Using Your Hypnotic Running Hero To Improve Your Running Performance

After a pretty cold and icy winter, it finally seems like Spring is here. I love running and training in the Spring; there's something uplifting in the air with the milder mornings, the lighter evenings, the warmth of the sunshine and just that sense of freshness and positivity that comes with it all. 

It's the time of year that I enjoy running the most. After enduring the bleakness, cold and darkness of the winter months, there's more of a spring in my step and a sense of optimism about training and racing. 

My running has been going reasonably well in recent weeks and I'm now up to a steady long run for over ten miles at the weekend, as well as a couple of shorter efforts during the week, and more recently my mind has been continuing to return to thoughts and aspirations about completing another ultra marathon. It's been a long while since I've been in a position to contemplate an ultra, after a long standing hip issue that took quite some time to identify and rectify. But now I'm well and truly invested in increasing my mileage and training over the coming months for an early Autumn ultra.

Perhaps in running, and other sports too, one of the main ways that you learn how to improve your running performance is through watching and learning from other runners, talking to other runners about their experiences and what has or hasn't gone well for them, and then applying that to your own approach, mindset, training and racing. And then, of course, learning more through your own experiences and things that work for you and things that you need to change or amend to suit your own approach and goals.   

There are also many books and blogs by runners out there. I've learnt tons from reading books about marathon training, for example, and following training plans by legends such as Hal Higdon (who's training plans have got me through over a dozen marathon races). You can also learn from watching clips on TV and the internet. There can't be many runners who haven't found the exploits of Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah uplifting and inspiring, for example, or who haven't marvelled at the determination of the Brownlee Brothers or the speed and eloquence of other athletes who run. 

And, as I'm covering here, you can take that inspiration from your running role models and heroes and apply it to boost your own running performance. Whether it's their mindset, attitude, self-belief, persistence, determination or some other quality you admire and want to benefit from, you can use hypnosis for running to help you. 

hypnosis for running performance ely 

Ultra Marathon Man

With my mind wandering and day-dreaming about running an ultra marathon later this year, I've recently revisited reading 'Ultra Marathon Man (Confessions of An All Night Runner)' by Dean Karnazes. This was the book I last read when, a few years ago, I was contemplating my first ultra marathon, and that inspired me to enter, train and complete a gruelling forty miles on a pretty rough course. 

The forty mile GrimReaper Ultra Marathon is a grueling race that takes place in the heat of August and involves a whole load of hills, tracks and roads on a four lap course. Despite taking on a whole new level of learning and knowledge about running this sort of distance in these conditions, I was delighted to reach the finish line in one piece.

Perhaps one of the most valuable and important things you learn from a marathon or ultra marathon is an intimate knowledge of your own mindset, persistence, motivation and resilience. In the tougher moments there is plenty to identify with, learn from and address in those self-talk thoughts that come in as you tire, the mental imagery and the emotions and how to regulate, manage and orchestrate the kind of things that go on inside of your head.

Here I am at the finish line bowed and only slightly broken! (I decided to lie down for quite some time!), just before I uttered the words 'Never again! Ain't gonna be no rematch' (in a reference to the line uttered after the tumultuous fighting scene in Rocky). 

ultra marathon hypnosis for running ely


Out of the hundred plus medals in my collection, that one is still the one that fills me with the most pride and sense of achievement. 

Anyway, back to Dean Karnazes, who, from reading his Ultra Marathon man book, is certainly one of my running heroes. I have no desire to compete in similar races to the ones he describes in his book, including a twenty four hour, one hundred mile mountain race, running at the South Pole or running the Badwater marathon where the temperature is enough to melt your trainers. When we look at, talk about and learn from our running heroes, we are not aiming to be them or to replicate their lives, or to try to be some clone of them in some way.

When we look at our role models, we are looking to learn from specific attributes they possess that could benefit us. This could be things like their motivation, determination, ability to handle adversity, their self-belief or some other aspects of their thinking, attitude and the way they approach their running. We can learn from these things, integrate and adopt them in a way that fits and works for us, and then use them to benefit our running performances.

After the 2012 London Olympics I used to replay the running by the triathlete Brownlee Brothers inside my mind when facing a tough patch on my long runs. You may remember the way they persevered and pushed on despite tiredness and exhaustion. They had courage and grit and refused to stop. That's pretty uplifting and inspiring and if I can adopt even an ounce of that fortitude and determination into my own running, then it will serve me well indeed.

