tool. The purpose of this article is not
to go into detail about each of these techniques.
Rather the focus of this blog is describing the
integration of these methods into the PETTLEP model
of imagery.
Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a method of focusing your mind, then
using your imagination and thoughts to stir feelings
and to alter your behavior and attitudes. In a sense, in
hypnosis you are altering your internal world. When
you change how you think, visualize, and imagine
things to be, your feelings and behavior will begin to
change to match.
Research using fMRI suggests some individuals are
more hypnotically gifted than others; however,
openness and receptivity during the process paves the
way for a successful outcome. There is an elegance in
the simplicity of hypnosis and the profound changes it
can make.
In 35+ years, I have hypnotised well over 100,000
people. As a result, I have become acutely aware of
the subtleties and nuances for successful outcomes in
hypnotized subjects.
VIDEO
Imagery
The brain innervates our muscles when we just
imagine ourselves performing. We can give ourselves
extra practice in our sport by completing imagery
regularly. The more vividly our imagery replicates an
athletic task, the stronger our neural pathways
become.
Because imagery involves the mental rehearsal of
skills, scenarios, and upcoming events, it allows us to
anticipate potential challenges or setbacks, and
develop potential strategies for meeting or
overcoming them. For these reasons, athletes who
utilize regular imagery show better physical and
mental readiness, better stress and energy
management, and increased con
fi
dence and
motivation levels. (Premier Sport Psychology, 2021).
Autogenic Training
The phenomena of mind/body self-regulation
exhibited by yogis awakened the curiosity and interest
of British physicians more than 200 years ago. Later,
the British and other European physicians began to
study the mind/body relationship. Around 1910, Dr. J.
Schultz of Germany began to develop a mind-body
training system called Autogenic Training (AT),
(Peper, E. and Williams, E. A., Autogenic Therapy,
2020) combining hypnosis and yoga. The technique is
also called self-generated or self-motivated training.
"Schultz correctly identi
fi
ed some of the effective
components of hypnotherapy and yoga and
incorporated them into a method of self-
regulation." (Sport Modi
fi
ed Autogenic Training,
IndiaNetzone, 2013). To be effective, he realized that
self-regulation would have to be simple. The
simplicity is the secret to the technique’s success.
Autogenic training is classi
fi
ed as a self-hypnotic
technique. Distinct from hetero-hypnosis, where
trance is induced by another individual, autogenic
training emphasizes a trainee's independence and
gives control from the therapist to the trainee.
(Autogenic training - Wikipedia)(Peper & Williams
2020). This eliminates the need for physiological
feedback devices or an outer hypnotherapist.
East V. West
Let us backtrack a little and take a look at how and
why modern-day hypnosis, imagery and autogenic
training practices have become more mainstream in
athletic performance.
In the 1950s, Soviet space scientists explored the
possibility of teaching cosmonauts to control such
bodily functions, such as heart rate, temperature and
muscle tension, as well as emotional reactions to
stress situations such as zero gravity. The inspiration
for much of these studies came from the ancient yogic
arts of India and Tibet.
From the earliest days of Communism, Party leaders
had favored recreation and physical training for the
masses, as a way of helping workers to remain healthy
and productive. They saw Olympic victories as having
considerable propaganda value around the world.
This research quickly made its way into the Eastern
Blocs preparation for their Olympic athletes. The
architects of the soviet-bloc sports programs
demonstrated, beyond any doubt, the value of a truly
scienti
fi
c, mind-plus-body approach to performance.
In 1956, during the Melbourne Olympics, the Soviet
Union stunned the world of competitive sports by
winning 98 medals, thus beating the USA by 24. What
was the addition to their coaching staff to produce this
feat? -- 11 hypnotherapists!
“The United States Olympic team is in greater danger
of being left behind by Soviet athletes in the 1980
Olympics than any previous Olympics in history,”
remarked Dr William S. Kroger (1906 -1995),
neuropsychiatrist and gynaecologist, who pioneered
the use of hypnosis in medicine and in criminal
investigations. “A great athlete, a coordinated athlete,
does things automatically without worrying and
letting doubt enter the mind. They build in
conditioning re
fl
exes and act without fear or anxiety.
(The New York Times, Hypnosis Rated Big Help To
Soviet Performances, 1977).
“Anxiety neutralizes optimum performance,” Dr
Kroger continued. “Tension and relaxation cannot
coexist. If you're relaxed you get a better performance,
at least mentally, and this has manifestations in the
musculature.” Dr Kroger also explained athletes can
learn to tap hidden assets for exceptional performance,
“the hypnotist puts nothing there, but he gets the
individual to rise to the highest levels he can reach.
One compounds the sensory spiral of
conviction.” (New York Times 1977).
Hypnosis, Imagery and
Autogenic Training Today
Although the Communist block dominated mental
training techniques for decades, the West has caught
up. Many professional sports teams have their own
sports psychologist on staff.
But to be truly effective, this type of mental
preparation/integration should be introduced with age-
group athletes as soon as they start training. Mental
conditioning should be as routine as the amount of
physical hours that athletes put in during physical
preparation. Ultimately, the majority of world-class
athletes are, physically, equally prepared—What
separates a win from a loss is their mental preparation.
Some of my favorite research
articles and personal
experiences with mental
training:
A number of years ago I worked with a Gymnastics
club that has turned out numerous Olympiads. I was
asked to work with the women's team on their most
dif
fi
cult apparatus, the balance beam. Using a process
of hypnosis and visualization, I had them perform an
inward imagined exercise of their performance.
Highly trained athletes are typically very motivated to
participate. They love the feeling of letting go, but still
being in control!
The faces of the gymnasts displayed emotional
expressions during the hypnosis. Only one face
remained relaxed, and her expression was one of
serenity. Afterward, reviewing the
fi
rst part of the
exercise, they were asked to describe their
performance. Every gymnast, except one, stated they
fell off the beam. Our "lady of serenity" had
performed her routine perfectly. I was unsurprised to
learn that, of all the girls, she was slated for the
Olympics. When I led them in the same exercise
again, I told the athletes that there would be no
mistakes in their routine. Now I observed many more
peaceful expressions with the new instruction. In
discussion after, only one athlete stated that she could
not complete her exercise without falling off the
beam.
Working with basketball players in 1967, Alan
Richardson, Australian psychologist and author, chose
three groups of students at random. None had ever
practiced visualization. The
fi
rst group practiced free
throws every day for twenty days. The second made
free throws on the
fi
rst day and the twentieth day, as
did the third group. But members of the third group
spent 20 minutes every day visualizing free throws.
