Mentalisation et pratique sportive

Mentalization and sports practice

How to use the different mentalization techniques to improve your sports practice?

At Elemat , our philosophy is to support you in your daily well-being, including in your sports practice and your performance. This is why we wanted to talk to you about different mentalization techniques and how to put them into practice.

Mentalization is the ability to interpret and understand one's mental state and more specifically one's thoughts, feelings, wishes and intentions.

Different mentalization devices based on discoveries in neurology and neuroscience are used by athletes to improve their practice and allow them greater physical and mental ease. Four main mentalization techniques are increasingly practiced in sports: visualization, meditation, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Mental imagery and visualization

Visualization is the most widespread practice. The athlete mentally imagines performing an action regardless of the sport and its objectives. It works through nerve stimulation sent to the muscles.

Jeannerod's theoretical work at the end of the 1990s shows that during a mentalization session, the propagation of a nervous message is developed, as well as the ability to recruit muscle fibers for the execution of the movement.

The fact of visualizing winning a match or crossing the finish line of a race allows the athlete to become familiar with the idea of ​​success and thus, to better realize that he is capable of it.

Beyond a quest for gain, this method also leads to better execution of movements. It is very useful for athletes who are learning a new technique.

In addition, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning was able to show that visualization allows a gain in physical strength. By visualizing themselves performing bodybuilding repetitions with a weight similar to the one they use, the athlete increases their strength almost as much as by performing these repetitions. The brain cannot tell the difference between an action that is actually happening and an action that it imagines.

The simple fact of imagining oneself carrying out something activates the same neural circuit that is activated when one carries out the action. The more this neuronal circuit is activated, the more it strengthens, like a muscle, it is cerebral plasticity.

The benefits of meditation

The second technique that caught our attention is meditation. Different types of meditation are practiced in order to improve one's sports practice.

Mindfulness meditation, also known as "Mindfulness" or Vipassana, which means "penetrating vision", is a healing technique inspired by Buddhism and yoga that was disseminated in the West in the 1970s by biologist Jon Kabat Zinn. We use this technique to reduce states of stress and prevent relapses of depression. It allows you to be in the present moment and the more the brain is in the present moment, the more efficient it is in terms of managing emotions and attention. Mindfulness meditation therefore allows the athlete to improve their attentional capacities, their emotional management and their lucidity.

In addition, there is another type of meditation, this one approaching the principle of visualization. This is creative visualization meditation. It consists of imagining yourself achieving your specific goal during meditation. This method comes from the Techniques of Optimization of Potential (TOP), techniques developed within the army in the 1990s by the former military doctor Édith Perreaut-Pierre to manage operational stress. They are based on four pillars: breathing, mental imagery, internal dialogue and relaxation.

Here, the creative visualization meditation plunges the athlete into a modified state of consciousness in which he visualizes himself reaching his goal while feeling the sensations and the benefits provided by this action. After having experienced these sensations, he must imagine precisely the actions to be put in place to achieve this.

Hypnosis to relax but especially to concentrate

Hypnosis is another method of mentalization beneficial to athletes. Technique studied from the end of the 18th century by Franz Anton Mesmer in Germany, today its use is very varied.

Many athletes practice it in order to manage their stress and pressure. But beyond its relaxing virtues, it also helps to act on concentration. For example, Michael Schumacher put himself in a hypnotic state before a race to be optimally concentrated. The slightest error in Formula 1 can be fatal. Hypnosis makes it possible to increase the automaticity of the technical gestures that are necessary during a competition, in particular through the use of mental imagery. Sensory perceptions are more heightened under hypnosis, making it possible to work on the execution of a gesture or a technique

The first phase of the hypnosis session is that of relaxation, which is deepened until reaching an altered state of consciousness. We then address the unconscious according to the requests defined at the beginning of the session. Each moment of sports practice will be meticulously studied, from the preparation to the sensations felt during the effort, until the visualization of the end. You should know that 90% of our actions and our thoughts are managed by our unconscious.

Neuro-linguistic programming, anchoring and the switch

Sports practice can also be improved by an anchoring technique that is used in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a verbal and non-verbal communication tool developed in the 1970s in the United States by John Grinder and Richard Bandler .

The anchoring technique consists in associating an emotion, a positive feeling with a gesture. The brain loves to make connections. The objective is therefore to train the brain so that it associates this gesture with this emotion in order to be able to provoke it at any time. Practitioners use this method to allow an athlete to summon this predefined mental state "on command", especially during competitions.

For its part, the switch corresponds to a shift from a negative mental state to a positive mental state by having created an emotional void and then using the anchoring technique.

These different methods of mentalization allow you a multitude of psychological and physical benefits. They will promote relaxation and self-confidence and regulate anxiety and stress. On a physical level, they lead to an increase in strength and facilitate the learning of new movements and their quality of execution. They will also allow you to better manage pain and recovery.

But beyond the benefits on sports practice, the different mentalization techniques allow you to better manage your daily life in general. Integrated into a routine, they prevent burn-outs and periods of intense stress.

You understand better now why at Elemat , we could not miss this subject. Do you visualize zero time with our products?

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