Pre-race visualization can boost your performance

Joseph Chebet wins the 1999 Boston Marathon  Credit: Ezra Shaw/Allsport
Visualization is the foundation from which your greatest dreams can be realized. It is a conscious, active process that takes place in a state of deep relaxation, in which you choose to view in your mind's eye positive images that will directly influence how you run.

Your central nervous system doesn't distinguish between real and imagined events; it responds to all images as if they were real.

If you imagine yourself running strong and relaxed, you will feel inner calm and confidence, and your performance will reflect that.

If you picture yourself struggling during an upcoming run, you'll become tense and anxious, and those feelings will negatively affect your performance.

Visualization works because it is a dress rehearsal that familiarizes you with the actual task that lies ahead. When the time comes, you have the sense that you've "been there, done that."

In addition, visualization clears the mind of images that block your efforts by replacing them with images of success that relax the body for optimal performance.

It is a learned skill that you should practice regularly. Begin with daily 10- to 15-minute visualization sessions.

1. Find a quiet place free of potential interruptions.

2. Sit in a relaxed position or lie down and close your eyes.

3. Take five deep breaths through your nostrils, holding each breath for approximately five seconds, then slowly releasing each one.

4. Now, imagine yourself running see the terrain, feel the turf beneath you, smell the scents in the air, feel the exuberance of cruising up the hills and descending rapidly.

Simply perform, in your mind's eye, exactly as you know you can, or want to, on any given day. Perhaps you'd like to rehearse an upcoming race, going over the course in detail. Or visualize the weekend's long run. Imagine your performance exactly as you would expect when you do everything correctly.

Practice visualization daily. It may take a few days before it comes readily to you, but don't get discouraged. In time, you will perfect the process and enjoy the rewards.

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