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The Mental Game: Breathe, Visualize, Perform

Over this past winter I worked with a youth baseball team (ages 12 - 14). We had 8 sessions at once per week. Not a lot of time, but enough to get started with proper strength, speed, mobility training. The kids and coaches loved the results. Greatly improved speed on the base paths and more hitting power. The most recent email from the manager said,

"We are 8-3 so far. Our biggest issue has been consistent pitching (too many walks usually does us in). But when that's on we're strong. Running and hitting has been good!"

Sure enough, this article popped into my Inbox: How MLB Pitchers Use Mental Imagery to Enhance Their Performance. The article discusses mental imagery, but starts with the concept of breathing, yes breathing.

Here is the best series on diaphragmatic breathing I have found. I have been using it for years: With Every Breath You Take

A Personal Story:

Way back in college (Cornell University) I made a friend who was a great runner. He convinced me to train for a marathon. Under his guidance I trained that first fall (1978) and registered for the Finger Lakes Club Marathon the following March. One of my courses was psychology and I decided to write a paper I called Associative and Dissociative Runners. I interviewed 5 runners at different ability levels. I used myself as the neophyte. I was the ultimate in dissociation. I did anything I could to NOT think about running when I was running. The next two runners I interviewed (one male, one female) ran a 3 hour 15 minute marathon. They paid attention to their running when increasing their speed, but each stated that his/her mind would wander during a good portion of the run. The next runner was a professor who ran a best time of 2:40. He was focused. He paid attention to his breathing, his foot placement, and his pace. The final runner was another professor who, at the time, had the 10th fastest master's time in the world, around a 2:20. He was laser focused on everything: pace, breathing (inspiration and expiration), foot placement, surroundings, vision. Both professors also used mental imagery. Simply put - wow!

I was a trumpet player and one of my favorite artists was (is) Maynard Ferguson. Several times during the week before the marathon, I listened to his rendition of MacArthur Park and visualized myself running along the course. I had run different portions of the course during training and drove the entire course so it made it easy to visualize myself running the hills (and there were many - it was Ithaca, NY!) and other challenging parts of the course.

It was a success for both me and my friend. He qualified for the Boston Marathon by running a 2:59 (only his second marathon) and I completed my first marathon and ran 4:14:55. I actually had a bet with a friend that I would run under 4:15. I did not have a watch and the last water stop was at 20 miles!

Learn to breathe and perform mental imagery and watch your performance soar!

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