"If they "missed," they "practiced" getting the next
shot right." (Breakthrough Basketball, Mental
Rehearsal and Visualization, 2021).
On the twentieth day, Richardson measured the
percentage of improvement in each group. The group
that practiced daily improved 24 percent. The second
group, unsurprisingly, improved not at all. The third
group, which had physically practiced no more than
the second, did twenty-three percent better—almost as
well as the
fi
rst group! (Cohn, P., Peak Performance
Sports, 2021).
In his paper on the experiment, published in Research
Quarterly, Richardson wrote that the most effective
visualization occurs when the visualizer feels and sees
what he is doing (Richardson, A., Research
Quarterly,1967). "In other words, the visualizers in the
basketball experiment "felt" the ball in their hands and
"heard" it bounce, in addition to "seeing" it go through
the hoop." (Neason, M., Sport Psychology Today,
2012)(Richardson 1967).
In 1986, Charles Gar
fi
eld, a retired world-class
weightlifter, had an experience with sports scientists
from East Germany and the Soviet Union. He was not
in competition shape, but they taught him to relax and
visualize, and to his surprise, he managed to bench
press 300 pounds, just barely, which was 29 pounds
above his normal 280 pounds. Then the scientists
added 65 pounds an impossible 21% increase. The
scientists guided Gar
fi
eld into a deep state of
relaxation and visualization, suddenly everything
came together, and he felt a surge of strength in his
body. His mind became convinced he could do it. The
world around him seem to fade. With total con
fi
dence,
Gar
fi
eld lifted the 365pounds.
Studying the acquisition of
fi
ne motor skills, Pascual-
Leone, Nguyet, Cohen, Brasil-Neto, Cammarota, and
Hallett asked Volunteers to play a simple sequence of
piano notes each day for
fi
ve consecutive days. Their
brains were scanned each day in the region connected
to the
fi
nger muscles. Another set of volunteers were,
instead, asked to imagine playing the notes whilst,
also, having their brains scanned each day. You can
clearly see (in the brain scans) that the changes in the
brain made by those who imaged playing piano are
the same as in those who actually played piano. Your
brain doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary!
(Hamilton, D. R., 2014).
PETTLEP
The PETTLEP model is based on work by Jeannerod
(1994; 1997) which proposes that there are certain
shared areas in the brain that are activated during both
physical and imagined movements. This is de
fi
ned as
“functional equivalence” and is hypothesized as the
means by which imagery can improve performance.
(Quinton, M. BelievePerform, 2021). "Realizing the
need for a theory and research-based model of
imagery to help guide practitioners’ use of imagery,
Holmes and Collins (2001) devised the PETTLEP
model." (Swanson, G., Mental Strength Training
Workbook For Athletes, 2011).
This model is based on theory and research
fi
ndings
from sport psychology, cognitive psychology and
neuroscience, and aims to provide practitioners with a
set of practical guidelines to aid their imagery use.
PETTLEP is an acronym, with each letter representing
an important factor for practitioners to consider when
implementing imagery interventions, as follows:
Physical, Environment, Task, Timing, Learning,
Emotion, Perspective. (Swanson, 2011).
You have the
fl
exibility to personalize these imagery
components.
I have included in this section -- personal responses
from gymnasts and how they relate to imagery. In the
Emotion section, I have added Injury as a sub-
category.
Physical
The Physical factor is arguably the most important
PETTLEP component. Rather than conceptualizing
imagery as something entirely different from physical
practice, here imagery is seen as a physical process
with measurable physiological outcomes. For optimal
bene
fi
ts, imagery should be as physical an experience
as possible. (Swanson 2011). One obvious way of
achieving this is to laden the imagery instructions with
the performer’s physiological responses. Indeed,
research has shown that response-laden imagery
instructions are more effective than ones lacking
kinesthetic cues. In other words, the Physical
component of the model is directly related to the
athlete’s physical responses in their own sport
situation.
Other ways of making the imagery more physical
include wearing the same clothes as during
performance, also holding any associated implements
(e.g., tennis racquet, golf club). (Quinton, 2021).
This focus is more effective when it includes all of the
senses that would be engaged, and kinesthetic
sensations that would be experienced, during actual
performance. (Adams, Steenbergen, Lust, & Smits-
Engelsman, Motor Imagery Training for Children,
2016).
• "Visual- Using your sense of sight to see pictures,
images, and movies."
• "Auditory- Using your sense of hearing for
listening to sounds."
• "Kinesthetic- Using your sense of touch to feel
tactile sensations and proprioceptives of the
movement." This area also covers the emotions,
which we will talk more about later.
• Olfactory- Using your sense of smell.
• Gustatory- Using your sense of taste.
What follows are personal experiences of how
gymnasts relate to the Imagery. The gymnasts’ names,
where mentioned, have been changed for their
privacy.
Most of the gymnasts described actually moving their
bodies during imagery, while some discussed tensing
certain muscles groups associated with the imaged
skills/routines. One gymnast stated:
“I would kind of feel and
fl
ex the muscles that I
needed to keep my legs straight in my leaps. I would
fl
ex my quad and...if I was sitting doing that or
standing, I would usually point my toes or I would be
squeezing the muscle that needed to be squeezed
during that skill.”
Other gymnasts indicated that using body
movements with imagery made the experience
more real.
“So, I am like putting my body in the position I was
supposed to be in and also feeling my muscles, like
squeezing my muscles like they were active, like they
were doing the skill—-for me, that just made it more
real.”
Another described how imaging prior to her vault
gave her more con
fi
dence.
“For me visualizing my vault and the different
movements from start to
fi
nish basically made me feel
like there was less room for error when I was
performing my vault...almost as if my success for the
vault was dependent on how well I visualized it.
Therefore, since I did know what my body was
supposed to be doing and I could picture it in my head
what it was supposed to look like, it was easy for me
to then actually put it into the move when I did it.”
VZ indicated how rehearsing body movements
assisted her in preparing for performance. “When I
actually take the time to visualize the movements and
know what I want to do on the events, I listen to my
mind, and it helps me do the routine the way I want to
do it.”
When describing what body movements that they
actually imaged, these gymnasts provided detailed
descriptions of going through whole routines.
For example, RY described imaging the body
movements associated with her beam routine
“With beam most of it is dance. I'll start out going
through my dance, and then when I get to a skill, I
kind of visualize how I feel and like what I would think
it would look like, and just go step by step— I set up
for a backhand spring layout, and I go. I can see my
arms swinging down, going backwards, moving up
over my head, and just when I lay in the layout, just
staying straight, keeping my hips straight and walking
through——just going through more dance, and just
my jumps, and the way, how I would set them so that
I'm not a little bit off the beam and I'm more squared
so that I'm able to complete it— and then just
fi
nishing
my routine and sticking my dismount.”
