IMPROVING ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE WITH HYPNOSIS

     A sport psychologist for a U.S Olympic team once noted that 80 to 90 percent of an Olympic athlete's performance is in the mind.  In the 1960's in East Germany, Olympic trainers were working with athletes using hypnosis.  Today, hypnotherapists work with trainers and sports psychologists at the college and professional levels as well as Olympic athletes.  Using your mind to improve physical performance can be of real value to you.  And hypnosis is a great way of using your mind.

     An issue for which clients come to see me is improving athletic performance.  I have seen people who are professionals wanting to improve their performance in everything from football to golf.  Students come to see me hoping to release fears about getting hit by a ball or a tackle or improving their skills enough for a scholarship. I have worked with Olympic hopefuls in diving,swimming and gymnastics.  All recognize that hypnosis can be a great tool to improve their skills in their chosen sport.

     There are a number of different ways that hypnosis can improve athletic performance.  Using visualization is a key part of such improvement.  Back in 1984, Mary Lou Retton competed in the Olympics.  She described her nighttime ritual of visualizing her routines, "I see myself hitting all my routines, doing everything perfectly.  I imagine all the moves and go through them with the image in my mind."  She did just that in competition.  Note that the hypnotherapist does not need to know a great deal about your sport, you will give her a description and many of the words that will be used in your session.

     Thomas Tutko and Umberto Tosi in their book, SPORTS PSYCHING, talked of using visualization which they called "Mental Rehearsal".  In this rehearsal, you picture your goal clearly, going through a routine, shot or stroke in exactly the same pattern as you hope to it in competition. In this mind rehearsal, every movement is clear and positive.  These mental rehearsals improve neuro-muscular coordination and emotional confidence and affirmation.

     Using visualization can heighten your awareness of each movement and improve your technique.  It can improve your coordination, concentration and agility.  As these improve, it will also increase your enjoyment of your chosen sport as it eases the pressure of competition while increasing competitiveness.

     Eliminating fears, anxieties and other obstacles which can hold you back from your best athletic performance is another way to use hypnotherapy.  Over the years, I have seen many clients who had an actual physical fear of their sport.  Little-leaguers afraid of being hit by a ball, gymnasts afraid of falling off "the" horse or equestrians afraid of falling off "a" horse are some of those issues.  

     There are other fears that may stand in the way of peak athletic performance.  Sometimes the fear is of failing.  Some of the children I see have been competing in their sports for much of their life.  They know the many hours and much money that has been invested n getting them to the competition and the pressure and fear of failing can be enormous. Many professional athletes have a small window of time to play at their peak performance and financial pressures can elevate their fear of failure.

    Sometimes the fear is of moving up to the next level and fear of a stronger, more powerful competition is causing problems for the athlete.  Hypnosis can be used to eliminate those obstacles and allow the athlete o compete and enjoy their sport without fear.

     Other emotional issues can also be addressed when they are affecting athletic performance.  Besides the fear mentioned above, anger and resentment can affect all areas of life including sports.  Some children and adults feel pressure from parents or coaches and respond with distraction, lack of self-confidence or inappropriate aggressiveness.  Releasing these negative emotions allows room to overcome fears and pressures and to develop a winning attitude.

     Occasionally a client will call because they are experiencing a slump.  Golfers talk about "losing their game".  Baseball players lose the ability to play automatically which interferes with their ability to pitch or hit the ball as they had in the past.  These issues can be addressed by regressing and reconnecting back to a time when they were pitching or hitting successfully.

     Almost always as part of the hypnosis session, I will have the client picture and imagine their perfect game or meet.  Using very positive words and suggestions, I have the client go through the competition in their mind "moving Perfectly, in exactly the right way".   Using the terminology of their sport, I lead them through the competition with their body, strong yet relaxed, their mind clear and focused, playing the game with strength and power.  as Bob Reese, a one-time New York Jets trainer, once commented, "There is no guarantee that if you create  vision it will happen.  There is a guarantee that if you don't have the vision, it will never happen."  Hypnotherapy is a way of creating that vision.

     Some people may think, "I can't use hypnosis for sports performance because I don't play baseball or compete in gymnastics."  But hypnosis works in much the same way for other competitions at all levels from professional to new amateurs.  Whether you are on a bowling team, go to the golf course or firing range, lift weights or play indoor games like chess, bridge or Scrabble, you may be amazed at the results of a hypnosis session to improve your performance.

HYPNOTHERAPY WORKS!

    I love to get calls where clients tell me about their experiences after using hypnotherapy to help correct a problem or challenge in their lives.  This morning I had a call from a former client.  When she first came to see me, she was very anxious.  She had been in an accident while showing a horse.  A champion rider before the accident, she was fearful and having a real problem doing something she had enjoyed for years.  We did one session of hypnotherapy.  Her call this morning was one of joy and victory as she reported the horse show over the past weekend was a great experience.  She concluded it was "the most wonderful experience, I'd had in a long time."  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool to meet the challenges in your life as well.

