Does it sound stupid – using your mind to run faster? Surely it’s harder reps, longer long runs and the odd hill session that normally does this? Well of course, training your body will improve your times. But what about training your mind?
NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. It’s the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. It’s something I’ve used in life, and sport, over the years.
“NLP is an approach that is underpinned by a high performance philosophy that on its own will improve performance dramatically,” advises Janet Smith, an Emotional Wellness Coach. “NLP provides a series of techniques that assist in changing negative mindsets or removing blocks to performance that have been created through bad habits or as a result of negative past experiences.”
That means NLP techniques can be used to seriously focus your mind. No more wandering off mid-race thinking about what you’re going to prepare for tea, or which homework task will be tackled first. An end to standing at the start line and saying to yourself: ‘Actually, I’m not going to race today, I’ll just take it easy.’
“Changing limiting self beliefs and negative self talk will increase personal success as a runner and also increase happiness as unresolved negativity is released,” Janet says. Believe me, my negative self talk can be so loud it’s been known to reach Australia. “Performance in any sport can be broken down into the components of knowledge, skill and attitude. With running, the attitude or mental approach is often paramount in achieving success. Think of the runners that you admire: what qualities do you notice? It is often attitude which allows that person to put in the dedication to achieve their goals; knowledge and skill become secondary.”
My view is always if they can do it, so can I. Maybe not to the same degree as an elite, but you/I can give it a try.
How can NLP benefit my running though, you ask
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’. Using a series of questions you can start to work at getting to the root of the problem that affects performance. “You may also wish to break down your running technique into components which can be looked at individually. Often what we believe about a problem is not where we end up finding the solution,” continues Janet. “We can begin by asking ourselves simple questions such as: What do I believe about my ability to reach my goal? Is there anything that will stop me? Do I commit 100 per cent or do I self sabotage?” Just be asking yourself a few tough questions, and giving honest replies, you can shift the stereotype you’ve been carrying around in your mind about yourself/your running.
Will it really NLP affect my performance?
Success begins with the right attitude. For all of us we have to look at ourselves as a whole. “It’s never just about the running; outside stresses influence our ability,” Janet believes. “Negative emotions and anxiety can drain our energy and cause under performance. Similarly being too relaxed and not focused will lose us ‘our edge’.” Janet stresses how it is, therefore, important to create the best attitude around running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How was your behaviour influenced by those emotions? It is most likely that negative emotions of anger, fear and anxiety were present in some capacity or they even stopped you from going out running in the first place.”
We can all raise our awareness of our own peak performance by recognising when we are on our game and things are going well. If we can just stay out of our own way then we will perform to the peak of our capacity! Increasing our self awareness provides us with the motivation to achieve our aims.
“Numerous coaches believe that the next big steps in human performance will come from how we harness the mind and this is where NLP will come into its own as we step into the future of sport and competition,” adds Janet.
OK, I get it – but what do I do about it?
Here’s some NLP strategies you can do at home
Janet suggests you:
Listen to the stories you tell yourself and others about your running. Do you constantly discuss your fears over a previous injury? Do you play down your ability? Are you frightened of achieving success or failure? Change the stories – change the results!
Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.
Ask yourself what do you believe about your ability to achieve your goal? If you believe it is impossible or that it will take a long time, you will be right.
Imagine yourself having the best run of your life, what would need to be happening? How would it feel, look and sound? Use this as a visualisation exercise.
Take time to focus your mind by using visualisation. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving your goal, is there a colour or sensation connected to it? Now make that colour or sensation more vibrant and more compelling. Do this everday to install new behaviours.
Ask yourself are you literally running away from your problems? How happy are you with your life? Are there negative situations that you should be addressing?
Listen to your inner voice, do not allow your ego to push you towards an injury.
To find out more about how NLP and how Emotional Wellness Coaching can benefit you, visit www.emotionalwellnesscoaching.co.uk.