Running under Active-Alert Hypnosis

This Saturday I am going to run my first race in (I can’t believe it) 3 years. In fact the last race which was the Wine Run turned out to be more of a walk! So I could say that in reality my last running race was in 2015!

Here’s a pic of me after the last race I ran.

Disco Urban Race 5k 2015
I’m on the right with my great friend, Marianne having ran the 5k Disco Urban Night Race, Arrecife. May, 2015

The race this Saturday is the very same race except I’ve signed up for the 10k. I’m hoping it to be the start of many more, building up to a half-marathon at some point.

Why haven’t I been running in any races in between then and now? It turned out that when I was running that race in 2015 it was the beginning of a downward spiral which ended up in complete burnout. I was losing weight rapidly, was extremely underweight and work and family life was taking its toll. My job was intense and I wasn’t eating properly. When I went out training I noticed that the following day my defences were down and I felt like I had flu-like symptoms. I decided by the end of 2017 to leave my job as I had reached my limit mentally and physically. Then a bitter blow came when I ended up with pneumonia three days into my Vipassana meditation retreat shortly after finishing my job. Maybe it was a sign to force me to stop and rest completely?

When I recovered I decided to take up running but again I found my defences were low the day after. I then began associating running with being ill – forming what’s called a “negative anchor”. An anchor in Neuro-Linguistic Programming is the relationship between a trigger and a change in mood – it’s a type of a stimulus response pattern. I was noting a great deal of anxiety and caution whilst I was running. Not a good mindset and I was not making any progress. I kept my diary ‘The Simple Mindful Runner’ to explore how my mind operated whilst running. I believe it was this fascination as well as wanting to help transform people’s life for the better that led me to studying  Clinical Hypnotherapy at Adam Eason’s School for Hypnotherapy. 

It turns out that Adam has ran ultra-marathons, has assisted well-known runners for a TV programme in the UK and has written his own book “Hypnosis For Running” . He’s currently preparing for another ultra-marathon. So I decided to test out my very own tutor’s work by using the audio version of his book with all the self-hypnosis exercises.

What have I discovered from Adam’s ‘Hypnosis for Running‘?

Wow! This has really been a game changer for me! The idea is to learn how to adopt the right mindset to hypnosis and practise hypnotic exercises repeatedly. I have learnt to keep my motivation up and to police my thoughts, have increased self-awareness, I have mentally visualised positive running scenes and my upcoming race. I have learnt to associate relaxation with running and now have techniques I can use with fast beneficial results. I have several mental imagery techniques which help improve my running performance. If you want to know them you’ll have to read the book!

I have noticed that for the first time in a long time I am thoroughly enjoying my runs and now that they feel like I put in less effort, my endurance has improved rapidly. I have made strong “positive anchors” with running  and am experiencing positive changes in my mindset which influences my running and my everyday living. My goals are now set higher and they seem more attainable.

So on Saturday 21h I will be running using hypnosis. If there’s any strange thoughts to this it does not mean I’ll be running with my eyes closed!!  I’ll be active and alert! My aim is to enjoy this 10k and to finish it with good energy, hopefully with a progressive last 5k. So any positive best wishes from your part will be greatly appreciated and taken on board during this fast night race in the capital.

Alive & Kicking!

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Helium Balloons and Puppets!

The power of self-hypnosis while running

I have recently returned home from my first intensive block of studying and training in clinical evidence-based hypnotherapy in Bournemouth. I have to say it’s all rather exciting and fascinating, although at times overwhelming with the vast amount of content to take in, and the studying and research (self-discipline) that lies ahead during the next coming months. Saying that I have met the best bunch of people from many walks of life on the course and I know there’s a good sense of group support there (and many laughs…that’s right!).

We worked on numerous techniques of inducing and deepening hypnosis, using suggestions, coming out of hypnosis and many NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) techniques and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Obviously, the use of these techniques to enhance endurance and performance in running interests me greatly so I decided to put some of them into practice….

I had my running goal set which was simply to maintain a good rhythm for 60min on a hilly off-road track and keep myself motivated and engaged with a positive mindset. I set off at a decent pace bringing awareness to my body, with an alert and attentive mind, and imagined an invisible thread pulling upwards from my shoulders and head (a position often associated with meditation). I felt as if I were a few cms taller and that my feet were lighter on the floor.  Running started off as if I was having to make less effort  than normal and more flow.

