Mental Moment: Psychoneuromuscular Theory

 In Coaches, Focus & Awareness, Professional & Olympic Athletes

How does imagery really work?

Psychoneuromuscular theory: when an Elite Performer practices using imagery, they imagine movements without performing them, although the brain interprets this as if they were performing them, which provides similar impulses in the brain and in the muscles. Small impulses fire from your brain to your muscles with the exactness that you are imagining.

Take one small area of your performance that you are struggling with or want to enhance. If you were performing that one thing to your level of ‘perfection’ what would that look like? Write it down. Go through what you wrote down and take out anything you can’t see, hear, taste, smell or touch or anything that is phrased in a negative way.

Go through it again and add some sensory information (see, hear, taste, smell or touch) and positive’s (strong, steady, soft, fast, etc.). The positives might not be what is actually happening but what you want to have happen. For example, one of my elite marathon clients used to start races too fast so she began imagining that she started races slower (which for her was a positive), strong, energized and relaxed.

Imagery should include as many senses as possible. Think back to your favorite movie. If you were watching the movie but had no sound, what would your experience be like? What if you had sound but no picture? Now imagine you were watching and listening to your favorite movie and you could taste, smell and feel everything going on in that movie. How would that change your experience? Lastly, you have probably attached various emotional states to your favorite movie: sadness, laughter, anger, etc. Because we use so many of our senses when we watch a movie, it feels like real life and that is why we watch it. Imagery is much the same way.

Imagery works to improve concentration, build confidence, control emotional responses, acquire or develop sports skills, cope with pain or injury and help solve problems. Try it and let me know how is goes.




Dr. Michelle Cleere
In her own private practice as an elite performance expert, Dr. Michelle Cleere helps top athletes, musicians, and executives in competitive fields unlock the power of the mind and create the mental toughness to be the best. Dr. Michelle’s extensive academic background, which includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Sports Psychology, allows her to help clients deal with performance anxiety, gain more confidence, and build resilience. In addition to personal coaching, Dr. Michelle takes on many roles – a best-selling author, athlete, and teacher. Dr. Michelle’s bestseller line, Beating the Demons, helps clients develop practical skills to gain more control over competitive environments and mitigate the interruption in play to overcome intense odds and defeat adversity. As a 15-year USAT Coach, she developed simple and effective tools to mentally train her athletes, and they are used by coaches around the world. She is a professor at John F. Kennedy University where she teacher her students to use the mind as an ally to improve performance.
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