One gymnast described imaging her entire bar
routine:
“I close my eyes and do kip, cast, clear hip,
Shaposhnikova, swing back, feet over, kip, lean
forward, cast, handstand, toe shoot. And like I just do
everything in my head, and then I picture the giant,
the full-twisting release move and the dismount stuck
in.”
JX talked about going through the skill parts
associated with her
fl
oor routine:
“I mainly image the skill parts of my
fl
oor...like for the
tumbling, for jumps and leaps and stuff. So, I would
kind of like picture my dancing, but it is not really you
know... perfect, and then I would go into a certain
pass or go into a perfect jump.”
Another current gymnast described imaging parts
of her vault routine:
“I usually go through the vault you know a couple of
times in my head... I would picture the vault, you
know, maybe not even with the whole run... just the
actual – hitting the springboard, pushing off the vault,
landing on my feet, that whole thing.”
Some of the gymnasts worried that if they did not
imagine their skills/routines perfectly, the
imperfection could transfer to their actual
performance. One gymnast commented:
“Well, because when I wobble – when I imagine it, I
feel like if I imagine it that way, then that’s how I’m
going to perform it. So, if I can make it perfect in my
head... then I will make it perfect on the beam.”
“I would visualize myself doing it correctly (the bar
routine) and the more I could visualize it...the more I
could think about it... so it was like kind of creating a
habit within myself and like when I would actually go.
I could almost tell like the habit was being built.”
Focusing on Critical Areas
One gymnast added that she focused on critical
areas that her coach pointed out:
“Coaches would tell me during practice to make sure
that you’re setting or keeping your chin in, so in my
imagery I would focus on that... I would watch myself
keep my chin in a neutral position as I took off for my
skill— we always worked on landings, and I had quite
a bit of trouble with that so watching myself really
absorb the landing...imagery helped me with those
areas I need to work on.
“I would visualize doing my bar routine correctly,
really think about it——so it was like kind of creating
a habit within myself— I could almost feel like the
habit was being built.”
An example of how to do this is to remember three or
four successful routines in your gymnastics career.
Think of a meet when you were on and hit all your
routines. Or you can go back to routines from
different meets or from practice that felt like your
best.
Note: you can also create a
fi
lmed highlight reel
where you edit together various videos of routines
you've done and watch them over and over for a boost
of con
fi
dence. This is not an imagery exercise, but it's
a great thing to do to help you tap into your feelings
more.
For example, let's say you fell on beam during a meet,
you can create a new visual of yourself doing your
routine without the fall. This should happen soon after
the meet, so your body and mind start to relate your
new imagery experience with the beam as opposed to
holding on to the experience of the fall on the beam.
In summary, feeling the skill referred to these
gymnasts’ experiences of using their body during their
imagery and feeling the movements in the absence of
physical motion. For them, feeling the skill helped in
replicating the feel of the actual movements and made
their imagery experience more real, which assisted
their imagery and their actual experience with rhythm
and timing. Irrespective of whether these gymnasts
incorporated body motion or not, feeling the skill was
an integral part of their overall imagery experience.
Environment
This relates to the place where the imagery is
performed—this should be as similar as possible to
the performance environment. (Quinton 2021). If
possible, watch videos of the competition venue to
familiarize yourself with it.
If imagery scripts are being employed, they should
also include descriptions of the athlete’s individual
responses to the environment, as opposed to just
describing the environmental stimuli. (Quinton 2021).
How do you feel differently when you are performing
at your own venue as opposed to a competition venue
— Observe how those feelings differ.
“I’m imagining me presenting to the judge, and my
heart rate’s going up, and I’m really nervous, but at
the same time I’m con
fi
dent, and I know I can do what
I do in my practice... And, so, the crowd’s there, and I
got a
fl
oor routine in the background with the music
coming on. It’s a quad meet, and it’s loud, and people
are yelling and cheering and clapping, and I see
myself going through my routine in those conditions.”
Another example of how to enhance the
environmental cues into one’s imagery is described in
this study (Smith, Wright & Cantwell, Research
Quarterly for Exercise and Sports, 2008). In this
example, golfers image their bunker shots whilst
standing in a tray of sand. The golfers liked the fact
that they could feel their golf shoes contacting the
sand and that their posture was identical to that
adopted in the actual bunker. This was very effective
in enhancing bunker shot performance. (Munroe-
Chandler, K. J., & Guerrero, M. D., 2016). Adapt this
to the gymnast performance environment.
Task
"The Task component is an important factor, as the
imagined task needs to be closely matched to the
actual task." (Quinton 2021).
This focus is on the thoughts and feelings and actions
done during the performance.
The content of the imagery should be appropriate to
the skill level and the personal preferences of the
athlete. For example, given that the attentional focus
of athletes in different sports and at different
performance levels may differ in a number of ways,
the content of the imagery needs to be speci
fi
c to each
performer. (Smith, D., Enhancing Sports Performance
Using PETTLEP Imagery, 2010). When planning/
scripting the imagery intervention, the trainer,
hypnotist, (or oneself) will
fi
nd it useful to quiz the
athlete regarding his or her focus of attention during
performance beforehand.
Ask the athlete to image details relevant to the task
(e.g., attention demands) and to image at the
appropriate level of expertise for the performer.
Novice gymnasts should avoid imagining as an elite
level gymnast, because this is not as functionally
equivalent to their current experience. Naturally, as
their skill progresses, the individual will progress their
imagery too. This is addressed below in the Learning
task of PETTLEP.
Timing
Currently, the concept used for the timing aspect of
PETTLEP is to perform imagery in real-time
wherever possible. Timing is often crucial to the
successful execution of sports skills. However, more
research is needed on the possible uses of slow-
motion imagery. There are some interesting
possibilities yet to be studied, such as whether slow-
motion imagery could be useful in correcting errors in
imagery of the form-based skills. (Smith 2010).
Learning
As you master your skill, new imagery scripts will be
needed.
The imagery intervention should not just be updated
in terms of changes in skill level, but also changes in
psychological states such as confidence and
motivation. (Wake
fi
eld, C. and Smith, D., Perfecting
practice: Applying the PETTLEP model of motor
imagery, 2012).
In a recently completed study examining the effects of
imagery on muscle strength, it was found that
regularly updating imagery content to re
fl
ect the
progress participants made – was very successful in
enhancing performance. Also, without such updating,
the imagery will very quickly cease to effectively
replicate real life. For instance, changes in physical
condition, skill level and physical
fi
tness can all be
incorporated into the imagery. (Swanson 2011).
