Training – Mental Rehearsal / Imagery – Blog 21-9

Have you ever watched an Olympic athlete as they prepare for their event? I recall watching Downhill Ski Slalom racers with their eyes closed as they sway to the left and right before the gate opens. What are they doing? It is called Mental Rehearsal.

Mental rehearsal involves imagined, mental practice of performing a task as opposed to actual practice. Mental rehearsal of performances is an excellent way to support skill development.

Why does mental rehearsal / imagery work? It is based on four theories.

  1. Symbolic Learning Theory. Imagery may be part of the coding system helps you understand movement. The theory explains that every move made by you in life is first coded in your mind and in your nervous systems. If you mentally rehearse movement such as drawing a pistol and shooting; you are mapping out each movement, making the gestures symbolically make them familiar to your body’s coordination.
  2. Psychoneuromuscular Theory. It suggests that vivid, imagined events produce neuromuscular responses similar to those of an actual experience. So, when you are sitting and going over a movement mentally, your body is producing small contractions similar to those involved in the task.
  3. Bio-informational Theory. The mental image created by the subject is stored in the long-term memory of the brain as an organized set of stimulus propositions linked to response propositions. In short, if you can imagine how you might react to a threat, you can better prepare for it.
  4. Dual Coding Theory. It is to provide two different representations of the information, both visual and verbal, to help you to understand the information better. It means that new skills are better learned if it is explained to you and then accomplished though physical practice.

Mental rehearsal is repeating a task in your mind without any movement from your body. Imagery is very specific and very focused mental practice. Imagery uses all of your senses to create the experience in your mind.

What you are doing when you perform these techniques, is that you are:

  • Spinal tuning in which the correct survival motor program is identified and pre-activating the nervous system before the motor program is needed. The nervous system is warmed up and is waiting for it to be needed by you.
  • Mentally practicing to prepare for and plan performance. You can review a response to a threat step by step. The sequence of your steps can be clarified, potential problems in performance can be identified and can be solved and then effective steps can be planned.

Mental rehearsal allows you to focus on the preplanning component of performance. Anxiety and heart rate increase occur when exposed to a threat and the outcome is unclear. Any preparation providing you the chance to think through a possible threat scenario and what you would do correctly to win before facing an actual threat will benefit you.

So, where do you begin?

It maybe just before going to bed, you think about a potential incident, you break each aspect of it into steps. From being aware of your surroundings, recognizing a possible threat, your choices (e.g. – Can I retreat; Do I verbally challenge the person? Etc.). Then you begin your response, your perfect draw from concealment, movement off of your present location, obtaining that perfect two-handed grip, punching out to the threat, picking up your sight picture and then pressing the trigger. Assess, do I have to press the trigger again? Once the threat has been stopped or has fled, scan your surroundings, move to a position of concealment or cover, if you were not able to do so during the attack. Once in that position, retrieve your phone and dial 911.

I am constantly running scenarios through my mind. The news and other media are constantly showing videos of people being attacked. You can rehearse or image in your mind, what you would your response would be in the incident. The benefit of videos, is that you can view them several times.

You can schedule time in your day specifically for mental rehearsal / imagery. You have the flexibility and control.

Caveat: This does have benefit, but you should be actually training dry-fire and live-fire training with your defensive pistol also.

Mental rehearsal / Imagery is one of many tools to help you succeed in a fight for your life or your family’s.

Attitude is not just how you speak. It is how you walk, work, a present yourself to others, react to situations and approach life. It reflects the true core of who you are and what you believe.”