In the previous two blogs, I set the ground work for the development of a mental program. Everyone is different in how they might set up such a program. However, there are some factors that everyone needs to focus their efforts.
As you do your walk thru, you need to visualize the sights, the sounds, and feelings of your best runs. You know from the sound of your dog landing and the connection feeling with your dog that you are having a great run. It is like a tennis player that visualizes hitting the ball. She/he visualizes not only the swing, but the feeling when the ball hits on the sweet spot with the perfect follow thru. Hence, it is important to add the entire experience when visualizing. The entire experience is the combination of one’s senses and detailed,internal images while going through the complete performance. When you do this, your muscle patterns are activated in a similar way as when doing the activity.
You must always visualize a successful run. Never think about what you need to stay away from. Don’t think “maybe” this is the way to do it. If your dog has been refusing or not executing a particular obstacle, do not visualize what might happen. Thinking about that will signal to your dog something is up at that obstacle. Your teammate knows through inflection and tone of voice, smell, and body language when you are upset, apprehensive, or stressed. A good mental program helps in the preparation for performance, building confidence, and motivation.
Many people may say, I don’t want to compete at a level that I need to practice mental skills. But, I have witnessed many a person have a good string of “Qs” until the last Q for a MACH. Oops, 7 runs later, you get the final Q. Hence, learning to develop some mental skills is not just for people going for “the win.” Think of all the preparation that you goes into your handling skills. Then, think about the situations that you avoid to minimize stress. With a good mental program, a National event is not much different from a local event. Yes, there may be more stress but with a mental program, you will learn how to manage your stress. This goes for people who have been successful and then feel pressure from themselves or others to perform at a high level every run.
I am sure that you see some people listening to music during their walk thru and prior to running. Many times, the person has selected a song that signifies a balanced performance level between dog and human. By listening to the song while walking the course, the person can put the song in his/her head when negative thoughts start to come to them prior to or during the run. It is just one way to develop a mental training program. If anyone is interested in a seminar or individual sessions, I will be happy to set something up. You can call me at 209-986-7428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy tails!!
Tags: agility, mental program, mental rehearsal, visualization