One of the three important factors that influence our performance in any sport, the mental state of the athlete, is often the one most commonly overlooked in any training regime, or practice in general. Most people will focus on fitness and technical ability, but often do not take enough time to train for the “Flow”, or mental state. This is crucial to performing without the negative and destructive thought processes that can sabotage any amount of physical and technique training. It is very common to find reasons for failing, even before we start a session of our chosen sport.
How often have you had doubts about the outcome, been put off by slightly bad weather, felt anxious, or you may even convince yourself that you have better things to do that day? With such negative outlooks before you even start, it is no wonder that the sporting outcome turns out exactly as you expected. Under achievement! Your mind is just not on the game today!
You get what you focus on, so if you focus on a negative result, that’s what you will usually get.
We are not always using our minds in a positive way, and the result is the formation of limiting beliefs about our sport and ourselves. This leaves us expecting failure rather than success.
By changing our approach to our sport to one that enhances self confidence, we can set realistic goals, maintain a more positive attitude, reduce anxiety and help to see the positives in setbacks and failures. This can undoubtedly lead to a considerable increase in our performance, and set in motion an upward spiral of success, rather than the familiar downward one.
In your sport, you will undoubtedly know and recognise the mental attitudes necessary for the demands of your personal top performance. Meeting these demands may be relatively easy when things are going well, but less so during times of difficulty.
Sports Psychology utilising Hypnotherapy has been developing since the 1950s when, in the 1956 Melbourne Games, the Russian Olympic team employed the services of no less than 11 hypnotherapists to greatly enhance both the team and individual performances, with excellent results. They finished first in the medal rankings.
Today, Sports Hypnosis is a rapidly expanding field of interest throughout the world. Many top sports people and athletes employ hypnotherapists, especially in golf, (for example, Tiger Woods) and this has become the sport most commonly associated with this area. You don’t need to look too far in any sport though, to find champions using hypnotic techniques to improve performance. The reason most of them don’t like to talk about it is because of the age-old myth that hypnosis is a magical power to make you do strange things. This is a misconception, in that nobody can be made to do anything against his or her will. The people we see on stage shows are pre-selected and vetted for willingness to co-operate. (If you really want to walk and squawk like a chicken, nobody is stopping you).
Being in a hypnotic trance is simply like being in the Flow state, and you will recognise it immediately.
Any sporting activity can be enhanced with the right mental state, and cycling is certainly no exception. The self-discipline and many skills needed in cycling mean it is a sport where you can easily allow self-doubt to creep in, where one bad performance can have a negative effect on the next, and the next. This may sound familiar! And it’s not just in competition, but leisure riding, and your weekend ride with mates, too!
Many factors contribute to sports performance. In addition to the physical, technical and strategic demands of sport, athletes must remain focused on the acts of the sport, maintain control of their emotions, retain self-confidence, and consistently apply themselves in both training and competition. When faced with the ups and downs of their performance, most athletes will acknowledge that their mental state is a major factor. Nevertheless, rarely do athletes spend any time sharpening their mental skills, and very few have any training in this area, yet their mental condition is open to training as much as their physical conditioning. Developing mental skills is increasingly recognised as an essential part of an athletes training.
Many athletes are now keenly aware that so much of their performance is “In The Mind”. Hypnosis sessions are a highly effective way to help athletes improve mental focus, tune out all distractions and visualize the outcome they desire. Repetition of the positive visualization in a relaxed hypnotic state can train the mind to accept the positive outcome as the norm, rather than a rarity. Just like preparing a presentation or making a speech, rehearsal makes it easier. Hypnosis can provide that competitive advantage and allow you to get into that “zone” or “flow” state of mind where everything is functioning at its peak, with little or no conscious interference.
What can be accomplished through the powers of the mind? Perhaps the most important thing is the development of a positive attitude.
Negative thoughts pertaining to performance skills can be changed or eliminated. Performance of the sport will be enhanced to a major degree as skills improve to the point where intermittent incidents of poor performance no longer arouse feelings of discouragement, irritation or other detrimental emotional reactions. Concentration, coordination and technique can improve as well as awareness of proper form and posture. Sports enthusiasts face some stumbling blocks in their quest for perfection, such as fear, and fear comes in many forms. Fear of failure is always detrimental and is extremely common in sports, as is its closely related partner, fear of success – a fear that success can create the expectation of further improvement. Fear of humiliation can also be very strong, especially in the presence of an audience. Competition can be intimidating, resulting in a deterioration of skills.
Of course, every sports person has different issues that need to be addressed, so a custom approach is always preferable to a ‘cover all eventualities” scheme.
Maybe you panic and hyperventilate on the start line?
Perhaps you are unnerved by someone who has beaten you in the past in competition, but who you can beat in practice?
There could be a particular hill you find daunting to ride, but you are physically capable of?
Let’s face it, the “pull yourself together” school of psychology has had its day, and it’s time to take a deeper and more effective approach.
Hypnotherapy can work to reduce or eliminate the mental obstacles to peak performance in sports activities. It can be used to focus the unconscious onto the positives, and damp down the negatives.
You deserve to win, or perform at your peak, as much as anyone (and why not?), and the aim is to bring that attitude to the fore.
A change of attitude is the key and the way we view what we perceive as negative can be changed.
There is no such thing as failure, only results! These can be used as feedback, constructive corrections, an excellent opportunity to learn something you had not noticed. Failure is just a way of describing a result you did not want. You can use the results you get to re-direct your efforts. “Feedback” keeps the goal in view. “Failure” is a dead end.
Two words describing a similar result, yet they represent two totally different ways of thinking.
Mental training with hypnosis can quickly help you rise to new heights in your performance and keep distractions to a minimum.
Tangible results can be achieved by using your mind to your advantage, rather than a hindrance, and the techniques to achieve them are now well researched and available, for less than the price of a new pair of good cycling shoes.
Without a doubt, it is the mind that has the control over the determining factors that just about all of our performances (and other behaviours) depend upon. Therefore it is in mastering the mind that the athlete or cyclist ensures the greatest chance of performing at their best.
Martin Lancaster D.Hyp BSCH