While I was standing at the bottom of a route at the gym last night, going through my pre-climb routine, my belayer asked me, "so what are you doing right now?" My answer was, "I'm visualizing the moves." I explained how I planned on progressing up the route, move by move. But later on I realized there's actually quite a bit more going on in my brain than simply "visualizing the moves."

The first thing I look at is the holds- obviously. I try to picture the sequence of movements each section calls for. But simply picturing the movements is not enough. When "visualizing" the movements, you have to first literally picture yourself, or somebody else, doing the moves, then imagine yourself on the moves, what does each move look like when you are on the route, and what does each move feel like? Feeling the movements is key, because this is how our brain learns how to make your body move. If you can picture somebody doing the moves, then empathize how the moves feel, you've given yourself a great chance at doing the movements on your first try.

When first using visualization, it will be hard to picture the movements, and probably harder to feel them. But like all things, improvement comes with practice. I find that bouldering is an excellent exercise for practicing visualization. The sequences are shorter, and usually more novel, so unlocking individual sequences is more difficult, but more rewarding as well. Additionally you can boulder at your own pace without worrying about anybody else.

Practicing visualization before doing a route or problem will make it a habit. Eventually you will get to the point where it feels weird to climb without thinking about the sequences and movements first.

These same principles apply to any other sport, the key being the feeling of the movements which are to be performed.