Visualizing Your Way to a Quicker Recovery
If you are an athlete, odds are you have at one time or another been sidelined by an injury. The frustration that comes with being unable to train and compete can lead to a loss in motivation and a longer recovery process. To combat this, athletes should learn to use visual relaxation and performance techniques and practice them diligently.
There are many forms of relaxation training that athletes can use to help accelerate rehabilitation after injury, including kinesthetic (progressive muscle relaxation), mindfulness (breathing techniques), auditory (listening to calming voices), hypno-relaxation (using hypnosis to induce relaxation, and visual methods (including imagery).
Visual relaxation methods to speed up recovery
- Remembered imagery. Remember a pleasant and relaxing time in your life. Re-experience it. Become fully absorbed, focusing on what you see, smell, hear and feel against your skin as you visualize that calming scene.
- Constructed imagery. Imagine a pleasant or relaxing scene in your mind. Step into the picture and experience the scene fully.
- Hypnotherapy using imagery. Make up a recording or listen to one by a professional hypnotherapist, that includes visualizing healing red blood cells surrounding the injured muscle, tendon, bone, etc. with nutrients, directed at rapid reduction of inflammation and total healing.
Injured athletes should experiment with all available relaxation methods to find the ones that are most comfortable and beneficial. A combination of methods can be used; it’s up to athletes to decide which ones are best suited for them. Once the athlete has become comfortable with a specific technique, it then must be practiced for maximum results.
If you’re injured, you can still visualize championship-level performance and begin to lay hypnotic tracks in your subconscious mind that will carry over once you’re physically able to perform. Here are some easy steps for visual performance training while you’re still injured:
- Watch videos of yourself performing, especially ones highlighting best previous performances. If a personal highlight reel isn’t available, watch training videos of other great athletes in action.
- Close your eyes and imagine your ideal performance. Really get a good sense of what you look like and feel like when you perform.
- Practice this imagery using the actual time sequence of your average performance. For example, if you’re a track athlete, “run a race” on a stationary bike. If the race is for 400 meters, “race” on a bike for 50 seconds and at the same time visualize your performance.
You may feel a little silly at first, but trust me, this works.
Staying motivated during rehabilitation
After being injured, athletes can lose a sense of identity and become depressed from not being able to compete. That’s why constant feedback and support from coaches and teammates is so crucial to helping an injured athlete stay motivated. Coaches should encourage injured players to make appearances at practices, and athletes need to be proactive about remaining involved in the team and its progress. Coaches can assign certain duties at practice, involve them in strategy sessions, or let them assist in keeping stats. If an athlete has an upper body injury, they can jump on an exercise bike at practice sites to both maintain endurance and still be a part of the team.
If you stay motivated, practice your visual relaxation and performance techniques, and keep up with your physical therapy treatment, you will be ready to physically compete again before you know it.
Jack N. Singer, Ph.D. is a licensed and certified Clinical/Sport Psychologist and Performance Success Coach, based in Mission Viejo, CA. For more information and a FREE 15 minute consultation for all Rausch PT clients and family, contact Jack at 949-481-5660. www.drjacksinger.com