What is Imagination
Imagination. What do we use it for? Typically when someone mentions imagination, we associate it with something that requires someone to be very creative. Maybe it’s painting, or telling a story, or making a video. Imagination can also be an educator. In reality, it is a very basic concept: the act of forming a mental image of something not present to our senses and not perceived in reality. We all do it to some degree all the time, often without realizing it. When used with purpose and intent, imagination can be used to improve our performance.
What is the Aim of Mental Imagery?
Like all other aspects of our training, mental imagery should be practiced with intent when trying to impact our performance. In this case, the intent is to improve our sport-related skills. The benefits are more easily realized in off-road disciplines such as cyclocross and mountain biking; though road, track and BMX riders will still find it useful.
How is mental imagery used to improve skills?
Fortunately, this is one method of training that doesn’t require much time, has no costs, and is easy to do! Simply imagine what you are trying to do. The one caveat is that when imagining it, you need an idea of what it looks like to do the particular skill proficiently. Imagining poor form is just as bad as practicing poor form.
Let’s say that for this cyclocross season, you set a goal for being able to hop the barriers consistently. This is a difficult skill to learn, we all know what it looks like when done well, and yet the execution still escapes us. To help speed up the process of learning this skill, you have decided to employ mental imagery as part of your bunny hopping practice. Prior to each session, you sit down, close your eyes, and visualize yourself hopping the barriers. With good form. Imagine floating over the barriers as if you could do it in your sleep. After a few minutes of this mental movie on repeat, you go out and start hopping barriers. You may not be perfect, but the coordination feels better.
The trick here is not that you can perform the task in real life, but you can do it in your head. Convince your brain that you can do it, and you may just find that the next time you go to perform that skill, you actually can. If not, you should at least be a bit better than before. This can be used to help any areas we are struggling with, from remounting a cx bike to navigating a difficult rock garden on a mountain bike, and everything in between.
So what are you waiting for? Go use that imagination!