When I read about Karnazes, there's no doubting his focus, determination, courage, self-belief, resilience and even a touch of the bloody minded stubbornness needed to compete in ultra marathons to the best of your training and ability.  It's a book that makes me want to put on my trainers and just run and run for the pure joy (and hell of it!). 

Whoever your own running hero is, whether someone you know well or someone you admire, you can use hypnosis to learn from them and to benefit your own running performance. It may be that you use this to boost your confidence and belief in your ability, to draw upon and learn from their motivation, mindset, persistence and determination, or some other aspect of the way they run, the thoughts they think, their self-belief, or some other aspects of what you consider they do well.   


Learning From Your Hypnotic Running Hero

There's plenty of evidence and research to support using modelling, or observational learning, to improve your athletic performance. Watching other runners can help with skill acquisition and strategy, and help improve your psychological responses and enhance your performance in competition. It can also help with factors such as motivation, optimum arousal levels and mindset (Cumming et al, 2005).

By observing and learning from your running hero you can seek to improve your psychological responses, such as coping with fear and anxiety, and increasing confidence and self-efficacy within your running. 

Learning from observing other runners is a technique not only for skill and strategy acquisition, but it can also help you improve your psychological responses within running, such as coping with anxiety or staying positive in tough situations in ways that will boost your performance (Wesch et al, 2007).

Watching demonstrations can benefit learning and running performance through a process of attention, retention, production, and motivation. Firstly, you pay careful attention to the person being observed. You then commit the observed act to memory through techniques such as imagery and put it into practice. To benefit, you need to be motivated to attend to, remember, and practice the observed behavtiour in order to perform the skill accurately (Bandura, 1977).

It is also important to know what you look at with regard to your running hero. With Karnazes, who I mentioned above, I’ve been reading his books to learn more about his mindset, determination, resilience and motivation in ways I can apply to my own running. What I haven’t been trying to model is his running gait or running style in any way as these may not suit my own physical running mechanics. I am seeking to learn from his mindset, psychology and approach in a way that I can adapt in a way that is right for me and that will benefit my own running performances.

There’s no doubting that mental skills are an important aspect for successful running performance. The use of observational learning of your running role models, as well as imagery use, can help you with learning about optimal arousal levels, building confidence, motivation and mental states for performance (Hall, 2009).

In discussing the power of positive role models for athletes, Connolly (2017) describes how one of the things that can be modelled and imitated are 'champion behaviours' such as high-effort, persistence, dedication, work ethic, positive attitude, focus and competitiveness.

And, of course, hypnosis offers an unrivalled way of enhancing your psychological skills by recalling your running hero and their mindset, and building in observational learning and imagery. Hypnosis aids focus, makes imagery more vivid and real inside your mind, and supports developing belief in how you apply this to your own running.

Whether you want to curb running anxiety and stress, build confidence and self-belief or develop some other psychological aspect of your training and competing (e.g. being mentally tough, in control and confident), your hypnotic running hero can help you improve and progress.


Your Hypnotic Running Hero 

As the research shows, there really is a lot to be gained from effectively observing and modelling your running role models and heroes if you want to improve aspects of your running mindset and performance. I'll soon be recording a specific hypnosis download that will massively help you to benefit from the psychology, mindset and attitude of your running hero. Until that's available, here's how you can start learning and benefiting right now:

1. Think of a runner you admire and that you’d like to aspire to be like. It could be someone you know, a well-known runner or a world record holder (remember you aren't aiming to be them or to compare yourself negatively with them, you are aiming to learn from them in a way that is right for you and will benefit your own running). Have a think about what it is that you admire about your running hero. Is it their confidence and self-belief? Their toughness, motivation and determination? Or is there some other psychological quality or aspect of their mindset that would benefit your running from learning and adopting?

2. With your running hero in mind, sit somewhere quiet, take a deep breath and close your eyes. If you know self-hypnosis or meditation techniques you could incorporate these here. Start to extend your out breath and say the word 'relax' to yourself on every breath out. You could tense and relax each part of your body or tell yourself that each part of your body is relaxing. You could imagine a calm colour or sensation spreading through you or fill your mind with a relaxing sound. You could engage your imagination and imagine being in a remembered or created place of calmness, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Or you can draw upon and utilise any other ways that allow you to feel comfortable, calm and relaxed. Your aim here is just to feel as safe, calm and comfortable as you can right now

3. Now, picture your running hero inside your mind. Imagine watching them running and displaying the kind of mindset, attitude and attributes you admire in them. As best as you can from the knowledge you have of them, make the image as vivid as you can. Notice their movements, the expression on their face, the look behind their eyes. Be aware of whatever it is that tells you they are displaying the kind of mindset, qualities and behaviours that you know them for.