Emotion
The component “Emotion” relates to the fact that
competitive sport is an emotion-laden experience.
Therefore, for imagery to be realistic, the emotions
felt during performance should also be mentally
recreated during imagery practice.
For example, the possible excitement the performer
feels during performance should be an important part
of the imagery experience. (Quinton 2021). Of course,
care should be taken to ensure that all of the emotions
felt during imagery are positive.
Dealing with Injury
Several gymnasts described how injuries had limited
their ability to physically practice. In these situations,
the gymnasts used imagery as a substitute for practice.
Using imagery while injured helped these gymnasts
prepare for when they would actually perform again.
KW stated that imaging skills, while injured,
helped to prepare her for upcoming performances:
“I found that even if I didn’t have the opportunity to
practice my skills, if I visualized them, I was right
back where I left off because of the...the practice that I
have done in my head...I was really successful in
being able to compete at the level that I wanted with
very, very minimal physical practice. I had done the
mental practice to back it up.”
JV summarized the importance of using imagery
while injured
“I have been injured quite a lot throughout my career
and sometimes I would just sit there and visualize my
routines when I could not physically do them.”
Dealing with injuries using imagery became an
important aspect of preparing for movement for these
gymnasts.
Calming nerves is an important aspect of mental
preparation.
Gymnasts describe using imagery to deal with any
anticipatory anxiety or fears that they had about
performing. They realized that if they could image the
skills/routines successfully then there was nothing to
be nervous about.
When one gymnast was asked to share what stood out
for her in her imagery use, she replied,
“Well, I just think that it makes things less
overwhelming.”
Another responded similarly saying, “I used it as a
tool to make me calm— right before the skill, to
collect my thoughts and to focus on whatever I was
doing. For example, I would just see myself vault and
land and salute like I had already done it. So, no
problem. It was nothing to get nervous about, just go
do it now.”
MU also described how imagery allowed her to
stop worrying:
“It also calmed my nerves, I would see myself doing it
and that reminded me to stop worrying about what
could happen— living in the moment of that routine
and that skill and enjoying it— not making it business-
like...but just having fun with it.”
In response to a follow-up question, she talked about
how she used imagery to deal with the worry of trying
a new skill, “I would not try a new skill until I could
perfectly tell in my head what exactly was going to
happen— where my body was supposed to be and that
helped a lot with fear.”
For these gymnasts, imagery acted as a calming
mechanism when they were afraid or nervous.
MR may have summed up this theme the best when
she stated, “I would have been a basket case I think,
to be honest —without doing visualization.”
Building Con
fi
dence
All of the gymnasts acknowledged that imagery
allowed them to experience a greater sense of
con
fi
dence. Con
fi
dence was often a by-product of
imaging correct performances or rehearsing skills
repetitively.
“The more imagery I did, the more successful and
con
fi
dent I became–—to do it just by seeing it go right
in my head… if I fell a hundred times in my warm-up,
it didn’t bother me because when I did it in my head, it
was perfect, and I knew I could do it. So just as I – I
gained more con
fi
dence in my routines and my skills
like my mental aspects, really, really grew.”
A large number of the gymnasts talked about using
imagery for con
fi
dence right before performing a
routine. VU provided an example of how imagery
enhanced her con
fi
dence before her beam routine.
“I can see myself doing it, I believe in myself that I
can actually do it, so I know I can do it no matter
what.”
Another gymnast, who experienced several injuries
throughout her career, talked about how imagery gave
her con
fi
dence when she began training again.
“Imagery also helped me be more con
fi
dent when I
started redoing skills.”
NZ described the relationship between imagery and
con
fi
dence when she stated, “If you’re using imagery,
you’re going to be prepared mentally for that success
– And that con
fi
dence, it’s going to come naturally
because you’ve done it over and over and over— I
mean you have to put in the work, but imagining it the
way you trained it, your con
fi
dence gets better.”
Perspective
Finally, the Perspective component refers to whether
the athlete completes the imagery from an internal
(
fi
rst person) perspective, or an external (third person)
perspective. Whilst the paradigm of functional
equivalence would suggest that an internal perspective
would be most bene
fi
cial, research has shown that for
certain tasks an external perspective is preferable.
(Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical
Activity). More advanced performers are able to
switch from one perspective to another. When doing
this, gain advantages from using both perspectives.
Also, the issue of individual preference is absolutely
crucial for successful interventions. Whilst it may be
theoretically desirable, for instance, to adopt an
internal visual perspective in many cases, some
athletes may
fi
nd internal imagery dif
fi
cult or just
prefer external imagery. (Smith 2010). In such cases,
it is always preferable to accommodate the athlete’s
wishes as far as possible so that the athlete is
comfortable with what he or she is being asked to do.
Conclusion
Just like developing any new skill, imagery requires
practice. It requires commitment and should become a
part of daily routine. Generally, imagery works best
when you’re relaxed. When relaxed, you can focus
more easily on a positive image. When learning it can
help to practice visualization right before you go to
sleep at night, because you are likely to be relaxed and
able to focus wholly on this task. (Lefkovits, McDuff,
& Morgan Mental Toughness Training Manual for
Gymnastics).
For the most part, imagery is optimal when used in
real-time. This may be dif
fi
cult to do at
fi
rst. Many
gymnasts say that when they begin to try to visualize
skills or routines, they can only see themselves doing
the skills poorly or falling. If this happens, it is helpful
to slow down the images until you can see or feel the
skill being done well. (Lefkovits et al). Then speed it
up little by little until you can see it in real-time.
"Slowing down the images can also be useful to help
analyze certain techniques or make speci
fi
c
corrections." (Lefkovits et al). Remember that you
have control over all these images.
Depending on your own style, you will tend to
imagine scenes from inside yourself, or from outside
as if watching a performance on a screen. (Lefkovits
et al). Be able to do both is ideal. So, try practicing
imagery in steps. Being able to use both internal and
external perspectives is useful because it allows you to
translate ideal performance to your own performance.
(Lefkovits et al). Although you will tend to use one
form over another, practice using both internal and
external perspectives as much as possible.
Imagery is more than just visualization. Try using
your sense of smell, hearing, touch, and even taste.
This works best when you see what you would see,
feel what you would feel, hear what you’d hear, and
even taste what you would taste. The object is to get
the sensation as true-to-life as possible. This means
that if you are visualizing for a speci
fi
c competition,
picture yourself in the meet situation in the actual
venue in which you’ll be competing. (Lefkovits et al).
