Table of Content
Visualization in triathlon training for recreational athletes
In the case of enduring cyclical loads, it is advantageous to add mental training to the training plan. Visualization is a simple and versatile method. It can lead to improvements in training, technique, competition and avoidance of mistakes in further competitions.
Jan Frodeno, Anne Haug, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Sebastian “Sebi" Kienle and Faris Al-Sultan have long been names, that are on everyone's lips and have their place in the tabloid press. Triathletes have long since ceased to be crackers and outsiders. Triathlon nowadays is a very popular endurance sport. Triathlon is a sport where swimming, cycling and running are done one after the other. The distances from a few kilometers of about 10 kilometers (500meter swimming, 6. 5 kilometers cycling and 1. 7 kilometer running) to the top class of the long-distance triathlon with 226 kilometers (3. 8 kilometer swimming, 180 kilometer cycling and 42.2 kilometer running)
Due to its enormous popularity worldwide, triathlon has been represented at the Summer Olympic Games since 2000, which makes it possible to receive funding from the German Olympic Sports Federation. Especially the longer distances like half distance (Ironman 70.3 ®) or Ironman (long distance race) are very popular with amateurs. The number of participants and the number of professionally organized competitions has been steadily increasing in recent years.
The training is very intensive and takes up a large part of the time resource. The training, even in the hobby area, is on a very high level. In addition to training groups in sports clubs, which are led by qualified and experienced trainers, more and more fitness studios are offering training camps. These training camps are led by trainers who, in addition to a sound education, also have the experience of several years of participation in such events. For some years now, personal trainers and swimming coaches have also been active as service providers in this segment.
The preparation for the big day X is a special challenge for many triathletes. Not only the sporting challenge of covering a distance of 226 kilometers, but also the organization of private and professional obligations must be mastered. Many very well trained and meticulously prepared athletes fail due to their expectations, the circumstances or other circumstances on the day of the competition. Physically less well-prepared athletes manage to cope better with adverse conditions and are still be able to deliver their performance. To prepare athletes well for such situations, visualization is used.
“Visualisierungstechniken gehören zu den wichtigsten mentalen Trainingsverfahren.“ (Ziemainz und Rentschler 2014, S. 28).
Many athletes proceed from a simple idea of a finish or a section. However, there is more to visualization.
" Visualisieren bedeutet mehr als nur das Sichvorstellen eines Bewegungsablaufs. Beim Visualisieren machen wir uns frei von Sprache und Begriffen und denken in Bildern." (Baumann 2018, S. 132)
Loehr went a little further in his work and described the visualization in this way:
"Die Kunst des Visualisierens ist eine der wirksamsten mentalen Trainingsstrategie, die aktiven Athleten zur Verfügung steht. Visualisieren ist nichts anderes als das systematische Trainieren, starke, positive geistige Bilder in sich hervorzurufen und zu verstärken" (Loehr 1991, S. 109).
In this work, visualization is understood as a psychological process that can be trained. Visualization is seen, so to speak, as the language of the brain (Alfermann und Stoll 2017). It becomes clear that visualization processes play a central role in the cognitive sciences. It is necessary to distinguish between three types of visualization - subjective, objective and kinesthetic visualization (Alfermann und Stoll 2017; Loehr 1991). Subjective visualization is a method in which the athlete himself becomes an actor. An example of this type of triathlon, the triathlete imagines how he gets the pressure in the water with every swim, how the water washes around his hand and he brings his power into the water and starts the forward movement.
By objective visualization one understands oneself as a film. This form is practiced by most athletes, especially by those with less experience (Stoll und Ziemainz 1999). An example from triathlon is that the athlete imagines the finish. As he walks across the green carpet through the alley of the audience and the presenter says the magic words “You are an Ironman". This method is also used for further race deciding points. With the help of this visualization, the athlete can develop a race strategy and control the processes within the race (Ziemainz und Rentschler 2014; Stoll und Ziemainz 1999). This type of use is already recommended in literature for beginners. It is about remembering certain waypoints and pivot points within a race and preparing for certain situations (Drenth und Kremke 2007).
