To be really, really honest, the results of using hypnosis to enhance muscular performance are not that impressive and do not actually show any real gains reviews by a number of key authors including Hull (1933) and Barber (1966) and the very influential (to the field of hypnosis and sports performance) Morgan (1972, 1980, 1993) – most of whom showed that when it comes to muscular performance, suggestions given in hypnosis were just as effective as suggestions given to a non-hypnotised, but motivated individual when it came to muscular performance.
However, the really great news for us runners is that numerous studies show that the gains made in terms of endurance and aerobic power are significant when it comes to the use of hypnosis. And I have an evidence based strategy to share with you here.
Most of the research concerning muscular performance and aerobic performance though, also does suggest that hypnosis does also help to motivate individuals much more and finds them exerting more effort as a result. This really does assure me as a lot of my own materials are focused on those areas.
OK, one of the pieces of research that I have been reading recently is by Morgan et al. (1987) Facilitation of physical performance by means of a cognitive strategy in Cognitive Therapy and Research which shows a 32% marked improvement in endurance performance as a result of the strategy employed, compared to the control group.
Here, I thought I’d share a self-hypnosis process that all runners can engage in that is founded upon the evidence based cognitive strategy used in the study, but I have added various facets of other evidence based processes to make it less dry and academic and more useable in my opinion.
A number of studies that I have encountered show that Elite athletes often use association techniques for enhanced performance, but that most athletes tend to utilise dissociation strategies to enhance their performance too, this process today has a dissociation leaning. Long distance runners from Tibet have run 300 miles nonstop in 30 hours using this type of dissociation technique, and many accomplished marathon runners are known to successfully employ similar techniques.
With this process, you are going to mentally rehears the process with self-hypnosis and then ideally go out and adopt the cognitive strategy when you are running and then with practice and practice, your endurance is enhanced as a result… Though you have to train too of course!
The idea behind dissociating in the way laid out within this cognitive strategy here, is that you will not perceive the same amount of fatigue, pain, or discomfort while running. You are dissociated.
Here we go then, Combining Self-Hypnosis and A Cognitive Strategy To Enhance Running Endurance:
Get yourself comfortable and in a place where you’ll be undisturbed for the duration of this process, ideally sat in a receptive position with your arms and legs uncrossed, then follow these simple steps:
Step One: Induce hypnosis. You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can track down any way of doing so, or use mindfulness, tune into your breathing, or use a progressive relaxation method you know of to focus your mind and get you absorbed in the moment.
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.
Step Two: Imagine being out on a run along one of your usual running routes.
Get as vivid a scene as possible inside your mind. Notice the surface of the ground, what it is made of and imagine hearing the sound of your feet stepping and running upon it.
Get an awareness of how you are moving your body as you run along your route. Then start to engage with the surroundings, the colours, the details, notice the sounds all around you, those near and those in the distance and get a general sense of how you feel as you run this route.
Whilst imaging this, tell yourself that you are going deeper and deeper into hypnosis with each step and spend a little while doing this process. Once you have really engaged in the scene and feel that you have deepened sufficiently, move on to the next step.
Step Three: The next few steps of this session are for you to rehears the cognitive strategy that you are going to adopt while you run.
Firstly, as you run, you do not speak. You run silently and strongly. You keep a straight face, a blank (almost stern, if anything) expression on your face, relax the facial muscles, letting them be vacant and blank. With this posture and expression, imagine that you are “psyching” yourself up for your run while you are running.
Practice this internal, blank expression and psych yourself up and when you start to feel psyched up yet sure you are not communicating outwardly, move on to the next step.
Step Four: Secondly, you ensure that you look straight ahead of you only.
While you run, you pick a spot or object in front of you and concentrate on it until you reach it or get sufficiently close to it, then pick another spot to focus on. Think of yourself as aiming for that spot or object, all the time heading for it with determination.
Spend a few moments, imagining that you are focusing on a spot, chasing it down and then chasing down the next in a continuous process of keeping focused ahead of you. When you have done this and are still imagining doing this, move on to the next step.
Step Five: Thirdly, with each step that you take with your legs, say the word “down” to yourself with real meaning and vigour.
So that as each leg moves to the floor, followed by the other, you are almost repeating a mantra of the word “down-down,-down-down” in a rhythmical fashion that matches your footsteps.
Get that steady rhythm occurring and keep it going while keeping the previous two steps instructions going too – blank expression, psyched, looking ahead on a focused spot and repeating the word “down” with each step you run.
Once you have all these elements combined, and are comfortably and automatically continuing, then move on to the next step.
Step Six: Once you have spent some time practicing this process in your mind and imagination then tell yourself that you are going to include this process in your running, especially your next long run, your next run designed to enhance endurance while training.
Then, when you are sure of it, wiggle your fingers and toes, take a couple of good, deep energising breaths and open your eyes to bring the session to an end.
I recommend that to get maximum benefit from this process, that you get it practiced in self-hypnosis a few times and really be sure you have the cognitive strategy down to a tee. Then get out there on your long run and start using it to enhance your running endurance.
Barber, T. X. (1966) The effects of hypnosis and suggestions on strength and endurance: a critical review of research studies. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 5: 42-50.
Hull, C. L. (1933) Hypnosis and Suggestibility. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York.
Morgan, W. P. (1972) Hypnosis and muscular performance. Ergogenic Aids and Muscular Performance, pp. 193-233. Academic Press, New York.
Morgan, W. P., Horstman, D. H., Cymerman, A. and Stokes, J. (1983) Facilitation of physical performance by means of a cognitive strategy. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7: 251-264.
Adam Eason is a multi-marathon running best selling author, hypnotherapist and hypnosis trainer. Please visit his Hypnosis for Running website for many more resources, articles, audios for runners learning how to maximise performance using hypnosis and self-hypnosis.
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