Think yourself strong

Getty Images

When people think of hypnosis, they often picture a cloaked figure swinging a watch on stage, or Derren Brown making some unsuspecting punter bark like a dog. But on a day-to-day basis it’s very different. ‘Hypnotherapy is not about losing control, it’s about giving the person more control, specifically over their subconscious,’ says hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge.

‘It works by damping down the conscious mind and bringing the subconscious to the fore, accessing the part of your brain that will implant ideas in there on a more permanent basis. The subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between a vividly imagined situation and a real one.Therefore by imagining situations going really well during hypnosis, you can mentally rehearse, so that when that situation arises, you are ready for things to go exactly as you imagined.’

Numerous studies have shown that mental training can actually improve ‘muscle memory’ in a variety of sports. One study assessed two groups of basketballers. Those who physically practised shooting hoops improved by 24 per cent, while those who repeatedly visualised the same skill improved by almost the same rate: 23 per cent.

‘Elite performers develop powerful mental images of the behaviour, which leads to the desired results,’ says Charles Garfield, a sports psychologist and author of Peak Performance. ‘They see in their mind’s eye the result they want, and the actions leading to it.’

As you know from your long Sunday sessions, running is about controlling your mind as much as your body, so knowing how to bend your thoughts to your will is a crucial tool. Here’s Brotheridge’s guide to hypnotising yourself to boost performance.

Reaching hypnosis

1. Give yourself around half an hour to relax, in a place you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie down, so you’re comfy.

2. Slowly relax all your muscles, starting with your toes and feet, and leading up your legs, stomach, back, hands, arms, neck, head and face.

3. Next, drift into a deeper state of relaxation. Imagine yourself descending a staircase, and going deeper with each step. Or picture a lift, with a comfortable seat inside it for you to sit on, and sink deeper and deeper into it as the lift goes down.

4. Now take yourself to a real or imagined favourite place. A popular example is to imagine yourself on a beach, with the sun warming your skin and the breeze in your hair. Imagine the sand under your feet, and the sounds of the waves and of birds. Bring all your senses into play to enrich this experience.

5. By this point, around 10 minutes in, you will feel like you’re in a daydream – you’re relaxed, but focused.

Creating 'suggestions'

1. Now, your subconscious is open to positive ‘suggestions’. For example, ‘I am a faster and more confident runner’ is much better than ‘I am feeling less worried about my ability’.

2. Suggestions starting with ‘I am’ are often effective. Tell yourself what you would like to happen, how you would like to think, feel and behave. If you lack motivation, for example, imagine yourself excitedly lacing up your shoes on a sunny day. Tell yourself, ‘I am happy when I run.’

3. When imagining situations as going well, create a really rich image, with everything you will see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think, say and do.

4. Keep on repeating your message, delivering it in different ways. E.g. ‘I feel excited about going for a run’ and so on.

5. Count back very slowly from 10 to one so your senses are not shocked by returning to alertness. Repeat this routine three times a week as part of your training regime.