Athletes from a wide range of sports have found
imagery to be extremely valuable in enhancing
performance. It is important to recognize that it works
best when combined with actual practice of the skill.
(Lefkovits et al). Imagery is not a replacement for
regular gymnastics practice, rather, it is an enrichment
of sports practice and performance.
The Gymnastic Mind Game
References
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489–503.

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Using hypnosis and imagery to enhance gymnastic performance

  • 1. Using Hypnosis, Imagery And Autogenic Training To Enhance Gymnastic Performance → Contact barryj@barryjones.com for more information Hypnosis and Imagery To Improve Con fi dence and Performance For Gymnastics This blog discusses and merges three concepts regarding the interface of mental training and sports performance: • A science-based model of imagery (PETTLEP) where hetero-hypnosis and autogenic training are successfully incorporated
  • 2. • Using mental conditioning to bene fi t athletic performance • Merging these concepts to create a new training resource Imagery, Hypnosis and Autogenic Training Each of these disciplines/techniques are stand-alone methods for enhancing sports performance. I have incorporated them into a unique and highly successful multi-sensorial tool. The purpose of this article is not to go into detail about each of these techniques. Rather the focus of this blog is describing the integration of these methods into the PETTLEP model of imagery. Hypnosis Hypnosis is a method of focusing your mind, then using your imagination and thoughts to stir feelings and to alter your behavior and attitudes. In a sense, in hypnosis you are altering your internal world. When you change how you think, visualize, and imagine
  • 3. things to be, your feelings and behavior will begin to change to match. Research using fMRI suggests some individuals are more hypnotically gifted than others; however, openness and receptivity during the process paves the way for a successful outcome. There is an elegance in the simplicity of hypnosis and the profound changes it can make. In 35+ years, I have hypnotised well over 100,000 people. As a result, I have become acutely aware of the subtleties and nuances for successful outcomes in hypnotized subjects. VIDEO
  • 4. Imagery The brain innervates our muscles when we just imagine ourselves performing. We can give ourselves extra practice in our sport by completing imagery regularly. The more vividly our imagery replicates an athletic task, the stronger our neural pathways become. Because imagery involves the mental rehearsal of skills, scenarios, and upcoming events, it allows us to anticipate potential challenges or setbacks, and develop potential strategies for meeting or overcoming them. For these reasons, athletes who utilize regular imagery show better physical and mental readiness, better stress and energy
  • 5. management, and increased con fi dence and motivation levels. (Premier Sport Psychology, 2021). Autogenic Training The phenomena of mind/body self-regulation exhibited by yogis awakened the curiosity and interest of British physicians more than 200 years ago. Later, the British and other European physicians began to study the mind/body relationship. Around 1910, Dr. J. Schultz of Germany began to develop a mind-body training system called Autogenic Training (AT), (Peper, E. and Williams, E. A., Autogenic Therapy, 2020) combining hypnosis and yoga. The technique is also called self-generated or self-motivated training. "Schultz correctly identi fi ed some of the effective components of hypnotherapy and yoga and incorporated them into a method of self- regulation." (Sport Modi fi ed Autogenic Training, IndiaNetzone, 2013). To be effective, he realized that
  • 6. self-regulation would have to be simple. The simplicity is the secret to the technique’s success. Autogenic training is classi fi ed as a self-hypnotic technique. Distinct from hetero-hypnosis, where trance is induced by another individual, autogenic training emphasizes a trainee's independence and gives control from the therapist to the trainee. (Autogenic training - Wikipedia)(Peper & Williams 2020). This eliminates the need for physiological feedback devices or an outer hypnotherapist. East V. West Let us backtrack a little and take a look at how and why modern-day hypnosis, imagery and autogenic training practices have become more mainstream in athletic performance. In the 1950s, Soviet space scientists explored the possibility of teaching cosmonauts to control such bodily functions, such as heart rate, temperature and muscle tension, as well as emotional reactions to stress situations such as zero gravity. The inspiration
  • 7. for much of these studies came from the ancient yogic arts of India and Tibet. From the earliest days of Communism, Party leaders had favored recreation and physical training for the masses, as a way of helping workers to remain healthy and productive. They saw Olympic victories as having considerable propaganda value around the world. This research quickly made its way into the Eastern Blocs preparation for their Olympic athletes. The architects of the soviet-bloc sports programs demonstrated, beyond any doubt, the value of a truly scienti fi c, mind-plus-body approach to performance. In 1956, during the Melbourne Olympics, the Soviet Union stunned the world of competitive sports by winning 98 medals, thus beating the USA by 24. What
  • 8. was the addition to their coaching staff to produce this feat? -- 11 hypnotherapists! “The United States Olympic team is in greater danger of being left behind by Soviet athletes in the 1980 Olympics than any previous Olympics in history,” remarked Dr William S. Kroger (1906 -1995), neuropsychiatrist and gynaecologist, who pioneered the use of hypnosis in medicine and in criminal investigations. “A great athlete, a coordinated athlete, does things automatically without worrying and letting doubt enter the mind. They build in conditioning re fl exes and act without fear or anxiety. (The New York Times, Hypnosis Rated Big Help To Soviet Performances, 1977). “Anxiety neutralizes optimum performance,” Dr Kroger continued. “Tension and relaxation cannot coexist. If you're relaxed you get a better performance, at least mentally, and this has manifestations in the musculature.” Dr Kroger also explained athletes can learn to tap hidden assets for exceptional performance, “the hypnotist puts nothing there, but he gets the individual to rise to the highest levels he can reach.
  • 9. One compounds the sensory spiral of conviction.” (New York Times 1977). Hypnosis, Imagery and Autogenic Training Today Although the Communist block dominated mental training techniques for decades, the West has caught up. Many professional sports teams have their own sports psychologist on staff. But to be truly effective, this type of mental preparation/integration should be introduced with age- group athletes as soon as they start training. Mental conditioning should be as routine as the amount of physical hours that athletes put in during physical preparation. Ultimately, the majority of world-class athletes are, physically, equally prepared—What separates a win from a loss is their mental preparation. Some of my favorite research articles and personal
  • 10. experiences with mental training: A number of years ago I worked with a Gymnastics club that has turned out numerous Olympiads. I was asked to work with the women's team on their most dif fi cult apparatus, the balance beam. Using a process of hypnosis and visualization, I had them perform an inward imagined exercise of their performance. Highly trained athletes are typically very motivated to participate. They love the feeling of letting go, but still being in control! The faces of the gymnasts displayed emotional expressions during the hypnosis. Only one face remained relaxed, and her expression was one of serenity. Afterward, reviewing the fi rst part of the exercise, they were asked to describe their performance. Every gymnast, except one, stated they fell off the beam. Our "lady of serenity" had performed her routine perfectly. I was unsurprised to learn that, of all the girls, she was slated for the Olympics. When I led them in the same exercise again, I told the athletes that there would be no mistakes in their routine. Now I observed many more
  • 11. peaceful expressions with the new instruction. In discussion after, only one athlete stated that she could not complete her exercise without falling off the beam. Working with basketball players in 1967, Alan Richardson, Australian psychologist and author, chose three groups of students at random. None had ever practiced visualization. The fi rst group practiced free throws every day for twenty days. The second made free throws on the fi rst day and the twentieth day, as did the third group. But members of the third group spent 20 minutes every day visualizing free throws. "If they "missed," they "practiced" getting the next shot right." (Breakthrough Basketball, Mental Rehearsal and Visualization, 2021).
