Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Importance of Visualization in Reaching Goals by Tara Ballard

I have probably mentioned before that I'm a very goal-oriented person. I crave structure, and goals help me to have that structure when I might otherwise be living in chaos. When it comes to competing, I use goals to get me through each phase of training. Sometimes it's hard to stay on track though, especially when the next competition might be months and months away. So, how do I stay on track when the culmination of my goals may not take place until months into the future?


Visualization is key for me in staying motivated and focused. Each phase of training brings with it another form of visualization. During the building phase, I visualize how each muscle fiber is growing and how I am getting stronger than before with each workout. I look back to a year ago, and how far I've come since that point. I look ahead to the future and imagine how things will be once I start cutting and the definition starts coming out. Visualization is so important at this phase when things are growing and building, but since it is the building phase, I don't feel quite as svelte as usual :-). Granted, unlike a lot of competitors and coaches that I've talked to, I do not believe (as does Jill) that it's necessary to bulk way up during off-season in order to gain muscle. I aim for staying 5 pounds or so from my competition weight, give or take a couple pounds; that weight usually comes from good, complex carbs that enable me to stay pretty lean while still building muscle. This also allows me to avoid the hours upon hours of cardio that some competitors have to go through as they get closer to show time. It's all about eating the right types of food during off-season- as Jill says, off-season doesn't mean open season!

Sometimes I visualize so much that I will wake myself up doing some kind of exercise in my sleep! It sinks into my subconscious and is with me even when I don't know it!

The real fun begins when the building phase ends and cutting begins. Workout changes, diet changes, etc., all lead to a different type of visualization. This is a time when exhaustion can sometimes set in. The workouts get harder, and it is sometimes a struggle to get through each rep. I remember doing a leg workout with Jill a couple weeks before the FAME show in May... I thought I was going to cry- literally. I could feel it coming on, but luckily the workout ended before the waterworks started!

Visualization is super-important during this time. As I feel my motivation starting to wane, I think about how things will start looking more defined as I begin to shed subcutaneous water and my clothes start getting a little looser. I look at pictures from apst competitions and visualize how I can imporve. Then it's all about teh stage.... how will I feel standing up there? I visualize being poised, graceful and confident as I do my individual workout. ("Poise and grace" is usually the mantra I chant to myself before I walk out). I visualize the other competitors and how I deserve to be up there as much as them. I visualize making my trainer and family proud (although I know they are proud of me no matter what). As crazy as it sounds, I visualize my mom looking down on me from Heaven and saying "that's my girl!" I visualize my name being caleld for first place. And while it isn't always about winning, I feel it's important to visualize it. During a particularly hard set when I want to say "forget this!", I think about these things and it keeps me going.

Before I know it, it's show time. I will admit, I struggle with my visualization exercises on show day. This is where I usually psych myself out as I see all the wonderfully beautiful and strong physiques that I will share the stage with. THey have all worked as hard as I ahve, and I feel guilty for wanting to do well against them. This can be a pretty egotistical sport, and that is just not me... I'm not an "all about me" person. I strive to be caring and confident, but not arrogant, and I think this soemtimes causes me to psych myself out of doing well... like I don't deserve it or something. So, next competition I will focus on visualizing my goals right up to and during show time. At this moment, I'm visualizing taking home a first place trophy and not feeling guilty about it :-). It's not about "beating" someone else, it's about the culmination of the hard work and dedication I've put in to my training, while maintaining focus and life balance. It's also about admiring and caring about my fellow competitors, but not feeling like I don't deserve to win as much as they do. It's about feeling good about myself and knowing I've done my absolute best. It's about poise and grace!

Visualize your dreams and goals and make them reality!

Until next time, train hard and find happiness in every day.!


  1. Excellent article. You have the Spirit of a WINNER!

  2. Amazing T! I want a picture of you from your last show on here! :) As a "visual" :)