Visualization: Like An Athlete
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”
Edgar Allan Poe
Sweat is rolling. I’m inward-focused and forging the last hill. My body is paradoxically energized and depleted. The day before, I ran 17 miles in 87 degrees. Now I’m in spin class. I shut my eyes and push my legs against high resistance. Then I hear one of my favorite things Emily, the instructor, says: “How do you want to cross your finish line – like a diva, like a princess? Or do you want to cross it like an athlete, like a champion?” This always stirs me: “Like an athlete.”
I love the visualization encouraged in spin class. In the dimly lit studio, Emily advocates self-focus. We work hard, drop our heads, and close our eyes. The finish line of which she speaks? It’s a gateway to personal transformation. I picture approaching the New York City Marathon finish – spent, pushing, using everything I’ve got to cross that line in under 3:40.
I’d forgotten visualization is such a powerful tool. Conceptualizing the challenges of training and racing helps me feel prepared. It’s a way in which I can practice reactions to certain situations before they emerge. This may help me overcome some of the psychological obstacles I’m encountering in training. Oddly enough, I’d used this approach last year and it worked quite well.
When training for the 2011 New York City Marathon, I imagined crossing the Central Park finish line on nearly every run. I pictured those last moments on the course repeatedly. I memorized the feeling of running that final incline. Although I hadn’t run 26.2 miles before, I pieced together how my race day experience may feel. The visual, physical, and emotional cues became deep-rooted. When the marathon arrived, my finish line experience was familiar as I’d mentally practiced it for months.
It’s time to start visualizing again. I’ll be interjecting a bit more dreaming into the actualities of training. Perhaps those dreams will be so vivid, so detailed and well-thought out, they’ll support my race day reality. A few months hence, I’ll cross the finish line of the New York City Marathon. If it’s anything close to what I imagine, I’ll have given everything I can muster – in body and mind – to realize my goal.