The paper is devoted to the theoretical and practical aspects of motor imagery widely used by athletes in a variety of sports as an effective psychological training method. The research introduces basic approaches, theories and modern views on the issue. There are a wide variety of views on the mechanisms underlying mental practice of motor tasks. In particular, mental image can be considered from exclusively cognitive perspective or as a direct and essential background for producing movement.
To signify the notion of mental image in specialist studies the terms «mental study» or «mental training» are used. The research devoted to this issue has significantly influenced the conceptual understanding of the motor image nature.
There are opposing theories, who employ the mental image that is regarded as a basic cognitive component and does not consist in direct interaction with the executive link of the motor system. On the other hand, there are theories that view the mental image as the immediate basis of the movement that stores information about all its parameters.
Modern studies, including neuroimaging methods, confirm inseparability of these approaches and central locale of trigger mechanism that modulates physiological reactions and also its generality for real and imaginary action.
In conclusion, taking into account recent data on the nature of motor imagery, special attention is paid to practical aspects of using it in sports, which is different from conventional approaches and recommendations on motor imagery use.
Modernization of equipment as well as extension of competition schedules and programs that have taken place over the past few decades have dramatically influenced professional activities of cross-country skiers. In particular, acuteness of competitive struggle has extremely increased and as a result psychological preparation of an athlete has become a very important and sometimes crucial factor.
Today, cross-country skiing is one of the most demanding sports associated with critical aerobic loading and cyclic explosive contractions involving all main muscle groups. Characteristic motor activity is highly uniform and automatic that potentially leads to negative psychological states decreasing motor efficiency. Athlete’s high motivation is the main tool to withstand this phenomenon. Muscles arbitrary relaxation rate (ARR) is considered to be the most important parameter of contractive activity. ARR is determined by the function of CNS inhibitory systems and decreased during emotional stress, which can be managed using respective psychological skills training (PST) features. Such interrelationship allows to reveal complex systemic links between various types of training and introduces the problem of the appropriate integration of PST into the entire training system. Available research data suggest that self-talk and mental imagery are quite useful as PST tools without regard to a skier’s level of expertise. Based on an individual interpretation for summarized data the author posed the following hypothesis: conversion from automatically executed to consciously controlled components of activity is involved to functionality of mental imagery; the conversion efficiency can be enhanced by means of attitude of intentional search for such components during visualization.