After a few hills the thought came to me that my feet were feeling heavy and things seemed like they were dragging (which is a physiological response to the thought).dragging

I responded immediately to this negative cognition by imaging that thought being squashed in a black ball and in my mind I said vehemently “Fly off!” (with the same vehemence as if I was saying an expletive!) The black ball would then fly away. Then using all my imaginative skills I visualised a pair of helium balloons attached by a valve to the back of each of my feet and filling my feet up with helium. I really engaged in this process visualising blue balloons and the sound of the air passing in to my feet and the sensation of my feet getting lighter and fresher as they filled with helium. Then to make the most of this I focused that with each breath the helium passed up higher and higher through my body making me feel lighter. It worked! Horray for helium balloons!

Things were going well until at about 40min into the run I was noticing my thoughts were lacking motivation as I was thinking about getting home rather than being present and engaged. A quick scan and I observed my posture had changed and my pacing was slightly sluggish. Quick recognition of the negative cognition (“I want to just finish this and get home now”) and I replaced the thought with the experience of finishing a race in which my two sons were waiting near the finishing line and the crowd cheering and a surge of energy.  Just visualising this experience helped me revivify my energy back to the positive. I decided then to use more creative thought processes to turn the final stage of this run into something fun!

I felt like I wanted to change my rhythm and bring my knees up more so I imagined I was a marionette on a string and a giant marionettist was behind me who was operating strings effectively that were attached to my head, shoulders, hands, knees and feet! I first stepped out of myself and put myself into the marionettist who was controlling a wooden cross with strings and watching myself running with a longer stride and flowing. Then I stepped back into my body and imagined the feelings of those strings pulling me upright, lifting my feet off the floor, my arms moving in coordination. It really was fun engaging in this thought process and worked a treat! I felt lighter, motivated, my pace went up and my posture was better. I then imagined the marionettist pulling up the strings on my knees and my stride changed, I brought my knees up even more and my stride was longer! Again a good, positive physiological result in my body and what I lost in motivation had changed to enjoyment and fun!

I finished the run completing my goal and at a pace I was happy with. The feelings afterwards of satisfaction and gratitude for engaging in the processes left me with an extremely pleasant buzz which just set me up for the day.

I hope you enjoyed the way that I engaged my mind into changing negative cognitions into positive ones and can see that by doing this the benefits can be applied in other areas in life, and not just for running. Any situation which requires motivation and/or endurance can be changed when you have the  mindset to want to actively engage in suggestions, visualisations and make them your belief that they will produce the outcome expected.

Helium and puppets for me totally rule!

Back to School

a start to a new journey

I had a bit of an existential crisis last year. I was really asking myself why I was here and what is it I can positively contribute to this planet while I am here. I wasn’t depressed but felt my inner-clock ticking away and a sense of urgency to act. I found I was being too clear on what I didn’t want in life rather than on what I did want.

Giving up a job you have been doing for many years (in my case I was teaching for 23 years) with the idea of finding your real true purpose in life is no easy task. Your sense of identity changes; in some sense you feel liberated and in others completely lost in a wash of where do I go from here? And how?

Meditation was helpful. It kept me balanced and brought back calm and focus when I needed it most. Meditation helped me accept my human condition.

It was over the Christmas break, being away from home, connecting with nature and having moments to quietly reflect and jot down thoughts that my self-realisation came. Being in a different environment clearly helped. I was more relaxed and open.

I decided to make a list of things I love doing and then a list of things I’m good at. I wanted to focus on what would really give me a life of joy, passion and fulfillment. I started off with:

“When my life is ideal I am…” and brought the list down to my 5 most important. I started to see a clearer picture form. Basically I like helping people live a better life. I’ve always been a good listener and I would love to be able to ease people’s suffering or transform people’s lives. I have had an ongoing fascination for psychology and how the mind works. This is one of the motives for writing this blog. Now it became clear that my purpose in life is to work in a therapeutic field. And as by casuality….

an article appeared about how hypnosis can work effectively in a wide range of situations.  I was totally absorbed and fascinated. I discovered how well-known sports people such as David Beckham had used hypnosis to stay at the top of his game, Jack Nicklaus used it for improved concentration in his golf, Jimmy Conners for career success at tennis, Tiger Woods for golf improvement and peak performance, and the list goes on in the sports world. Also treatments for anxiety, depression, building up self-esteem, changing compulsive behaviours, weight loss, quit smoking…the list is long. Just google it. I could visualise how hypnosis could be complementary with my 23 years of teaching experience in supporting children and teenagers with emotional problems, exam nerves and overcoming fears, and how my love for mindful running for motivating sportsmen and women to excel at their sport.