  • 12. On the twentieth day, Richardson measured the percentage of improvement in each group. The group that practiced daily improved 24 percent. The second group, unsurprisingly, improved not at all. The third group, which had physically practiced no more than the second, did twenty-three percent better—almost as well as the fi rst group! (Cohn, P., Peak Performance Sports, 2021). In his paper on the experiment, published in Research Quarterly, Richardson wrote that the most effective visualization occurs when the visualizer feels and sees what he is doing (Richardson, A., Research Quarterly,1967). "In other words, the visualizers in the basketball experiment "felt" the ball in their hands and "heard" it bounce, in addition to "seeing" it go through the hoop." (Neason, M., Sport Psychology Today, 2012)(Richardson 1967). In 1986, Charles Gar fi eld, a retired world-class weightlifter, had an experience with sports scientists from East Germany and the Soviet Union. He was not in competition shape, but they taught him to relax and visualize, and to his surprise, he managed to bench press 300 pounds, just barely, which was 29 pounds
  • 13. above his normal 280 pounds. Then the scientists added 65 pounds an impossible 21% increase. The scientists guided Gar fi eld into a deep state of relaxation and visualization, suddenly everything came together, and he felt a surge of strength in his body. His mind became convinced he could do it. The world around him seem to fade. With total con fi dence, Gar fi eld lifted the 365pounds. Studying the acquisition of fi ne motor skills, Pascual- Leone, Nguyet, Cohen, Brasil-Neto, Cammarota, and Hallett asked Volunteers to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for fi ve consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the fi nger muscles. Another set of volunteers were, instead, asked to imagine playing the notes whilst, also, having their brains scanned each day. You can
  • 14. clearly see (in the brain scans) that the changes in the brain made by those who imaged playing piano are the same as in those who actually played piano. Your brain doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary! (Hamilton, D. R., 2014). PETTLEP The PETTLEP model is based on work by Jeannerod (1994; 1997) which proposes that there are certain shared areas in the brain that are activated during both physical and imagined movements. This is de fi ned as “functional equivalence” and is hypothesized as the means by which imagery can improve performance. (Quinton, M. BelievePerform, 2021). "Realizing the need for a theory and research-based model of imagery to help guide practitioners’ use of imagery, Holmes and Collins (2001) devised the PETTLEP
  • 15. model." (Swanson, G., Mental Strength Training Workbook For Athletes, 2011). This model is based on theory and research fi ndings from sport psychology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and aims to provide practitioners with a set of practical guidelines to aid their imagery use. PETTLEP is an acronym, with each letter representing an important factor for practitioners to consider when implementing imagery interventions, as follows: Physical, Environment, Task, Timing, Learning, Emotion, Perspective. (Swanson, 2011). You have the fl exibility to personalize these imagery components.
  • 16. I have included in this section -- personal responses from gymnasts and how they relate to imagery. In the Emotion section, I have added Injury as a sub- category. Physical The Physical factor is arguably the most important PETTLEP component. Rather than conceptualizing imagery as something entirely different from physical practice, here imagery is seen as a physical process with measurable physiological outcomes. For optimal bene fi ts, imagery should be as physical an experience as possible. (Swanson 2011). One obvious way of achieving this is to laden the imagery instructions with the performer’s physiological responses. Indeed, research has shown that response-laden imagery instructions are more effective than ones lacking kinesthetic cues. In other words, the Physical component of the model is directly related to the athlete’s physical responses in their own sport situation. Other ways of making the imagery more physical include wearing the same clothes as during
  • 17. performance, also holding any associated implements (e.g., tennis racquet, golf club). (Quinton, 2021). This focus is more effective when it includes all of the senses that would be engaged, and kinesthetic sensations that would be experienced, during actual performance. (Adams, Steenbergen, Lust, & Smits- Engelsman, Motor Imagery Training for Children, 2016). • "Visual- Using your sense of sight to see pictures, images, and movies." • "Auditory- Using your sense of hearing for listening to sounds." • "Kinesthetic- Using your sense of touch to feel tactile sensations and proprioceptives of the movement." This area also covers the emotions, which we will talk more about later.
  • 18. • Olfactory- Using your sense of smell. • Gustatory- Using your sense of taste. What follows are personal experiences of how gymnasts relate to the Imagery. The gymnasts’ names, where mentioned, have been changed for their privacy. Most of the gymnasts described actually moving their bodies during imagery, while some discussed tensing certain muscles groups associated with the imaged skills/routines. One gymnast stated: “I would kind of feel and fl ex the muscles that I needed to keep my legs straight in my leaps. I would fl ex my quad and...if I was sitting doing that or standing, I would usually point my toes or I would be squeezing the muscle that needed to be squeezed during that skill.” Other gymnasts indicated that using body movements with imagery made the experience more real.
  • 19. “So, I am like putting my body in the position I was supposed to be in and also feeling my muscles, like squeezing my muscles like they were active, like they were doing the skill—-for me, that just made it more real.” Another described how imaging prior to her vault gave her more con fi dence. “For me visualizing my vault and the different movements from start to fi nish basically made me feel like there was less room for error when I was performing my vault...almost as if my success for the vault was dependent on how well I visualized it. Therefore, since I did know what my body was supposed to be doing and I could picture it in my head what it was supposed to look like, it was easy for me to then actually put it into the move when I did it.” VZ indicated how rehearsing body movements assisted her in preparing for performance. “When I actually take the time to visualize the movements and know what I want to do on the events, I listen to my mind, and it helps me do the routine the way I want to do it.”
