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Both professional and amateur


runners have benefited from Chiplin’s camps, including graduate Ginny Landes, 62, who says visualization techniques have changed her running outlook and her life.


“My goal is not high achievement Picture Perfect From athletes to astronauts,


mental imagery boosts performance. by Debra Melani


L


ast winter, Terry Chiplin went for an early morning run near his Colo- rado home. Snow crunched as his sneakered feet hit the front porch of his mountain lodge, tucked into a secluded forest. Evergreen boughs glistened in the sun, drooping slightly from the weight of the sparkling white powder. The running coach smiled as he lifted his face to the sky, welcoming the large, wet flakes that kissed his face. “Can you picture it?” asks the bub-


50


bly British native and owner of Active at Altitude, in Estes Park. That is visual- ization, he explains, a concept he uses regularly at retreats he conducts for run- ners from beginner to elite as a holistic means of boosting performance. “It’s simply a succession of mental images; we use visualization all the time.” Whether it’s Tiger Woods envision- ing a perfect golf swing minutes before taking a shot or Michael Phelps replay- ing a mental video of an ideal swim the night before an Olympic event, many athletes have long worked with trainers such as Chiplin to move beyond strictly physical preparation and consciously enlist creative mental capacities to enhance their performance. Using im- agery and positive self-talk can improve Chicago North & North Shore


the efforts of any type of athlete and, as Chiplin’s clients have found, improve their lives. “The notion that we are just a


physical body, so we just need to train physically, is old-fashioned,” Chiplin maintains. Shortly after launching his program six years ago, he learned first- hand how powerful the mind could be in boosting (or sabotaging) performance. He remarks, “It quickly became apparent that the main issues people face are the mental things, what is hap- pening in their heads.” Chiplin recalls watching runners fall from the peak ca- pabilities they had reached after train- ing hard for endurance events as their mileage tapered off in the final days before the race. Similarly, he thinks the sort of “negative visualization” he witnessed can have a similar impact on everyday life events, such as exams, interviews and job achievement. Although unclear about its exact


mechanism, sports psychologists have long recognized the value of positive mental imagery, especially in building skills and reducing anxiety. In working with athletes, they apply shared models such as those reported in The Sport Psychologist.


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or personal records; it’s to always finish my run feeling good,” says Landes, of Lafayette, Colorado. As part of the visu- alizing process, she says she also clears her mind of negative thoughts, stops comparing her performance to others and accepts factors that are out of her control, whether it’s bad race weather or competitive colleagues. Practicing helpful visualization


techniques consistently in daily life can lead to better returns across the board, not just in athletics, according to Terry Orlick, a performance consul- tant from Ottawa, Ontario, and author of many self-improvement books, including Embracing Your Potential and In Pursuit of Excellence.


Visualization Tips A


s with any skill, practice often, gradually increasing the number


of sessions.


n For maximum effect, incorporate sounds, smells, colors and feel- ings to create vivid images.


n Plan imagery to meet current needs. If struggling with a skill, imagine performing it perfectly and confidently many times. If distractions are an issue, imagine remaining calm and focused while dealing with whatever occurs during an event.


Source: Adapted from Association for Applied Sport Psychology


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