I'm practicing the basics of learning to wheelie. And one element of my practice that I've not done before is visualization, AKA mental rehearsal.
Why is visualization helpful? Here's a quote from Dr. Josh Turknett, a neurologist I've started following who has been studying how to practice smarter:
"...thinking about an activity activates the same brain regions as performing that activity, and also stimulates the same sorts of changes in the brain that occur from practice."
I'm learning that mental rehearsal is itself a skill that takes practice. And for a motor skill like doing a wheelie, it's not simple to imagine yourself doing it from a first-person perspective. In other words, watching a video of me wheelieing is helpful for identifying flaws in my technique, but it doesn't help me visualize the subtle movements of correctly performing a wheelie.
So last week I recorded a POV video of me doing a short wheelie by attaching my old GoPro 3 to a chest harness. The 40-second video includes slow-mo.
I've been watching the video regularly, usually before bedtime and sometimes before an afternoon nap. I then close my eyes and try to visualize me doing that wheelie. It's not easy for me to do this, I've discovered. My attention wanders. I haven't gotten the hang of recreating the sensations. But I can tell, I'm gradually improving with practice.
Below is a detailed how-to for a mental rehearsal exercise, excerpted from a long-time favorite book of mine published in 1980 titled Sports Psyching: Playing Your Best Game All the Time, by Thomas Tutko.
1. Study the pictures or your list [or a video] for a few moments, going through the entire sequence a couple of times.
2. Close your eyes imagine yourself going through the same sequence. Imagine this in slow motion.
Note the crucial components of each stage of the actions -- where your feet are; what your legs are doing; what your hips, back, arms, are doing; where your head is; what your grip or hand motions are.
Imagine the sensations; check how each part of your body feels -- where your balance is, how, when, and where strength is applied. Imagine what you see when you make the play. If you are supposed to be looking at a ball, then see where it goes from the start of play to the end of play -- a racquet making contact, a ball bouncing, and so on.
3. Now, look at the pictures or list [or video] again. See if you missed anything or got anything wrong. If so, correct it. Now imagine the action with your eyes closed again, in slow motion.
4. Repeat this procedure five times, each time in more detail, looking at your reminders, and then closing your eyes and imagining yourself doing this.
Always imagine the play from start to successful conclusion. Bring out the feeling, sharpen up the image. Keep checking your reminders to keep motions correct.
When you can go slowly through the action, start to finish, smoothly in detail, without error, then you’ve "got the picture." You may not be able to reach this point the first time you try it. If so, don’t pressure yourself about it. It won’t be long before you have it.
5. Close your eyes and this time imagine yourself going through the play at normal speed. Imagine the play is the best you have performed. Imagine it through from start to finish, and say to yourself, "That was a terrific play." Check over your reminders -- the pictures or list [or video] -- close your eyes and repeat your "best play" again. Do this ten times.
I'm eager to hear from those of you who've tried this type of visualization.