  • 20. When describing what body movements that they actually imaged, these gymnasts provided detailed descriptions of going through whole routines. For example, RY described imaging the body movements associated with her beam routine “With beam most of it is dance. I'll start out going through my dance, and then when I get to a skill, I kind of visualize how I feel and like what I would think it would look like, and just go step by step— I set up for a backhand spring layout, and I go. I can see my arms swinging down, going backwards, moving up over my head, and just when I lay in the layout, just staying straight, keeping my hips straight and walking through——just going through more dance, and just my jumps, and the way, how I would set them so that I'm not a little bit off the beam and I'm more squared so that I'm able to complete it— and then just fi nishing my routine and sticking my dismount.” One gymnast described imaging her entire bar routine:
  • 21. “I close my eyes and do kip, cast, clear hip, Shaposhnikova, swing back, feet over, kip, lean forward, cast, handstand, toe shoot. And like I just do everything in my head, and then I picture the giant, the full-twisting release move and the dismount stuck in.” JX talked about going through the skill parts associated with her fl oor routine: “I mainly image the skill parts of my fl oor...like for the tumbling, for jumps and leaps and stuff. So, I would kind of like picture my dancing, but it is not really you know... perfect, and then I would go into a certain pass or go into a perfect jump.”
  • 22. Another current gymnast described imaging parts of her vault routine: “I usually go through the vault you know a couple of times in my head... I would picture the vault, you know, maybe not even with the whole run... just the
  • 23. actual – hitting the springboard, pushing off the vault, landing on my feet, that whole thing.” Some of the gymnasts worried that if they did not imagine their skills/routines perfectly, the imperfection could transfer to their actual performance. One gymnast commented: “Well, because when I wobble – when I imagine it, I feel like if I imagine it that way, then that’s how I’m going to perform it. So, if I can make it perfect in my head... then I will make it perfect on the beam.” “I would visualize myself doing it correctly (the bar routine) and the more I could visualize it...the more I could think about it... so it was like kind of creating a
  • 24. habit within myself and like when I would actually go. I could almost tell like the habit was being built.” Focusing on Critical Areas One gymnast added that she focused on critical areas that her coach pointed out: “Coaches would tell me during practice to make sure that you’re setting or keeping your chin in, so in my imagery I would focus on that... I would watch myself keep my chin in a neutral position as I took off for my skill— we always worked on landings, and I had quite a bit of trouble with that so watching myself really absorb the landing...imagery helped me with those areas I need to work on. “I would visualize doing my bar routine correctly, really think about it——so it was like kind of creating a habit within myself— I could almost feel like the habit was being built.” An example of how to do this is to remember three or four successful routines in your gymnastics career. Think of a meet when you were on and hit all your
  • 25. routines. Or you can go back to routines from different meets or from practice that felt like your best. Note: you can also create a fi lmed highlight reel where you edit together various videos of routines you've done and watch them over and over for a boost of con fi dence. This is not an imagery exercise, but it's a great thing to do to help you tap into your feelings more. For example, let's say you fell on beam during a meet, you can create a new visual of yourself doing your routine without the fall. This should happen soon after the meet, so your body and mind start to relate your new imagery experience with the beam as opposed to holding on to the experience of the fall on the beam. In summary, feeling the skill referred to these gymnasts’ experiences of using their body during their imagery and feeling the movements in the absence of physical motion. For them, feeling the skill helped in replicating the feel of the actual movements and made their imagery experience more real, which assisted their imagery and their actual experience with rhythm
  • 26. and timing. Irrespective of whether these gymnasts incorporated body motion or not, feeling the skill was an integral part of their overall imagery experience. Environment This relates to the place where the imagery is performed—this should be as similar as possible to the performance environment. (Quinton 2021). If possible, watch videos of the competition venue to familiarize yourself with it. If imagery scripts are being employed, they should also include descriptions of the athlete’s individual responses to the environment, as opposed to just describing the environmental stimuli. (Quinton 2021). How do you feel differently when you are performing at your own venue as opposed to a competition venue — Observe how those feelings differ. “I’m imagining me presenting to the judge, and my heart rate’s going up, and I’m really nervous, but at the same time I’m con fi dent, and I know I can do what I do in my practice... And, so, the crowd’s there, and I
  • 27. got a fl oor routine in the background with the music coming on. It’s a quad meet, and it’s loud, and people are yelling and cheering and clapping, and I see myself going through my routine in those conditions.” Another example of how to enhance the environmental cues into one’s imagery is described in this study (Smith, Wright & Cantwell, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports, 2008). In this example, golfers image their bunker shots whilst standing in a tray of sand. The golfers liked the fact that they could feel their golf shoes contacting the sand and that their posture was identical to that adopted in the actual bunker. This was very effective in enhancing bunker shot performance. (Munroe- Chandler, K. J., & Guerrero, M. D., 2016). Adapt this to the gymnast performance environment.
  • 28. Task "The Task component is an important factor, as the imagined task needs to be closely matched to the actual task." (Quinton 2021). This focus is on the thoughts and feelings and actions done during the performance. The content of the imagery should be appropriate to the skill level and the personal preferences of the athlete. For example, given that the attentional focus of athletes in different sports and at different performance levels may differ in a number of ways, the content of the imagery needs to be speci fi c to each performer. (Smith, D., Enhancing Sports Performance Using PETTLEP Imagery, 2010). When planning/ scripting the imagery intervention, the trainer, hypnotist, (or oneself) will fi nd it useful to quiz the athlete regarding his or her focus of attention during performance beforehand. Ask the athlete to image details relevant to the task (e.g., attention demands) and to image at the appropriate level of expertise for the performer.
  • 29. Novice gymnasts should avoid imagining as an elite level gymnast, because this is not as functionally equivalent to their current experience. Naturally, as their skill progresses, the individual will progress their imagery too. This is addressed below in the Learning task of PETTLEP. Timing Currently, the concept used for the timing aspect of PETTLEP is to perform imagery in real-time wherever possible. Timing is often crucial to the successful execution of sports skills. However, more research is needed on the possible uses of slow- motion imagery. There are some interesting possibilities yet to be studied, such as whether slow- motion imagery could be useful in correcting errors in imagery of the form-based skills. (Smith 2010). Learning As you master your skill, new imagery scripts will be needed.
  • 30. The imagery intervention should not just be updated in terms of changes in skill level, but also changes in psychological states such as confidence and motivation. (Wake fi eld, C. and Smith, D., Perfecting practice: Applying the PETTLEP model of motor imagery, 2012). In a recently completed study examining the effects of imagery on muscle strength, it was found that regularly updating imagery content to re fl ect the progress participants made – was very successful in enhancing performance. Also, without such updating, the imagery will very quickly cease to effectively replicate real life. For instance, changes in physical condition, skill level and physical fi tness can all be incorporated into the imagery. (Swanson 2011). Emotion The component “Emotion” relates to the fact that competitive sport is an emotion-laden experience. Therefore, for imagery to be realistic, the emotions felt during performance should also be mentally recreated during imagery practice.
