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  • Emily Ashton

The Power of Visualisation

How can I be prepared to compete later in the year if I can’t train?

How will I be at my peak for Tokyo 2021?



The pandemic has seen many sports stars both emerging and world renowned hit with the aforementioned questions.

One of our squad members, Justyna, is stuck in an apartment miles and miles away from the sea and isn’t allowed to walk outside without a valid reason, let alone train.

I have been trying to wrap my head around a way that I might be able to help someone, anyone, cope and train during this time.

The one thing I can suggest is Visualisation.

As an ex-swimmer I was introduced to visualisation at a young age by one of my coaches. We would picture ourselves behind the blocks, doing our pre-race routine. For me that meant swinging my arms, slapping my legs and readjusting my googles for the 26th time…

We would picture the whistle being blown to get on the blocks, visualising and feeling the sensation of our hearts racing, the pause and the buzzer.

Counting each dolphin kick.


Visualising where we would come up, whether it be 12m, 13m, 14m etc.


Head down.


1, 2, 3…. Every stroke.


Where we took every breath.


The lactic acid, the moment when you feel your whole body burning, your internal pep talk.


Hitting the wall.


And stop the clock. We were timing our future race and trying to get the time we were aiming for.



We pictured it all.


The more we practiced, the more consistent we got. The more realistic it became and it showed on race day.

It made us more confident on race days because we had swum the race hundreds of times already in our mind.


By providing your brain with a series of repetitions of your ideal performance, you are able to lock it in with greater ease on race day.


Your brain has difficulty differentiating between imagined or real-life experiences. Have you ever had a dream where you weren’t sure if it had actually happened? Visualisation takes advantage of this.


Yes I know visualisation cannot replace your training, however it can help.


But don’t take my word for it:

· Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, did a study of people visualising themselves doing weight training without even touching any weights and they saw an increase in strength by 13.5%.

· Shane Murphy, Doug Jowdy and Shirley Durtschi conducted a survey on imagery, asking Coaches at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO and found that 94% of them as well as 90% of the athletes used imagery in their sport. One hundred percent of the Coaches and 97% of the athletes surveyed agreed imagery DOES enhance performance.

· Bob Bowman, who has been Phelps’ coach since he was a teenager, has included mental imagery / visualisation as a part of Phelps’ mental training. He would tell him to play “the tape” before he went to sleep and when he woke up. “When I would visualize,” Phelps has stated “it would be what you want it to be, what you don’t want it to be, what it could be. You are always ready for whatever comes your way.”


Visualisation works.


You can’t control everything that happens in competition, but you can control how you respond if you train your mind to be still in response to adversity.

Use visualization to rehearse overcoming adversity.

Use visualization to manifest success.

In this time of uncertainty, instead of focusing on what we can’t do, let’s focus on what we can do.

Let’s go inwards and focus on building resilience and confidence.

What have you been doing to stay competition ready during this pandemic? Share your tips below! We are all in this together.

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