HYPNOSIS AND PERFORMANCE ANXIETY

      Have you been watching the remarkable performances at the Olympics?  Most of us will never have an opportunity to perform on a world stage in any kind of event from athletics to public speaking to singing a song.  But almost all of us will at some time or another go for a job interview, attend an event where we don't know someone or make a presentation at work.  If just the thought of doing any of those things makes you nervous, you may have performance anxiety.

     Clients often come to me and describe the many physical manifestations of the nervousness that they experience when having to perform in such a situation.  They will describe their hearts racing, hands shaking, sweaty palms and even feeling queasy.  In fact, what they are describing is the perfectly normal release of the hormone adrenaline by their adrenal glands.  Adrenaline is released when we feel threatened.  It dilates blood vessels and breathing passages and boosts our heart rate giving us a burst of energy.  This was very useful when humans were being hunted by large, wild animals.  But, this adrenaline rush, is not so effective when we have to give the presentation at work and can't afford to run away.  If time permits, use your muscles to burn off adrenaline.  Take a brisk walk, tense and relax your muscles or push against a wall with your hands. Deep breathing can be a useful technique to overcome an adrenaline rush.  Slowing yourself down by breathing slowly and deeply, walking more slowly than seems natural, taking a moment before speaking can allow your heart rate to slow and keep you more comfortable. 

     Focusing outwardly rather than inwardly will help as well.  When we are anxious we tend to focus on our own behavior expecially shortcomings and mistakes.  Instead, focus outwardly.  If you are giving a speech, look into the eyes of your audience.  Connect with individuals as real people rather than a collective audience judging you.  As you connect, remember your subject (not you) is the important thing.  Instead of worrying about how people are thinking of you personally, delight in giving your audience the information they have come to hear about.

    And don't expect to be perfect.  Perfectionists often focus on one problem or error and that causes them to lose their confidence or focus and make more errors.  Make your goal to give your performance at your best.  This does not mean perfect.  Be aware that no one else expects perfection.  Those enjoying your performance have made mistakes, too.  People will probably like and relate to you more if you seem human enough to make a mistake.  Instead, focus on sharing why you are there - to compete, to inform, whatever.  If you make a mistake, smile, acknowledge, correct if you need to and move on.

    Of course, performance anxiety is more likely to happen if you haven't prepared.  Do what you need to do - practice, study, rehearse.  Hypnotherapy can be a great way to deal with performance anxiety.  Then go out and enjoy!

HYPNOSIS FOR ELIMINATING FEARS IN SPORTS

        Eliminating fears, anxieties and other obstacles which can hold you back from your best athletic performance is another way to use hypnotherapy.  Over the years, I have seen many clients who had an actual physical fear of their sport.  Little-leaguers afraid of being hit by a ball, gymnasts afraid of falling off the horse or equestrians anxious after a fall are some of those issues.  But there are other fears that may stand in the way of peak athletic performance.  Sometimes the fear is of failing.  Some of the children I see have been competing in their sports for much of their life. They know that many hours and much money has been spent to get them to the competition so the pressure and fear of failing can be enormous.  Professional athletes have both their economic lives and personal identities tied up in their sports so fear of failure can be a constant pressure upon them.  Sometimes the fear is of moving up to the next level and fear of a stronger more powerful competition is causing problems for the athlete.  Hypnosis can be used to eliminate those obstacles and allow the athlete to compete and enjoy their sport without fear.

HYPNOSIS FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

     A sports psychologist for a U.S. Olympic team once noted that 80 to 90 percent of an Olympic athlete's performance is in the mind.  In the 1960's in East Germany, Olympic trainers were working with athletes using hypnosis.  Today hypnotherapists work with trainers and sports psychologists at the college and professional levels as well as Olympic athletes.  Using your mind to improve physical performance can be of real value to you and hypnosis is a great way of using your mind.

     An issue for which clients come to see me is improving athletic performance.  I have had hypnotherapy clients who are professional athletes wanting to improve their performance in everything from football to golf.  Students come to see me hoping to release fears about getting hit by a ball or a tackle or improving their skills enough for a scholarship.  I have worked with Olympic hopefuls in diving, swimming and gymnastics.  All recognize that hypnosis can be a great tool to improve their skills in their chosen sport.

     There are a number of different ways that hypnosis can improve athletic performance.  Using visualization is a key part of such improvement.  Back in 1984, Mary Lou Retton competed in the Olympics.  She described her nighttime ritual of visualizing her routines, "I see myself hitting all my routines, doing everything perfectly.  I imagine all the moves and go through them with the image in my mind."   She did just that in the competition.  Note that the hypnotherapist does not need to know a great deal about your sport, you will give her a description and the words that will be used in your session.