It took me nearly 2 months of sourcing out a course that I felt would put me up there with one of the best training schools to be a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a good grounding in cognitive behaviour. I came across Adam Eason who is the UK’s leading evidence-based hypnotherapist and am now signed-up to start the course with him. So next week I’m off to college in Bournemouth for 10 days to begin a long and intensive course in a fully accredited Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma (HPD) which will be mix of classroom-based and practical learning in Bournemouth followed by plenty of study and practice from home and another intensive classroom-based block later this year. I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead, got to get my student head back on and be prepared to step out of my comfort zone. I’m really excited!

Bournemouth
Bournemouth with 7 miles of beach (Bournemouth Beach named 20th best beach in the world, 2019 by TripAdvisor). I expect the weather to be quite fresh in March.

I’m also thinking about what it’s going to be like going for a run in Bournemouth. Those running shoes are definately coming with me!

And I also hope to despell the myths and misconceptions of hypnosis in the near future.

Alive & Kicking!

 

 

Self-Belief

The importance of re-wiring your mind

I’d like to share a true story with you and what I’ve learnt from it.

I was teaching at a private school in Lanzarote, and was also part of the sports department. Naturally we were expected to represent the school in as many sports competitions as possible. I was actually one of the trainers of the girls’ football team and was getting back into running.

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Back row, second from left, next to our dear departed Mike who I miss deeply. Jack, Head of Sports Dpt on the right.

Lanzarote had its XV Mile Run Night Race in 2003 in which I participated and represented the school I was working at. It was in the capital of the island, Arrecife and there were a heck of a lot of runners participating in this race. I had not ran any competitions and so was not familiar with the experience of competitive running. I remember thinking, “It’s only a mile. Get it over and done with then go home.”

 

I had the most terrible pre-race nerves with my stomach turning and I felt like I was going to be sick. So many runners! My mind was set-up for dread and the fear of not doing well. Also there was that added pressure of the director of the school watching, the other sports staff, teachers, parents, students…

The gun shot to start the race and away I went with those nerves and ran at a pace right from the very start that was way beyond my comfort zone. I made it to the end but suffered terribly. I could hardly hold myself up and it took a while to recover and look like the fit sports teacher that I believed were the expectations others would have of myself in my mind. I rapidly made my excuses to leave and went home thinking there’s no point in hanging around for the results. I negatively and defeatedly told myself I ran terribly and that I never win anything, so what’s the point.

Whilst returning home my mobile was ringing and the name of  thedirector of the school I was working appeared on the screen. I didn’t pick-up the call. I was not in the mood. Then the phone rang again and it was the Head of Sports Department, Jack. I stopped the car, picked-up the call and heard Jack yelling, “Where the hell are you? You’re supposed to be up on the podium!”

“Yeah, right,” I said in disbelief, after all I had never won a sports award in my life.

“You’ve won second place in your category! There’s a whopping big cup waiting for you to come up to collect right now!” Jack continued.

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The cup I won but didn’t collect. A constant reminder on my shelf.

I felt like shit. I had actually won something for the first time and because of my negative self-belief I wasn’t even there to collect it. In the end Jack sent up his 6 year old daughter to collect it on my behalf. I really felt like I had thrown away a beautiful moment.

 

The Moral of this Story

I know now that I am not the same person as I was then and would now approach this race with a totally different mindset and race plan.

I’ve learnt that the mind acts on what is familiar, for example, in my case, ‘I never win anything’ and so  I unconsciously acted out in a way to justify it (by telling myself I ran badly and going home). I had no positive vision, just a very defeatist attitude.

Now if I was able to:

. believe in myself,

. visualise myself running well,

. use better words in my head,

. and change the feeling of fear for excitement,

the whole experience would have run more smoothly, I would have paced myself better at the start and finish, I would have been a content finisher and an absolutely delighted second-place (if not first-place) winner on the podium. All of which I fully deserved if I HAD BELIEVED IN MYSELF.

