I’m just as bad as every other runner (and woman!) out there who doubts themselves and questions what they do. Will I be able to finish my long run? How will I ever run a PB again in my mid 40s? Does my bum look big in these shorts/capris/leggings?!
More so in the last five years or so as a difficult divorce knocked my confidence right out of me, heart and soul. For months, and then a few years I could run, then I couldn’t. I started training with my club again, then stopped. I entered races then never made it to the start-line (far too often). So I’ve had a good few years of being demoralised, physically and mentally. But there have been a few glimmers of hope; good days when I felt like I was flying and some good races that I was almost happy with. Running is a constant rollercoaster, and we all go up and down with it, just as we do with life. I’ve found that being able to accept my running for what it is now – regardless of the amount of training behind me, or the speed in my legs – means that I keep going when life wants me to stop, and I feel I’m managed to hold on to that wisdom we all know with running – consistency is key.
What’s one of the most important ways I do this? Talking to myself of course. More commonly known as Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP. NLP is the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. “I’m never going to be able to run that fast/far…” say this no more! “I’m too old to run a marathon…” Stop it right now! “I’m never going to be as good a runner as I want to be…” Oh yes you are!
I’m lucky as at a particularly low point post-separation I visited an Emotional Wellness Coach, Janet Smith. At this stage I was carrying around a lot of stress and anxiety after looking after my three girls on my own for two years. After a few sessions with Janet my whole approach to myself, and my divorce, would transform dramatically.
“NLP can improve your performance dramatically,” Janet told me at our first meeting. “How? It 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.”
NLP techniques can be used to focus your mind. “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 said. “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.”
OK I hear you say, but how is NLP going to benefit me?
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’, a questioning paradigm, that helps you to get 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?”
Your success begins with having the right attitude, but it’s important to look at your whole life, not just your running. “It is 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’.” In my case, my traumatic divorce bought negativity into all areas of my life – financial, relationships, home, family. It dragged me down into a dark, dark place. Janet made me realise that if I wanted to, I could leave that place.
To do this, and to reignite my love for running, and reestablish it in my daily and weekly routine, Janet encouraged me to create the best attitude I could around my running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How were your behaviours 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.”
Then I had to focus on the feelings surrounding my running that had given me the most joy and pleasure. This was easy. It was finishing my first marathon, and the feelings of sheer disbelief that I had finally achieved something I had dreamed my whole life of doing. The elation was so incredibly it took light years to make my way back down to earth.
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.
“It is believed by numerous coaches 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.
Whatever it may be that you hope to achieve in your running, or whatever your dreams are, once you start believing you can do this, you will.
So, what is Emotional Wellness Coaching?
“As an Emotional Wellness Coach, I use NLP techniques alongside hypnosis and Spectrum Therapy when working with clients,” says Janet. “By working with a client’s own individual programming it is possible to increase performance by using visualisation and hypnosis. Furthermore, I use Spectrum Therapy to release negative emotions, help people heal from previous past experiences and become more positive in all areas of their life. This can be extremely beneficial not only in bringing about optimum performance but in providing a happier more enjoyable experience whilst running.”
Some NLP strategies we can all 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.