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Jack Nicklaus has said: “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having
a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head”. Even heavyweight champion,
Muhammad Ali, used mental practices to enhance his performance in the
ring such as: “affirmation; visualization; mental rehearsal; self-confirmation;
and perhaps the most powerful epigram of personal worth ever uttered: “I
am the greatest””. I can’t think of any examples of cyclists using visualisation
offhand - I’ve probably just forgotten reading them because the application
to e.g. riding the perfect sprint, kilo TT, pursuit etc is obvious. It could be
applied easily to the evening 10 – e.g. rehearse the perfect high-speed transit
through that tricky final corner of the A20 on the CC Bexley midweek evening
10s (can’t remember the Q code) without risk of road rash/broken bones or
the inconvenience of riding back up the hill for each rehearsal.

What got my attention was that the quoted study wasn’t the usual technique
improvement angle but actual physical strength improvement.

Brain studies prove that thoughts produce the same mental instructions
as actions. Mental imagery impacts cognitive processes in the brain: motor
control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting
trained for actual performance during visualization. Mental practices can
enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor
performance and even prime your brain for success. (What – you are
visualising your ideal TT ride into equal 35th on a 25 minute 10? Why?? You
can bet that if Cancellara uses visualisation he always wins…!)

[To show what can be achieved, Matthew Nagle who is paralyzed in all four
limbs, had a silicone chip implanted in his brain. After just 4 days of mental
practice, he could: move a computer cursor on a screen, open email, play a
computer game, and control a robotic arm.]

Effective visualisation begins by establishing a highly specific goal. Imagine
the future; you have already achieved your goal. Hold a mental image of it as
if it were happening right at that moment. Imagine the scene in as much
detail as possible, engaging as many of the five senses as you can. Who are
you with? What emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing?

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