There’s certainly more to sport achievement than just training the body. A large part is training the mind and re-wiring it to respond to ideas which may not be so familiar. This is important because your THOUGHTS lead to FEELINGS which leads to your ACTIONS. If we consciously observe our thoughts in a given situation, for example during a pre-race and they are negative, for example the thought “those runners look more fitter than me. I’ll never be able to keep up with them”  this then enduces feelings of dread, anxiety, discomfort, fear, which results in a run full of discomfort, a lack of flow, lack of co-ordination, body tension,  and no determination to win the race.

Now here’s a trick to put into practice. Turn that thought around to “I feel fit and ready, I’ll make it to the end with a good run. I’ll give it my best shot”. The mind doesn’t even care what is the truth but it responds to this message with feelings of hope, drive, enthusiasm and up for the challenge. What was fear can be turned into excitement to be challenged. The run will be a much better experience if you can maintain this mindset. It takes perseverance to change habitual thought patterns that are not productive and requires regular and repetitive practice but with this practice improvements will be gained in all aspects of life.

Here’s to the cup on top of the shelf as a constant reminder to believe in myself.

Dedicated to Mike Wheeler, a positive motivator, who had me in stitches with laughter, and a totally great person. You gave so much to so many during your time here.

You Run only as Well as You Think

 

I was thinking about how at times I enjoy a run much more than others. My mind was really set up for those runs and I was able to maintain a positive mindset – turn boredom into feeling good and with gratitude, tiredness into lightness… Then suddenly a memory came to me about how I really loathed running when I was a child.

When I was in primary school a lot of P.E. (sport lessons) was spent running races. They were short races of 100 – 200m and I was usually one of the last ones to finish the race. I remember being told by teachers that I should be one of the first ones to finish as I was the tallest, was fairly slim and had the longest legs. I was told I had an advantage over the other kids. Regardless of this I continued to come in as one of the last runners. I dreaded sports lessons and sports day. The expectation that others had of me and me not fulfilling them made me feel pressure and a failure. I had the idea I was not born to run and hated it.

The truth of the matter I now understand is that at that time I had little desire to run and had no interest in pushing myself. I was far more interested in music and drama classes than sport! With the added expectation of “I should be able to run better” it just made running worse. I was constantly setting myself up for failure. I felt like a failure so I acted it out to justify my thought.

That last sentence is key to how we unconsciously respond to emotions rather than logic. We feel something – dread, pressure, fear, not being good enough and our brain responds to this.

On the other hand when I was in secondary school things really changed. I discovered the joys of cross-country running. This would be a long 8 mile run and I loved it! I would be one of the early finishers. I mean a good time out of school classes and running in the beautiful countryside for me was bliss! I was motivated and this motivation made my running improve. In fact I remember some students taking shortcut routes through the forest and along the river just to say they had finished before me! My mindset about running completely changed. The long legs were doing the thing that they didn’t want to do in primary school and I prefered endurance instead of dynamic short races. Since then I was hooked on running longer distances. Having said that I went on to win 2nd in my category for a mile night race when I certainly didn’t have the mindset to do well at this distance. That win changed my thinking that you can always give a bit more than you believe you are capable of.

If you are runner reflect back on those runs that made you feel low and on those that gave you a high and ask yourself:

Q. What was I feeling?

Q. Did you feel like you had to impress others rather than yourself?

Q. If you turned those feelings round to the opposite how would that have changed your performance?

The key is turning emotions/feelings into positive ones, and regularly enough to rewire your thinking. Try it out in any life situation!

Running and Listening to Your Mind

you might find the answer

One of the reasons for starting my blog was that it was a way of keeping a diary of my thoughts and observations that arise whilst running and seeing what benefits can be shared with others. I even thought about calling this blog “A Simple Mindful Runner’s Diary” but decided simplicity is the key so I kept the name short.

meditation-running
Do you prefer a running or sitting meditation?

I experience running as a type of meditation in movement. I also practice sitting meditation but I know that it is not for everybody and many prefer the idea of meditation with movement.

When I decide that the focus on my run (usually on a steady rhythm run day) is to observe my thoughts whilst being aware of my surroundings for safety issues I often surprise myself with how I find that answers to many questions just come flowing to me. Sometimes I feel like I suddenly know how to fix a problem or know which call of action I need to take to solve a problem. At times a creative idea might arise, or there’s that eureka moment. All this doesn’t come to me easily whilst I am sitting.

