At some point in your skating career you may experience an injury and the slew of emotions that accompany this experience are palpable. Frustration, anger, sadness to name a few are felt by your “whole team” (mom, dad, coach, family pet!, etc). You want to keep pushing through, your parents feel for you but are considerate of your future well being, your coach wants to be supportive and provide the right guidance but is thinking about the upcoming competitive season and is helping you “play the long game”.
The truth is, no one knows how far an injury can be pushed or how much rest is really required to heal the physical body…but you want to keep training.
How do you train when we are injured?
The answer is….VISUALIZATION
Harvard research has shown that…
“MENTAL TRAINING CAN CHANGE THE PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF THE BRAIN”
In a nutshell…
Harvard Medical School observed the motor cortex in the brains of 2 groups of volunteers. One group was instructed to practice playing a little five finger piano exercise for 2 hours each day over a 5 day period, while the other group were only allowed to imagine playing the piano exercise. What was remarkable was that the region of the motor cortex that controls the piano-playing fingers EXPANDED in the brains of those who IMAGINED PLAYING the music, just as it had in those who ACTUALLY PLAYED IT!(1)
What does this mean for athletes with injuries?
This illustrates the power of your thoughts to influence your brain. So…if you are an injured athlete who is taking a physical break, seize this opportunity to practice visualizing yourself performing.
3 Tips to Turn Visualization into Reality on the Ice!
1. Make it a habit
- Committing a practice to habit is the key to positive results. Practice visualizing for 3 minutes before bed 5 nights per week. Consistency is key to creating a habit. If at first you forget or struggle, stick with it and after a few weeks of practice it will become routine and easy.
2. See it through your own eyes
- See yourself completing the jump or your routine through your own eyes. This means that you notice your surroundings, ie. the boards, lines on the ice, the sounds of your blades cutting the ice, as you complete the element perfectly.
3. Pair a feeling with the visualization
- Identify how you would feel having completed the jump or your routine flawlessly, ie. excited, happy, proud. Consider the connection between how you feel and your body language. When you are proud you have your head up, shoulders back, a smile on your face. Position yourself this way to help you experience this feeling while you are visualizing.
Once you are back training it won’t take long before your visualization becomes your reality on the ice! Visualization has become part of your routine, so continue to use it as a tool to help you achieve your goals.
Until next time,
Keep your brain in the game!
 Sharon Begley, “The Brain: How the Brain Re-wires Itself,” Time Magazine.com, January 19, 2007, accessed November 16, 2015, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580438-1,00.html