As a hypnotherapist based in Wigan I get regular requests from clients who want to improve certain areas of their lives. For example, to feel more confident when meeting new people, help with passing exams or to feel more relaxed when speaking in public. With the 3rd Wigan 10k due on 6th Sept, I thought this was a good opportunity to look at how hypnosis can be used to improve your running performance.
Hypnosis has been used in sport for many years to improve performance, increase endurance, enhance speed and strength and correct errors. In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics it is reported that the Russian team included 11 hypnotists who worked with athletes to improve mental clarity. More recently Tiger Woods has been known to use self hypnosis from the age of 13 to help him get “into the zone” and to mentally practice perfect strokes. Recent research has also outlined that hypnosis can successfully enhance self-efficacy levels and performance in sport (Barker & Jones, 2006).
So what is hypnosis and how can you use as part of your preparation for the Wigan 10k?
Many people have misconceptions about hypnosis, mainly as a result of the way it is represented on television or as a result of watching a stage hypnotist on holiday. Hypnosis is not mind control – a hypnotherapist can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. You are always in control and can open your eyes at any time.
It’s best to think of hypnosis as a skill, that you can learn, practice and get better at. Hypnosis usually involves closing your eyes and narrowing your focus of attention onto a single idea, image or feeling. It usually involves creating a relaxed state – a sense of letting go both mentally and physically. Research shows that when we focus our mind or imagination on a single idea, when we become absorbed by what we are thinking about, our critical self awareness is suspended and the positive suggestions that are made (either by a hypnotherapist or by ourselves) are more easily accepted. Most people find hypnosis a pleasant and relaxing experience but everyone’s experience is unique. While some people relax quickly, easily and deeply others enjoy a light level of comfort.
Once you’ve induced hypnosis you can then focus on whatever positive ideas you like to aid your performance. This could be in the way of direct suggestions or affirmations such as:
- I can perform at peak, always better than before.
- I am relaxed and focused before my run
- I am fine-tuning my mental concentration and physical abilities.
- My coordination improves whenever I practice
- My lungs are getting stronger, filling my body with performance improving oxygen
- I focus on my goals when running and this naturally softens and reduces any discomfort
- My legs are strong and getting stronger with each run
- Focusing on the rewards and benefits of running boosts my motivation and commitment
Alternatively you can use visualisations – imagining yourself as you want to be. For example you can visualise yourself:
- Before the race feeling calm and relaxed conducting an effective warm up
- During the run full of energy, being supported by the crowd and your running companions
- At the finish line feeling so good for having achieved your time goal
- After the run enjoying the sense of wellbeing from having completed the run
- Focusing on the benefits of having completed the run eg the money raised, feeling fitter, healthier, more energy etc
So below is a self hypnosis process that you can follow over the coming weeks to help improve your performance. Many people prefer to make a recording of the session rather than have to remember it all. Most phones and tablets have simple recording facilities or you can download apps with more advanced features.
Self Hypnosis Session for Wigan 10k Run
- Decide what you want to achieve with hypnosis (for example, achieving a time goal, being more comfortable during the run)
- Write down specifically what you want to think about while hypnotised (for example, breathing calmly, staying focused on technical goals). Consider a combination of positive direct suggestions and visualisations.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 8 breaths. Breath naturally and easily and allow your body and mind to relax deeper with each breath that you take. Become aware of the sensations in your body with each breath and if you notice any tension in your body simply release it.
- Become aware of the relaxation in your body – a feeling of warmth, comfort and heaviness
- Deepen your relaxation by counting down slowly in your mind from 5 to 1
- Imagine you are in your safe place. A peaceful, relaxing place. Allow yourself to enjoy being in your safe place vividly with all of your senses.
- When you feel very peaceful and totally relaxed, begin to think about or imagine the positive suggestions and visualisations that you have developed. Make any imagery as rich and vivid as you can until you are totally immersed in it.
- When you are happy you have covered everything you wanted to under hypnosis, slowly count yourself back to full awareness from 1 to 5. As you count up become more alert and more aware of your surroundings.
You can register for the 2016 Wigan 10k here.