Your Inner Athlete: How Negative Visualization Can Enhance Performance

Your Inner Athlete: How Negative Visualization Can Enhance Performance

Dr. Haley Perlus continues with her weekly tips to empower “Your Inner Athlete,” below:

Visualization is one of the most popular and effective mental tools for peak performance. I contributed an article entitled “Three Ways You Can Use Visualization To Perform At Your Best” for the second issue of Brendan Brazier’s new magazine, Thrive: Peak Performance for the Modern World. Let’s continue our discussion on visualization, but talk about a particular method you may not have heard abo that continues to help athletes achieve their goals.

Dr. Haley Perlus

Negative visualization occurs when you experience something bad, while mentally rehearsing your performance. In my consulting practice, athletes will say they visualize getting passed by another cyclist, falling while attempting a new yoga pose, not being able to hold their pace during a run, etc. When they come to me nervous to perform after having these negative images, I tell them the same thing I’m going to tell you: Don’t worry, it’s all good!

You see, perfect performances in sport and fitness are extremely rare. How many cyclists can stay ahead for the entire ride? How many yogis achieve a new pose on the first attempt? How many runners maintain their best pace each time they hit the pavement? If the point of visualization is to mentally rehearse your performance, making it as real as possible, some negative visualization is part of the process.

Here’s how to make negative visualization a powerful tool in your mental toolbox. When you mentally rehearse something negative, immediately visualize yourself recovering and continuing on. A cyclist may visualize getting passed, but then waiting for the right moment to make a break away and get back in front. A yogi may mentally rehearse falling during a particular arm balancing pose, but then shaking it off with a giggle and a second attempt – this time successful. A marathon runner may visualize slowing down, but then either staying positive with their current pace or taking longer strides to make up some time.

When you only visualize perfect performances, you miss out on the opportunity to practice effective recoveries from unfortunate, but inevitable moments that occur in all sports and fitness.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t visualize your personal best performance. Of course these images will work to increase confidence, motivation, concentration, and overall skill level. But, it’s also helpful to allow the negative experiences to play out in your mind. As long as you always finish your negative visualization with a successful recovery, you’ll be in great shape for your upcoming adventure.

About Dr. Haley Perlus:

The event wears its name like glove: “WOW.” 

The acronym is a perfect fit for Becca Tudor’s awesome Weekend of Wellness, relatively new festival (the 3rd annual gathering took place in early June) that celebrates overall fitness, including ways grow a spine, man up –  yoga, kettle bell, Pilates, cycling, kids’ classes – and also get educated about health trends in general through lectures by doctors, nutritionists, and renowned experts in the field of sports psychology. 

Experts such as Dr. Haley Perlus, a stand-out on a long list of superstar women featured at Telluride WOW, already a no-miss event if you are on a path towards personal transformation.



I attended Haley’s lecture about the psychology behind good nutrition and overall health. The holistic contents turned out to be a back door to ways to live a healthy life in general.

We were all left wanting more from this buff, blonde brainiac, so Telluride Inside… and Out invited Haley to blog on our site.

And lucky for us all, Haley agreed. 


With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, M.S. in Sport Pedagogy, and numerous fitness and coaching certifications, Dr. Perlus is an expert at empowering athletes of all types and health enthusiasts achieve peak results. An adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, international speaker, former Alpine ski racer, appointed Industry Leader for,, and author, including soon-to-be-released “The One Minute Diet and Guidebook to Gold.” Dr. Perlus helps people reach their highest standard of performance.

For further information and a free chapter of one of her books, visit



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