Imagery and visualisation – By Iain Wilson5th March 2021
How many times have you thought, when somebody mentions this imagery and visualisation stuff, that it’s only for those really elite performers who have access to sports psychologists?
Well, it may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but we can all do it, to a greater or lesser degree.
Some unkind people would call it daydreaming…
Think about it (that’s what you’re doing right now). Can you remember that day on the range, when the conditions were perfect, and you were shooting well? What did the shot feel like? How were you feeling? Can you feel the heat of the sun? Or more likely, what was the temperature of the rain? Was there a warm zephyr wafting across the field, or was there a tricky right to left gale? Were there any smells, like freshly cut grass, or agricultural pongs because they were spraying?
So, welcome to imagery and visualisation!
First off, maybe I need to explain what I mean by imagery and visualisation.
Imagery is more static, like a picture in your mind, a snapshot of something, like looking through a photo album. It can be a powerful tool, used to relax you.
Visualisation is more like a movie being played inside your head. Again a powerful tool, which can be used as part of your practice routine.
The image you choose for this has to be personal, and it has to be you who chooses the image you want to think of.
Personally, my relaxing image is of a late summer evening, with the sun behind me, standing on the shooting line, in between shots, just letting my mind wander, with an oak tree in front of me, and the leaves and branches are picked out by the light.
So, what I suggest to you is to sit down or lie down, but most of all to be comfortable, perhaps close your eyes and let your mind wander, until you find that image in your head, the one where you feel safe and comfortable. Got it? Concentrate on that image for a while. Now, ask yourself, how does that feel? Am I relaxed, comfortable?
This image can then be used to relax you, say when trying to get to sleep, or going for an interview, or standing on the line at a competition.
Imagery can also be helpful to you in tournament preparation. Say you are going to a competition in the near future (we can all dream…). Recalling your mental picture of the hall can help you with the preparation for the tournament, by reminding you of what the place looks like, the lighting conditions, the layout of the targets, how far away the toilets are from the shooting line and so on.
If you haven’t been to the shoot location before, arrive early, so you can get a good look around the place, get used to the light and the sounds, have a wander, and soak up the atmosphere, because this can then be used in the next part…. visualisation!
Visualisation is a technique which is more moving picture than imagery, involving feelings and memory of movements. It is a very powerful tool used by Olympic athletes in many sports as part of their training..
First off, to practise visualisation, you’re going to need a notepad, a pencil, an eraser and some paper. Why? I hear you ask…
So you can write down your shot sequence. Never done that before? Why not? It’s a useful way to work out whether the shot you just made was done according to your sequence. Like any plan, it’s there to tell you where you did it right (and by extension, where you went wrong).
Your shooting sequence is personal to you. It’s about how you shoot your arrows.
So, are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Call up your relaxing image, and start to work on the visualisation part.
Start off with 5 headings; Standing, Nocking, Drawing, Aiming and Releasing. Think of each heading, and how you do the associated activities.
So for example : Standing… Where do you put your feet in relation to the shooting line? How are you standing? Upright? Comfortably? Weight evenly distributed? And so on…
Do this for each heading, and you’ll have a rough draft of your shooting sequence. You may find that there are an awful lot of things that you do in order to shoot an arrow. Don’t worry about it, you can edit and change this document at any stage. It may get shorter, it may get longer. And it’s personal to you, nobody else will shoot your arrows the way you do.
To create this document, you have thought through your shot sequence and visualised every step of what you do.
The next step is to put all of your shot sequence together, and run through the shot in your head. Running it like a video. Most likely, this will be an internal view – what it looks (and feels) like to you. Try and visualise yourself in an environment known to you, like indoors at the range.
Researchers have found when working with sports people visualising their activity, that the muscles used in the activity become engaged, but at a lower level than they would normally. Just be aware, that you cannot visualise yourself match fit for a competition, you still have to go out and do the training.
The important thing is, that when you are practising inside your head, that you only shoot good shots… The brain remembers the good shots, but it also remembers the bad shots. If you mentally train yourself to shoot bad shots, you will shoot badly.
You can also use visualisation on the shooting line. After each shot, you can replay the shot in your mind, to compare it with your ideal shot, then replay your ideal shot in preparation for the next shot.
To finish up, visualise good shots, and visualise yourself pulling your arrows out of the X-ring. The more you train your mind to do the good shots, the more your body will want to do the good shots.