Filmmaker Casey Neistat told Runner’s World  that running is sometimes the only thing that gives him clarity of mind. “Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run,” he told the magazine.

So what have running and clearer thought processes got in common? How is it that many runners see issues presented clearly and find quick solutions when running but maybe not as effectively when sitting? Studies in neuroscience have made an incredible study on the link between aerobic exercise and cognitive activity:

Information Source: thecut.com/2016/04/why-does-running-help-clear-your-mind.html

Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise.

The other fascinating thing here is where these new cells pop up: in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. So this could help explain, at least partially, why so many studies have identified a link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

Other post-run changes have been recorded in the brain’s frontal lobe, with increased activity seen in this region after people adopt a long-term habit of physical activity. This area of the brain — sometimes called the frontal executive network system — is located, obviously enough, at the very front: It’s right behind your forehead. After about 30 to 40 minutes of a vigorous aerobic workout – enough to make you sweat – studies have recorded increased blood flow to this region, which, incidentally, is associated with many of the attributes we associate with “clear thinking”: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.

Conclusion

I have no doubts that my work and emotions are far more productive after I’ve been on a run. I highly recommend to anyone to go for a good hike in the countryside or a run for at least 30 mins to get those neurons fired up, come up with ideas and to reduce stress. And just think about it…we often hear  about naturally losing brain cells as we get older but NOT that we can actually produce new neurons through vigorous aerobic exercise, so now we can knock that old idea on the head (excuse my pun). What’s important is that any aerobic activity produces more blood flow and oxygen to the brain keeping it healthy.

Here’s to clearer thinking and a healthier and happier you!

 

 

I’m Back! Alive & Kicking!

Hey there! It’s been quite some time. There’s been ups and downs. Quite a roller-coaster really, lots of procrastinating, many life changing patterns and plenty of time for reflection.

I’ve decided to set 5 goals to achieve this year. It was working out the ‘what’ first before even going into the ‘how’. Firstly, I know it’s important to be tuned-in to your passions to make better goal-setters and for me running is definately one of them. I have observed that I was finding it difficult to keep to regular training. My running was becoming stagnant and I felt it a shame to let this slip. Also most of my training was spent alone. I knew WHAT one of my goals was to be:

.TO STEP-UP MY RUNNING.

and HOW?

.TO FIND A TRAINER.

Obviously this was the only way I will be able to remain committed, motivated and improve on my speed and technique.

The Universe Heard My Call

It’s strange but have you noticed that once you have a clear thought and goal, things start to manifest in your life? It so happened that a really good friend, who is an ex-athlete said that he wanted to get back into running again and asked if I would like to run with him. He remembered as clearly as if it was yesterday the training plans he underwent to become a good runner. I jumped at the opportunity (or rather jogged!) Next thing I knew there was a 6-consecutive day plan in place (I have never ran 6-consecutive days, maybe 4 at the most!). He said this would be good to get the ability quickly back to maintain longer distances but be prepared for week 1 being tough.

Week 1: 6-Day Training

I surprised myself that from day 1 I jogged a steady 30 mins to end up on day 6 with a good 60min off-road run that felt good. Running includes a variety of surfaces: off-road with hills, flat pavements and running tracks. During the week was a gradual increase in running time, a session which included a 15-min fartlek on day 3, a ‘bitch-day’ for me on day 4 where I really dragged my feet for 45 min, a session on day 5 which included slow and fast skipping drills and day 6 with the long off-roader. Everyday included core exercises: planks, press-ups, Russian twists, leg raises…and what surprised me was how quickly my body responded. And now we have the next couple of weeks training plan in place.

The Benefits

We’re in a win-win situation. I get to train with someone experienced to guide me and there’s NO backing out, only full commitment, come rain, hail or shine (including those strong Lanzarote gusty winds). The endorphines run and I feel great afterwards, challenged, motivated and clear-thinking. My friend gets back into good form again and it disciplines/motivates him to get away from the intellectual mind work on his computer for a while and connect with both his body and mind. He works much better as a result from that timeout running.

So I can tick-off that I am giving attention to one of my intentions and if you would like to know more about how to align your life I highly recommend:

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All the best for your goals for 2019!