So you’ve fallen in love with the flying trapeze. Or perhaps for you, it’s Silks, Static Trapeze or Trampoline. No matter the apparatus, from now on, life will just never be the same because flying is what you do, and if you could, you would do it every day! Though most of us are unable to fly daily, there is still a lot you can do whenever you are not at the rig. In fact, your performance in the air can benefit tremendously from the training you do outside of your chosen aerial art.
We have often mentioned the importance of physical conditioning outside of your flying, but this month, we will discuss the importance of mental conditioning. To your brain, thinking is reality.
In the early 90’s, an Italian research team was observing some monkeys. Specifically, they were looking at the part of the brain that helps to plan and initiate movements. One day after lunch, one scientist was eating some gelato where the monkeys could see him. What they found was that the monkeys’ brains started reacting as if they were eating, too!
They concluded that when we watch people doing things, our brains respond as if we were doing the same thing. The same applies to imagination—when you imagine that you are moving, neurons in your brain respond as if you were actually moving.
Golfer Jack Nicklaus once said “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head”.
This has some very significant implications for performance. Elite athletes regularly mentally rehearse prior to performing. Golfer Jack Nicklaus once said “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head”. What you consistently imagine yourself doing will become true for your body. Additionally, mentally rehearsing a skill or trick can help you to feel more confident when you are actually doing it. The ‘trick’ to making this work is making your visualization vivid.
Imagine your swing, for example. Start by imagining your whole swing in slow motion. Begin with a very detailed picture of where you are; include sights, sounds and even smells. Imagine your takeoff: you bend your knees while letting the bar drop down and away from you; bending your knees causes you to lean out further over the edge. As you pull the bar back towards you, it rises with you. Your torso is leaning back as your legs snap together (with toes pointed, of course!). Imagine your leg and butt muscles contracting powerfully as you descend into your first sweep. The more detail you can imagine, the better. Gradually, as you become more comfortable with the details, you can speed your visualization up to real time.
Is there a trick or skill that’s confounding you? If you can find a video of it and start there (yes, watching trapeze videos counts as training!). Once you’ve seen the trick performed properly, set aside some quiet time to begin imagining yourself doing the trick just like that. Remember, make it vivid and detailed. Start off in slow motion—so you can pay attention to all the little details—and gradually speed it up to real time. Mental rehearsal can also be helpful to do in class: while the person ahead of you is taking their turn, take a moment to run through your own trick in your mind.
When practiced on a regular basis, mental rehearsal can make a significant difference in not only how well you perform on the trapeze (or silks or static…), but it will also make a difference in your confidence. Try it today!