  • 31. For example, the possible excitement the performer feels during performance should be an important part of the imagery experience. (Quinton 2021). Of course, care should be taken to ensure that all of the emotions felt during imagery are positive. Dealing with Injury Several gymnasts described how injuries had limited their ability to physically practice. In these situations, the gymnasts used imagery as a substitute for practice. Using imagery while injured helped these gymnasts prepare for when they would actually perform again. KW stated that imaging skills, while injured, helped to prepare her for upcoming performances:
  • 32. “I found that even if I didn’t have the opportunity to practice my skills, if I visualized them, I was right back where I left off because of the...the practice that I have done in my head...I was really successful in being able to compete at the level that I wanted with very, very minimal physical practice. I had done the mental practice to back it up.” JV summarized the importance of using imagery while injured “I have been injured quite a lot throughout my career and sometimes I would just sit there and visualize my routines when I could not physically do them.” Dealing with injuries using imagery became an important aspect of preparing for movement for these gymnasts. Calming nerves is an important aspect of mental preparation. Gymnasts describe using imagery to deal with any anticipatory anxiety or fears that they had about
  • 33. performing. They realized that if they could image the skills/routines successfully then there was nothing to be nervous about. When one gymnast was asked to share what stood out for her in her imagery use, she replied, “Well, I just think that it makes things less overwhelming.” Another responded similarly saying, “I used it as a tool to make me calm— right before the skill, to collect my thoughts and to focus on whatever I was doing. For example, I would just see myself vault and land and salute like I had already done it. So, no problem. It was nothing to get nervous about, just go do it now.” MU also described how imagery allowed her to stop worrying: “It also calmed my nerves, I would see myself doing it and that reminded me to stop worrying about what could happen— living in the moment of that routine
  • 34. and that skill and enjoying it— not making it business- like...but just having fun with it.” In response to a follow-up question, she talked about how she used imagery to deal with the worry of trying a new skill, “I would not try a new skill until I could perfectly tell in my head what exactly was going to happen— where my body was supposed to be and that helped a lot with fear.” For these gymnasts, imagery acted as a calming mechanism when they were afraid or nervous. MR may have summed up this theme the best when she stated, “I would have been a basket case I think, to be honest —without doing visualization.” Building Con fi dence All of the gymnasts acknowledged that imagery allowed them to experience a greater sense of con fi dence. Con fi dence was often a by-product of imaging correct performances or rehearsing skills repetitively.
  • 35. “The more imagery I did, the more successful and con fi dent I became–—to do it just by seeing it go right in my head… if I fell a hundred times in my warm-up, it didn’t bother me because when I did it in my head, it was perfect, and I knew I could do it. So just as I – I gained more con fi dence in my routines and my skills like my mental aspects, really, really grew.” A large number of the gymnasts talked about using imagery for con fi dence right before performing a routine. VU provided an example of how imagery enhanced her con fi dence before her beam routine. “I can see myself doing it, I believe in myself that I can actually do it, so I know I can do it no matter what.” Another gymnast, who experienced several injuries throughout her career, talked about how imagery gave her con fi dence when she began training again. “Imagery also helped me be more con fi dent when I started redoing skills.”
  • 36. NZ described the relationship between imagery and con fi dence when she stated, “If you’re using imagery, you’re going to be prepared mentally for that success – And that con fi dence, it’s going to come naturally because you’ve done it over and over and over— I mean you have to put in the work, but imagining it the way you trained it, your con fi dence gets better.” Perspective Finally, the Perspective component refers to whether the athlete completes the imagery from an internal ( fi rst person) perspective, or an external (third person) perspective. Whilst the paradigm of functional equivalence would suggest that an internal perspective would be most bene fi cial, research has shown that for certain tasks an external perspective is preferable. (Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity). More advanced performers are able to switch from one perspective to another. When doing this, gain advantages from using both perspectives.
  • 37. Also, the issue of individual preference is absolutely crucial for successful interventions. Whilst it may be theoretically desirable, for instance, to adopt an internal visual perspective in many cases, some athletes may fi nd internal imagery dif fi cult or just prefer external imagery. (Smith 2010). In such cases, it is always preferable to accommodate the athlete’s wishes as far as possible so that the athlete is comfortable with what he or she is being asked to do. Conclusion Just like developing any new skill, imagery requires practice. It requires commitment and should become a part of daily routine. Generally, imagery works best when you’re relaxed. When relaxed, you can focus more easily on a positive image. When learning it can help to practice visualization right before you go to sleep at night, because you are likely to be relaxed and able to focus wholly on this task. (Lefkovits, McDuff, & Morgan Mental Toughness Training Manual for Gymnastics).
  • 38. For the most part, imagery is optimal when used in real-time. This may be dif fi cult to do at fi rst. Many gymnasts say that when they begin to try to visualize skills or routines, they can only see themselves doing the skills poorly or falling. If this happens, it is helpful to slow down the images until you can see or feel the skill being done well. (Lefkovits et al). Then speed it up little by little until you can see it in real-time. "Slowing down the images can also be useful to help analyze certain techniques or make speci fi c corrections." (Lefkovits et al). Remember that you have control over all these images. Depending on your own style, you will tend to imagine scenes from inside yourself, or from outside as if watching a performance on a screen. (Lefkovits et al). Be able to do both is ideal. So, try practicing imagery in steps. Being able to use both internal and external perspectives is useful because it allows you to translate ideal performance to your own performance. (Lefkovits et al). Although you will tend to use one form over another, practice using both internal and external perspectives as much as possible.
  • 39. Imagery is more than just visualization. Try using your sense of smell, hearing, touch, and even taste. This works best when you see what you would see, feel what you would feel, hear what you’d hear, and even taste what you would taste. The object is to get the sensation as true-to-life as possible. This means that if you are visualizing for a speci fi c competition, picture yourself in the meet situation in the actual venue in which you’ll be competing. (Lefkovits et al). Athletes from a wide range of sports have found imagery to be extremely valuable in enhancing performance. It is important to recognize that it works best when combined with actual practice of the skill. (Lefkovits et al). Imagery is not a replacement for regular gymnastics practice, rather, it is an enrichment of sports practice and performance. The Gymnastic Mind Game References Adams, I. L. J., Steenbergen, B., Lust, J.M., and Smits-Engelsman, B. C. M. (2016). Motor imagery training for children with developmental coordination
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