How hypnotherapy helped 2 marathon runners achieve their targets
Jane and Barry (not their real names) were experienced runners, who’d both followed a training programme and worked with a coach.
Jane wanted to finish in under five hours, whilst Barry was desperate to break the three hour barrier. Their coaches confirmed that both targets were achievable.
Jane loved running, but didn’t like races. Two psychological issues were affecting her performance:
- pessimistic outlook
- GPS watch
Despite her excellent training times, Jane didn’t believe that she would achieve her goal. In several previous marathons, training performances had indicated a sub five hour time, but on each occasion her race time was disappointing. When asked what had happened, Jane recounted the same incident. She used a GPS watch to monitor her times. When she’d looked at her watch during races and seen she was behind her schedule, she became disheartened.
Jane’s strategy involved:
- Affirmations that reinforced her experience, commitment and excellent practice times.
- A hypnosis visualisation technique that allowed her to ‘see’ herself running well during a race situation.
- Not using the GPS during the marathon race.
Jane adopted the affirmations because she accepted they were true and found them motivating. She enjoyed the hypnosis visualisation technique, which she found reassuring. However, she was reluctant to not wear the GPS watch. Eventually, Jane agreed not to wear the watch, but to carry it in a belt pocket.
During her marathon Jane trusted her instinct and training. As her coach had predicted, she easily achieved her target, finishing in four hours and 42 minutes.
With Barry, self-created pressure was affecting his performance. There were two main issues:
- ‘all or nothing’ goal
When discussing his sub three hour target, Barry constantly used phrases like:
- "I have to do it."
- "I’ve got to do it."
- "Failure is not an option."
The problem with this, is that it creates pressure. When we say to ourselves "I’ve got to do something", subconsciously, the phrase is followed by unhelpful thoughts of negative alternative outcomes. For example:
"I must achieve a sub three hour marathon time... and if I don’t, it means I’m a useless runner."
Instead of motivating ourselves we do the opposite.
Barry’s strategy involved:
- Changing his self-talk to remove pressure and unhelpful subconscious thoughts.
- Re-framing his goal to allow for a range of successful outcomes.
- Affirmations that highlighted his experience and ability.
- A hypnosis visualisation technique that allowed him to ‘see’ himself running freely during a race.
Barry rephrased his goal self-talk. A sub three hour time was something he’d like to achieve because it would make him happy. He also accepted that there were circumstances beyond his control (e.g. the weather) that could affect performance.
Barry agreed that success wasn’t black or white, but involved shades of grey. His goal was broken down into three levels of success:
- sub three hours (ideal)
- between three hours five minutes and three hours 10 minutes (very good)
- anything under his previous best time of three hours 16 minutes (an acceptable achievement)
Barry found the affirmations inspiring and the visualisation technique relaxing. He also mentioned that before previous marathons he’d often developed a cold. He now believed that his previous self-talk had created stress, which had weakened his immune system and allowed the cold to develop.
Barry didn’t achieve a sub three hour time (he did later in the year), but he did knock 10 minutes off his personal best and was pleased with this outcome.
Both Jane and Barry had three hypnotherapy sessions and listened to relaxation recordings between sessions.
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