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Category C

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Visualization: Mind Over Body

Did you know that done properly, visualizing what you’re about to do can be as effective as practicing it for real? Studies show that the only part of an athlete’s performance that visualization won’t help is gaining the strength necessary to perform the task.

Exercise is hard, and skydiving is expensive, but visualization is cheap and easy. To begin, go where you can relax and where distractions won’t affect you. (Potential distractions may be all around, but you can train your mind to tune them out.) Breathe rhythmically and slowly and recall or imagine a pleasant experience or moment where you are calm and very comfortable.

At this stage of your training, your performance requires as much of your attention as any skydiver training for competition.

Then, imagine your upcoming performance exactly as you want it to occur. Start from the beginning, which includes moving to the door of the aircraft, and imagine your actions through to the end. You should even visualize your descent under canopy.

Visualize every detail: where you will place your hands and feet in the door, the cold air rushing in, the noise of the plane, the clean smell of the air, the feel of the aircraft metal on your hands, and everything you can associate with the upcoming experience.

Imagine how you will move every part of your body during the count and exit and how you will feel as you fly away from the plane. Think of where you will position your hands, feet, head, and torso, particularly as you explore techniques for maneuvering in freefall. Visualize every move, including looking at the ground, checking your altimeter, and seeing your instructors.

Some athletes visualize the upcoming performance from their point of view, while others visualize as if they were watching themselves on TV from above or alongside.

Visualize in slow motion or real time, but no faster. See your performance as one continuous flowing action, rather than as snapshots. As you visualize your actions, associate the motions by feigning the small movements with your hands or your legs with each action (“twitch”) as you mentally rehearse the performance.

Leave yourself a few minutes to take in the sights and sounds on the way to altitude, but keep your performance first on your mind. The jumpers who succeed best all practice their routines on the climb to altitude, so you shouldn’t feel out of place. Just look around at the others doing the same thing!

At this stage of your training, your performance requires as much of your attention as any skydiver training for competition. Use these same visualization tips that help top athletes in skydiving and other sports to help you improve your performance and increase your overall satisfaction from each jump.