It can often be the case that we feel like we work hard at something, but the results don’t marry up with the effort. In terms of running, you train hard during sessions, race day arrives at it feels like you’re learning to walk again. When it comes to sport and in the case of this blog, running, it is not uncommon to experience barriers that get in the way of that high-level performance you have worked so hard towards. Moments of self-doubt can be catastrophic, throwing up hurdles that limit performance. Focusing energy on believing the ability to be the best isn’t installed only further solidifies internal representations of not being good enough. All these negative thoughts and feelings begin to build a wall leading to a total lack of confidence and motivation, consequently a runner may then experience performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety can be described as a ‘choking’ feeling and due to a build-up of perceived stress an athlete may experience a decrease in their performance. Having an audience or high expectations of your success can be factors that lead to ‘perceived stress’. This internal form of stress tends to be brought about by the negative self-talk we as athletes rehearse in certain situations. How many of us are guilty of it? Speaking as a runner myself, I can hold my hands up to say “yes, I am one of those runners that has experienced the voice of self-doubt”. As negative as all of this sounds, it is vital that we as athletes respond to this in a positive way. The thoughts we have about performance and events can be modified and controlled. With the right support and know how, we as runners can change. We can take back the control on race day and feel empowered by our own mental and physical abilities.
Over the years a ‘science of excellence’ has been more widely used within the sporting context to add the advantage on performance. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a tool which can be used to develop the mind allowing us to have the mental resilience to achieve the high-level performance. This in turn results in ‘having the edge’ over other competitors. A number of coaches use NLP (which was developed in the 1970’s by Bandler and Grinder) as a communication tool to add an extra level onto their psychological procedures enhancing an athlete’s motivation. I have been lucky enough to use this fascinating technique as part of my training and mental preparation which allowed me to overcome a psychological barrier that was inhibiting my performance during race situations. Through mental rehearsals and guided visualisations practised in my mid 20’s I can still retrieve these images whilst on the start line of a race today. This has allowed me to perform at a much higher level in comparison to times where I experienced performance anxiety and self-doubt. A powerful technique that must be beneficial to anyone performing in the sporting world whether at elite or amateur level.
What would having the edge over other competitors be worth to you? From the viewpoint of an amateur I have to say NLP is invaluable. It is a tool that runs hand in hand in sporting excellence breaking through the barriers that limit performance and diminishing negative internal representations that can cost high level achievements. NLP offers a means to focus attention on positive outcomes assisting us in reaching personal goals.
The root of NLP is the process of modelling, made up of three key parts. Our beliefs and values systems, our physiology (our individual make-up) and strategies. A coach or therapist that uses NLP as a form of therapy can find and model excellent behaviour which can then be installed within the client, in this case the athlete or runner. Through guided practise of techniques, we can become in control of our mental state, therefore allowing us to stay positive and focused on our goals no matter the external circumstances (for example, a race).
Richard Bandler devised a visualisation pattern which can alter specific patterns within our brains allowing us to break bad habits. The value of an NLP therapist in this situation is their ability to read how we as individuals code our memories. Having this awareness permits the ability to have power of thought processes leading to an immense degree of control over your mind. When we change the meaning of negative internal representations using devised techniques we can diminish or amplify the intensity of remembered experiences. Memories which we find unpleasant, for example the feeling of performance anxiety, can trigger an emotional response that then leads to barriers affecting performance. According to Richard Bandler, “All the things that go on in your mind affect you, and they’re all potentially within your control”. A very powerful quote expressing the importance of learning the skills to allow you to control your mind and therefore alter your ways of thinking making your goals appear more attractive, in turn making it easier to achieve them. In running terms, once you have changed the negative emotions previously experienced due to performance anxiety you are able to take back the control by embedding new ways of thinking. By replacing the uncomfortable emotional experiences through coding positives within our internal representations gives the control back to you. Having that control gives athletes that edge they have been searching for.
Let me ask you this, what would it be worth to you if you could knock down those hurdles and achieve sporting excellence? Come out of a race or even a training session with that positive mind frame ready to take on your next challenge and accomplish greatness? Take that first step towards the new and improved version of you and feel empowered to be the best you can be. At Future Footsteps, Jodi, a Life Coach and Therapist can guide you through your journey offering invaluable tools allowing you to ‘have the edge’ over other competitors. Get in touch for your Free and Confidential consultation!
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