When it comes to training for a performance or a competition you more than likely already know the usual things you need to work on:
- Strength – learning those difficult tricks and transitions, building up your power and stamina.
- Nutrition – making sure you eat healthy and fuel your training ensures you do not get over exhausted or injured.
- Rehearsals – rehearsals help you to learn your routine and embed it into your muscle memory, improving your flow and fluidity.
But, have you been training using the power of your mind to help support your strength building, injury prevention AND dance skills? If not then you are missing out on a huge wealth of opportunity to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of your training schedule and routine preparation. Although it isn’t quite using the Force, the techniques I’m about to describe are still pretty damn awesome.
When I use the term visualisation, especially in relation to sports, you may be reminded of those cheesy motivational instagram posts with ‘The Body Achieves What The Mind Believes’ blazoned across a backdrop of a buff yogi on a beach, but the science behind it is very real.
You will find visualisation discussed by most athletes as a means of improving performance, from weight lifters, to boxers, to ballet dancers. However, even though it is a relatively well known technique in the athletic world, because pole is such a baby sport it doesn’t seem to have the same wide spread usage. Although, having said that, there may just be the difference between ‘amateur’ pole dancers and competitive / performance pole dancers. Regardless, just because visualisation is mostly used by pro level athletes does not mean it cannot be used by the hobbyist or amateur pole dancer as they seek to improve their pole training and performance, especially if you are looking to develop your pole career and become semi-pro / pro level.
Research has shown that visualisation, either through meditation, mental rehearsal or with guided imagery, can dramatically improve your sports performance. In simple terms, just imagining you are doing a pole move, transition or dance can improve your technique, muscle memory and pole skill, without you even needing to be in a pole studio or attending a class. Every time you ‘mentally rehearse’ yourself doing a move, or performing a piece of choreography, your brain is creating new neural patterns which will inform your physical performance the next time you are on the pole. This is VERY closely tied to the concepts I discussed in my body awareness article so I recommend you give that a read at some point.
My real life anecdotal contribution to this relates to my handspring. I had been working on my handspring for a while, and although I had initially improved quite quickly, I had plateaued a little for a few months and just couldn’t get my butt over my head. I had a 2 weeks off from my regular pole classes so I spent a few minutes each day, in bed before sleeping, visualising myself performing the handspring. I imagined myself going into a full handspring and holding an Ayesha position, I imagined my muscles working and how it would feel. I returned back from the pole break, amusing my class mates with my story about visualisation (oh how new age!) and how I would successfully perform my handspring. And guess what? I landed it that first lesson back – yeah, I’m basically Yoda.
Here are the top benefits of visualisation to your pole practice:
- Rehearse moves and routines even when you are not in the studio.
- Practice without the risk of injury and over exhausting your body – you can use visualisation in place of regular rehearsals to give your body a break!
- Improve muscle memory, body awareness, and fluidity.
- Get yourself mentally prepared for performing – beat the stage fright!
- Tick off nemesis tricks and overcome mental barriers that might be stopping you from getting certain moves.
The great thing about this technique is that it doesn’t require any equipment, lessons or physical exertion to improve your athletic performance, AND all you need is 2-10 minutes on a semi-regular basis in order for it to work.
Here are a couple of ways you can use visualisation:
- Imagine you are doing your nemesis trick perfectly. Visualise your muscles working in sync, pushing and pulling with great technique and skills. Focus on how your body feels during the move, your limbs, the tension whilst you hold position, and so on.
- Visualise that you are on stage performing to an audience at your showcase or competition. Imagine everything is going perfectly. Run through all the senses; sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. You are confident and your performance goes smoothly.
- Now, imagine something going wrong, and how well you deal with it. Your hand slips, maybe you trip, maybe you don’t land a trick. But you are not panicked or scared, you get up, you move on, and the crowd cheers and you feel great just to be on stage.
- Choreograph routines and transitions in your head. Visualise your body moving from one trick to the next in a fluid manner. Imagine yourself performing your choreography and how each section of your routine feels and links together.
- Come up with new interesting combos and try them out mentally to find out what works and what doesn’t before trying them on the pole.
- Does one particular move just give you ‘the fear’? Use visualisation to practice the move safely without the risk that causes the anxiety. Can’t for the life of you let go in a cross ankle release? Mentally rehearse the move with confidence; imagine that everything goes well, and you can perform the move with ease.
That was just a few ways that you can use visualisation to improve your pole dance performance (and your general sports performance too if you happen to do any others). Let me know what mental tricks you use to improve your pole dance techniques! Maybe you have been using mental rehearsal all along but simply didn’t know what it was called? I’d love to hear about it! Leave your comments down below.