Welcome to Bled. Welcome to the World Championships. Welcome to the reality of what’s required. Welcome and here we go. But before we race and even during the race week a key to performance is visualization. In all the various forms, structured, casual, systematic, organic, with all the comes with creating the head space and stimulation energetically of what we are readying ourselves to do.
Reinvigoration and stimulation through visualization has us enjoying the final phase of preparations which is why I was a little surprised in our first session.
A rather strange thing happened yesterday. We were laying in our room as Cobber took us through a relaxation and visualization session. The first of what will be many over these two weeks.
The strange thing was how great the relaxation was then as soon as he started moving us into the boat and had us on the start line my heart rate went up. I say strange only because it took me by surprise. We had agreed before the session that once he started the imaginary race he would just alert us to 250m markers and I would make the race call like I would in the boat.
This has happened in the past but I guess once you do many visualization sessions the capacity to be ready and have simple little strategies for maintaining a calmness during imagining the race become very subtle. It had been years since I had done a specific race visualization.
It was a big part of what we did way back in 1996. Eventually that year after Noel Donaldson has set up the relaxation aspect and brought us into the boat my role as the person making the calls was to run through the calls. From memory I practices this heaps And found eventually it was so clear and the rhythm and timing of the race while eyes closed was pretty spot on for what would happen out on the water during our race.
So yesterday the anticipation was noticeable as my heart rate jumped and I could feel a certain level of anxiety as it washed over the relaxed feeling we had established. With each call I found my body temperature and rate rate rise and it was consistent with each moment that I would be reminding the guys or asking the guys to respond.
This is what was strange. Between the physiological responses and probably how much my mind spin into gear of racing, it just caught me out. Actually made it all a bit overwhelming, not in a bad way just required some more preparation and clarity beforehand.
First questions then… Why is it that just by imagining racing we can be triggered so significantly in this way? How help is this?
My thinking has always been it is helpful. To be triggered and have the capacity to find composure is great. Yesterday I was not greatly composed and did like the responses I felt, but it has lead to learning. Why it happens has much to do with associations and connection between mind and body. Anticipation plays it’s part and with it comes the chemical exchanges and release of the various elements like adrenaline and cortisol. Breathing, relaxation and composure are all great antidotes for this.
What did I learn then and how did I apply this?
To take a moment before the call to be clear, calm and relaxed is key not just in the visualization but when we are out on the water. Funny things is while on the water today during our session we did a number of racing efforts. During them I took this learning with me. It helped and I felt it aided in holding off the fatigue process. I felt almost like I was floating along during the efforts and although I could feel what was going on and although it wasn’t perfect in our boat I sensed I was less frustrated and the cost of the efforts was lower. My energy levels were higher and actually felt in reasonable control of movement and stayed light and fast.
Then later today we did another visualization session and by bring this learning into the session for the second time was much better. Or at least from my own perspective of composure and triggers.
How important is awareness of the emotional roller coaster and what comes with the responses and strategies?
Personally I feel it is critical that we are capable of handling high pressure situations but only if we have either had experiences or taken or make opportunities to create the highs, lows, stressors, responses and to be able to practice how we might handle it all.
To be able to see the movement, each stroke, the harmony, the race, the event. To be able to feel subtly the feelings, emotions and to harness it all to focus the energy towards a great performance. It’s a big part of major events. Great performances.
This week we have rowed less and yet spent much time visualizing how we will row and race.