The third type is kinesthetic visualization, in kinesthetic visualization the athlete sees himself, his environment and feels the tension in his body or muscles (Loehr 1991) The athlete calls upon his own experiences within the musculature. In the kinesthetic visualization I prefer perspectival. It is known so far whether it is possible to achieve this kind of introduction from the third person or without previous experience. (Mentales Training: Lernen durch Bewegungsvorstellung und -imitation 2018). As an example, the situation at the exit of the swim is best suited for this. The athlete sees himself at the exit and thinks of the helpers who give him a hand to help him but feels the wobbly legs after 3. 8 kilometers of swimming.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Figure 1 Forms of visualization (based on Terry, 1990 (Terry 1990))
In the case of visualization techniques, it can be assumed that people with more body experience can also derive greater benefit. For example, a professional athlete who imagines a certain movement can perceive the arm pull more when crawling, because he can target the muscles more precisely than a poor swimmer (Ziemainz und Rentschler 2014). This observation can also be made in other areas, for example music (Mentales Training: Lernen durch Bewegungsvorstellung und -imitation 2018). In the field of objective visualization, as already explained in the definition of the term, an important point is to imagine a competition plan. The athlete does not imagine himself, but the course and the schedule. (Friel und Vance 2013; Drenth und Kremke 2007). In addition to the special features of the course, you can also mentally train running routes or special highlights of the course.
One example is the visualization of the Kalvarienberg in Greding on the bike course of the Challenge Roth. It is the steepest part of the competition. This way you can imagine this sticking point in training in advance and increase motivation. Imagine yourself driving through the narrow alley and passing your rivals in the upper third under the applause of the spectators. A further example is the entry at the last laps of the Ironman in Frankfurt, the Athlete imagines how he mobilizes his strength after receiving the last ribbon and how he proudly and uprightly covers the last kilometers to the Römer. So, the competition schedule can be used to control the training correctly, to avoid wrong ways.
Especially with the difference between long-distance and short-distance triathlon, it is very important to develop the correct schedule of the race. The race design is very different. Besides the visualization in the preparation for the competition, there are also possibilities to use the training tool for certain problems and critical situations in the competition. With the cyclical, persistent loads typical of triathlon, it is quickly possible that the head starts to question this activity (Stoll und Ziemainz 1999). It is helpful with upcoming pain to imagine yourself lying on the beach, or to see yourself already at the finish line (Ziemainz und Rentschler 2014). Some triathletes also imagine being pulled to the finish line with a leash. The motives are very different. Even after the competition it makes sense to deal with visualization. In triathlon, it is not possible to remember individual points exactly because of the length, but you can still recognize and try to improve points within the transition zone, the race, if you play through them (Ziemainz und Rentschler 2014).So are small mistakes that upset the race plan and lead to uncertainty and lack of concentration are detected in further competitions and the athlete can improve them.
Due to the number of different visualizations, it is not possible to describe one execution. It is important that the desired forms are practiced. You can also use the subjective visualization in training and imagine the movement. Especially with technically complicated movements, or movements that are wrongly learned motorically, one can get an improvement through the specific exercise. (Ziemainz and Rentschler 2014). Before you start the objective training, you should still learn the basics of mental training. (Ziemainz and Rentschler 2014) Depending on the type, he should be his quiet environment, the breathing technique should be learned. The goals of the training and the training applied should be known. Because only those who know their goal can achieve it.
Visualization techniques can be used in training as preparation as well as to plan a race. The idea of the route, the course of the competition can already have a positive influence on the athlete. Visualization also contributes to the achievement of objectives. A clear goal, the clear idea of having a certain performance, acts as self-motivation for the athlete. In addition, the techniques can also be used in difficult competition situations and after the competition. The experience of the athlete plays a role here. Although it is a very uncomplicated method to mentally adjust to a competition, it requires a certain amount of training and experience.
The objective visualization can be used in the different stages of preparation. Even beginners can achieve predominantly positive results after just a little practice. The idea of being greeted at the track by one's girlfriend / boyfriend or cheered on by the football team can trigger positive emotions and improve the training. Some of my customers use this technique to memorize routes around runoff routes within transition zones. Also, the use for technique improvement in swimming is a clear indication of the far-reaching possibilities of training. Personally, I have often used visualization within the competition to overcome pain or fatigue.
Visualization is an often-underestimated possibility in preparation, competition and training. For this reason of diversity, this technique should also be used by hobby athletes in triathlon, to prepare better for competitions and to make the most of their performance in competition. The objective possibilities to memorize your way within the transition zones, to find your bike, your place in a targeted way are the most important. The changeover times can be reduced considerably by this type of training. This has a very positive effect on time. Also, the visualization in case of problems, like a tire blowout in a race and the following repair can be trained very well. If all handles are correctly positioned, a quick repair is often promising.
This way, training and the integration of mental training and visualization into the daily training routine leads to better results and the practice can also be better retrieved on the day of the competition.