Seeing is believing — and achieving. If what you wish to accomplish is too undefined or vague, it’s much less likely to happen. That’s why so many athletes rely on visualization during training and competition, and why so much research backs its efficacy: One oft-cited study from the University of Chicago asked participants to visualize shooting basketball free throws — the weight of the ball, how it arced through the air, the sound it made as it whooshed through the basket — and in just four weeks, their shooting improved by 23 percent.
“The times I won a competition, I was all in mentally and physically,” says Erin Stern, Division I track athlete and two-time Figure Olympia champion. “I visualized every detail of the competition — from the suit to how the stage felt under my feet to my posing to the weight of the medals hanging around my neck. Create the accomplishment in your head first, then make it tangible and it will come to fruition.”