"Visualisation. It may be the most important part of your mental package."
- Ray Floyd
Team selection is now underway for the RowLeeds Indoor Champs on the 12th December. So whether you're getting ready for trials or you've already been selected, we've pulled together some top tips to visualising your perfect row*.
Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.
Picture yourself just before you fall asleep the night before your trial or race. Run through your race plan (getting on the erg, managing your breathing, aiming for controlled aggression, having your 'race numbers' in your head). Thinking through this step by step as you fall asleep programs your neurological pathway so that the plan will sit in your head in a more natural way when the pressure moment comes.
Imagine waking up on the day of your row. Picture yourself eating a good carb-loaded breakfast with fruit juice.
Now, imagine, as you have your breakfast, you'll have a post-it note pad and a pen beside you. You will write down three things you want to remember during the race. You know you'll stick this note just below the erg monitor during the race. Research has shown this will improve performance by up to 6%. It could be something like 'shut up legs', 'settle into mid-race split by stroke 15' or 'long and strong'- whatever works for you.
Picture your day up to the all-important row. Notice that you are drinking water with regular sips throughout the day, totalling around two litres of water consumed before 3pm. During this time, imagine eating your final carb-loaded meal of the day by 12:30/1pm at latest and continue to drink water. You've probably eaten rice or potato at lunch rather than pasta or bread as the first two are less refined and easier to digest, giving you your much needed energy source at 3/3:30pm.
Now visualise the moment you arrive at the gym or race floor. You have begun your warm up and stretching routine without needing to be told by your coach. You are in a bubble of concentration. You know you've visualised this race many times. You slept with your race plan in your mind, and you are ready to execute it. To avoid becoming anxious, you remind yourself to focus on the process rather than the result.
Next, you visualise your race. Imagine
- Your first five strokes (start pattern)
- Your next ten strokes (hard ten)
- Stroke 16 onwards. You can see yourself settling into your race pace and you can see your race splits are on target. It feels easier at first because your adrenaline has kicked in but you know that your body can only do so much and you don't want to hit a wall with a minute to go. So you remind yourself of your race plan, you glance at your post-it note and you see yourself sticking to your mid-race pace target. Your discipline will pay off because you know you need to be able to attack and sprint as you near the end of your trial/race.
Imagine how you feel and picture how you look as you executive your mid-race strategy. You are holding a long and strong stroke and are keeping within two seconds either side of your target split and one pip within your target stroke rate. You glance at your post-it note again for about ten strokes during the mid-race phase. You are aiming for one leg drive after another. Consistency is key and you can see yourself rowing consistently.
You can now picture your sprint finish. As you approach one minute to go, you are ramping up your rhythm and are getting ready to empty the tank. Imagine how much pain you can drive into your legs and lungs. You know you are pushing your body but you know your mind is strong enough. You know that the body's pain signals come way before the body is ready to fail. Imagine that feeling as you start to experience just what your body is capable of, as you start to reach your full physical potential. With one minute to go, you are preparing yourself for the pain.
Picture 45 seconds to go, increase your stroke rate by two pips. You'll be just below full power. You are still managing long strokes. You are sticking to your race plan.
30 seconds to go and imagine yourself now at full sprint, up two more pips and now at full power, 3/4 slide - sit up, legs down.
15 seconds and you can see you are giving it everything. Up another two pips on stroke rate, 1/2 slide. You are rowing for the lowest split possible and you see yourself racing right through the line. You won't stop until the machine says 'zero'.
You did it. Visualise yourself stepping off the machine. You are taking your time. You don't let the pain show. Your water bottle is beside your erg and you take a sip. You did your best. Process is everything and you know that following your race plan has given you your best chance of fulfilling the potential you have at this point in your journey.
You walk off the race floor and your teammates are there to congratulate you. Your teacher is proud of you. Your coach gives you a wink. You drink more water and start your cool down and stretching routine. The next race is about to start for one of your teammates so time for you to start cheering.
Open your eyes. Take a minute to get back into the real world.
The more you can picture your best performance in your head before you do it, the closer you'll get to that performance. By rehearsing in your mind, the body is already preparing to do what it needs to do.. The execution is that much easier when the computer in your head is programmed. It is much more likely to kick in and take over in the pressure moments than if you do no preparation at all. It's all part of the challenge and the consequential feelings of satisfaction of a job well done.
There's still to time enter our next Indoor Champs. Registration closes on the 7th December: Enter the Champs
Read how two of our competitors from February's championships got on with their first ever race here: How it feels to win
*This blog assumes a trial/ race start time of approximately 3:30pm