Hypnosis and Running: Part III – What a session involves

The process for hypnosis is simple and there is nothing magic about it. Before you begin, the hypnotherapist should do a thorough interview and you both should be comfortable with each other before you proceed. If you are not comfortable with your hypnotherapist you will have a far greater difficulty (or possibly fail at) getting into a hypnotic state. If you have never done this before or if you are one of the more difficult people to get into state then it may take a couple sessions to achieve this.

You should also share key words that are triggers for you. If there are words and phrases that turn you off or hit you the wrong way, tell him so he can avoid them! If there are words that feel powerful to you, tell him! A good therapist will integrate powerful statements into the session.
Example: The word “relax” may cause someone to “try” too hard and actually tense up; whereas “let go” may be far more effective; or I may like being described as a “tenacious” runner but not a “strong” runner because of my unique connotations to these terms.

Invariably it will start with a gradual relaxation phase. This can take multiple forms and is best tailored to the individual. If you have ever done relaxation or meditation exercises – share this with your therapist also. This portion could take as little as a minute for some people and others might be 10 minutes or so – there is no magic formula to this. You do what works for the individual.

Up to now I have addressed this as if you were going to a professional to do this. But remember that you can do this yourself (thus the term self-hypnosis). You can use a recording that you purchase or you can design your own script and the record it. [Everyone is different here too. I personally do not like to listen to my voice for my session.] You can do this or you can have someone else record it for you.

One of the other aspects to enhance effectiveness is the use of language itself. One thing to consider if you record your own is whether to use first person/second person language.
Example: “I’m letting go and taking a deep breath” or do you prefer: “Let go. Take a deep breath.”

The last example also demonstrates direct vs indirect language. Some people like to be directed to a point – instructed. Others like to be “allowed” to do something; or given permission or a suggestion to do something.
Example: “Take a deep breath” “When you are ready, you can take a deep breath” “If you like, you can take a deep breath”

Affirmations are important in hypnosis. This is planting seeds on new ways of viewing something, or new ways to respond to something. Examples: “I run strong in the last half of races” “I am competitive” “You will allow yourself to perform your best”

Key words are embedded in the verbiage. If the words “explode”, “fluid”, “smooth and relaxed” or “strong” bring special feelings to you or trigger desired thought patterns then these are interspersed in the session. All of these things are ways to address triggers to subconscious thought.

The use of language is one of the most important aspects of effective hypnotherapy. In ways you trick the mind or convince it in round about ways to think in desired ways. Your goal is to overcome some pattern of thought or behavior that has been ingrained in your life [or sporting life]. In a relaxed state your subconscious is more receptive. Your conscious – critical, judgmental – mind has taken a break. Without your defenses up, your subconscious is receptive to all these affirmations, triggers and suggestions.

Another element can be what is called post-hypnotic suggestions. The seeds are planted (through a suggestion) that later in your normal full waking state a particular word or sound will trigger the state or thought experienced in the hypnotic state.
Example: You elicit a confident, mentally tough, can-do, hang in there thought pattern & feeling and then state something to the effect “…now any time you hear the word ‘now*’ you will immediately feel these same feelings of confidence and tenacity…”
*This term works best with athletes when it is something that is relevant and powerful to the individual.

The sessions wrap up with a brief “coming out” of the hypnotic state. Sometimes it takes the form of counting up or down (the opposite of whatever might have been used to induce the hypnosis session).

What I have outlined is basic and general. But, you see that the process of hypnosis is not magic or mystical. You remain very deeply relaxed while still aware of your surroundings. And the effectiveness depends strongly on YOUR confidence and comfort with the hypnotherapist.

Next up I’ll share how to create a script or obtain one.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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4 Responses to Hypnosis and Running: Part III – What a session involves

  1. Christina says:

    Do people still use stop watches to dangle and swing to hypnotize people? Or is that just done in the movies?

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    Though this is indeed HIGHLY over dramatized in movies and the like, techniques with objects (such as a watch) can be used.

  3. Dan doogan says:

    My son is a good cross country high school runner.last year started having panic attacks usually around the 1.5 to 2mile mark of 5k race.not every race.i know he puts a lot of pressure on himself.would go from running low 5 min miles and finish w 9 min mile cuold not feel his legs after attack.desparetly trying to avoid that this year.were reading everything we can,suggestions?thx

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