Lately I've been thinking about the power of the mind and how it can greatly effect our performance. Think about it - if you're feeling flat or depressed, your performance levels are nowhere near that if your motivated and excited. So why don't we spend more time strengthening our mind to drive us into better performance?
Today we will be looking at powerful mind technique which is commonly recognized as imagery or visualisation. Practicing imagery/visualisation has been known to strengthen the pathways between your brain and the rest of your body which can improve your coordination with certain techniques. I can recall numerous skills that I have achieved with imagery/visualisation being a key additive to the technique's success. Imagery/visualisation is a great exercise to improve your ability to ride lines, rail corners, clear jumps and win races.
How To Do It
You can strengthen your brain-body pathways at any opportunity where you are doing nothing; it might be on the bus, in the waiting room or on the loo - but the best time for brain training is probably when you just get into bed at night when it is dark and quiet. Basically all you have to do is visualise yourself doing stuff! Like any training method, you will need to progressively overload your sessions - start with around 5 minutes at a time and gradually build the duration. After a few sessions your imagination ability will improve and so will the quality of your visualisation. Visualise yourself riding tricky lines through single track, clearing jumps you can't yet hit and cornering with precision for starters; you will be able to think of areas you want to improve depending on where you are at with your riding (you may look at riding relaxed and smoothly - floating over the terrain, having good peddling form, riding in a tight bunch etc.). When visualising, make sure you are using good riding technique so it can be converted into reality. It is important that when you are visualising yourself ride, you are looking through your own eyes as if you were riding, not as if you ware watching yourself from a distance.
If you are new to mountain biking or you are unsure on how to tackle a technique, watch videos (youtube) and/or better riders who can execute the skill to see how it is done properly. We can learn a lot from our downhill/free ride brethren so don't rule them out when observing skills.
Imagery Training On-The-Go
One thing I do a fair bit of is picking lines on any remotely rideable thing. If I'm walking down a staircase I'll visualise myself riding down the stairs. If I see an open rock face I will plan the best route to the bottom. Even if it is unlikely that I will be facing any of these obstacles in a single track situation, similar hazards on a smaller scale are sure to arise and I am able to attack them with more confidence because I have already pre-planned a bigger stunt.
Stay tuned for more psychology techniques to improve your riding, coming soon...