As you imagine them inside your imagination, notice what the are doing and what it is about them that tells you the are doing well at it. Spend a few moments and enjoy watching, noticing and observing your running hero performing well. As you imagine them, think about them and draw upon your knowledge of them, let it start to motivate and inspire you. Feel good as you imagine this person doing what they do so well, having the kind of mindset, qualities and attributes that you admire in them.

Drawing upon what you know, start to consider the thoughts they have, how they talk to themselves and communicate with themselves inside their own mind. Think about the kind of focus they likely have, what they pay attention to and any other thoughts, images, self-talk, motivations, confidence  and self-belief that they have. Think of what you can learn from your running hero here today that you can learn and apply and that will benefit your own running.

4.  Keep thinking of the things you can learn from your running hero, their behaviour, mindset, attitude, emotional responses etc - and how you can apply these to benefit your own running. And then start to imagine watching yourself applying the things you have learnt and taken on board into your running. Imagine watching yourself, like on a big cinema screen inside your mind, running with that mindset, attitude and so forth. Imagine it as vividly and as best as you can.

See yourself running well and applying everything you have learnt from your running hero. Watch yourself taking on these qualities, that mindset and attitude, the motivation, determination, confidence and whatever qualities, behaviours, thinking and attitude you have been observing and imagining in your running hero.

Really imagine watching yourself running, maybe in particular places, times, circumstances and situations, applying the kind of mindset, thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions of your running hero. As you watch yourself benefiting from your learning in your running performance and mindset, think to yourself “I just know that is going to happen” – think it, know it, believe it. Make it as real and vivid as you can in a way that's right for you and your running.

5. Now, step into that image of yourself. Imagine being out on a run. Imagine being there seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Tune in and be aware of your surroundings and the environment that you are in. Imagine running in the kind of situations, environments and circumstances where you will benefit most from all you have learnt from your running hero. 

Be there in your mind and notice how when you adopt that mindset, those qualities, that attitude or those other psychological and emotional aspects you have learnt and integrated into yourself, it benefits your running. Think in that way, feel those feelings and really know in your mind that you are benefiting from this.  Mentally rehearse taking these thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions into your running and notice how it benefits you. See the sights, hear the sounds, feel the feelings and let everything you have learnt and absorbed from your running hero benefit your running performance. Be assured of it in your mind, think it, know it and believe it. Commit to applying it the next time you are out running. 

6. Then, having done that, and to bring this process to an end, take a deep breath, count up from 1 up to 3 inside your mind and then open your eyes and reorient yourself to your surroundings. 

Regularly repeat this process to get the most out of it and then start to apply the mindset and thinking of your running hero when out training and into your next competitive run. Through observing and imagining, your running hero can be a massive source of inspiration and learning to you that will positively benefit your own running performance. Certainly I'll continue to draw upon my 'inner Karnazes' to find the determination, mindset, mental toughness and persistence that I need in my own long distance running training. And later this year I hope I'll have a photo of a nice new ultra marathon medal to show you (along with a photo of my cheesy grin with it!). 

To your running success,

Dan Regan

Hypnosis For Running

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Bandura, A., 1977. Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review84(2), p.191.

Connolly, G.J., 2017. Applying social cognitive theory in coaching athletes: The power of positive role models. Strategies30(3), pp.23-29.

 Cumming, J., Clark, S.E., Ste-Marie, D.M., McCullagh, P. and Hall, C., 2005. The functions of observational learning questionnaire (FOLQ). Psychology of sport and exercise6(5), pp.517-537.

Hall, C.R., Munroe-Chandler, K.J., Cumming, J., Law, B., Ramsey, R. and Murphy, L., 2009. Imagery and observational learning use and their relationship to sport confidence. Journal of Sports Sciences27(4), pp.327-337.

Wesch, N.N., Law, B. and Hall, C.R., 2007. The use of observational learning by athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior30(2), p.219.