How Hypnosis Can Help Your Workout
Ask Men recently published an article on hypnosis and working out. In it, they quote hypnotherapist Christine Deschemin, saying, “Yes, hypnosis can help in committing to a regular workout plan.” She also notes that, “Provided that your workout plan is exciting enough and brings real benefits, by gaining the motivation to exercise, you can get started on your fitness journey.” (Ask Men correctly notes that after a few weeks new habits are formed, making continuing easier than starting.)
Here, we should note, however, that hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and visualization can be used for much more than getting started on a fitness routine. Most often, these are used by athletes to improve their technique, overcome fear, and to focus their mind on their professional goal. (We’ll look at how to use visualization and self-hypnosis to improve your game later on.)
The Ask Men article also references a study from June 2020 (one of many to show the effectiveness of hypnosis). In the study, Gary Elkins, Ph.D., director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University, correctly observes that (generally) hypnosis “involves focusing attention, but it includes mental imagery, relaxation and suggestions for symptom reduction.” When it comes to using it to improve your workout or athletic performance, it’s generally less about reducing “symptoms” and more about working towards a specific achievement, of course.
A Hypnosis For Healthier Living
The study, which was focused on stress reduction, found that hypnosis “contributed to a large decrease in stress and a significant increase in mindfulness.” Stress reduction alone can be significant in working out. Stress increases the hormone cortisol, which reduces testosterone, necessary for gaining muscle. And many martial arts schools teach relaxation for coping with the stressful situation of sparring as well as to execute techniques properly. Some will also teach meditation.
Even in modern sports, visualization is an integral element of training. In weightlifting, to overcome doubt and distraction, the athlete will visualize lifting extraordinarily heavy weights. And in boxing the boxer will visualize punching “through” the bag or pad and not — as the amateur often does — at its surface.
I’ve previously mentioned that world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno both used hypnosis. Other world-class athletes and sports professionals who’ve used hypnosis to bring their ‘A’ Game include Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and the Chicago White Sox.
A Hypnosis Session For Fitness
My longest hypnosis session was, in fact, with a client who wanted to get back to working out. He was hitting his early forties and in good shape. But for all his desire to get back to the gym, something — which he couldn’t quite explain for a while during the session — was stopping him.
Through probing him, and listening to his feedback, we were able to get to the root of the problem (which he hadn’t articulated even to himself until then) and to address that both in the discussion and in the actual hypnosis. It wasn’t just a lack of enthusiasm for the gym but, counter-intuitively, perhaps, a fear of getting older that was holding him back.
Self-hypnosis and visualization are effective tools when it comes to bringing your ‘A’ Game when working out, in sport, and in life in general. But a highly effective hypnotist will do more than guide someone into a hypnotic state. He, or she, will get deep into the psyche of their client, through conversation. (These pre-hypnosis conversations are, essentially, coaching sessions.) This has the power to really make someone recognize what, specifically, they need to change. And it’s the information drawn from the cllient that gives the hypnotist the material to work with in hypnosis.
Often, our decisions aren’t made rationally, and our fears and doubts are often irrational, disproportionate, and buried deep in our psyche (or our ego). We rarely articulate them, even to ourselves. As such, part of the breakthroughs of hypnosis is uncovering those hidden fears, doubts, and subconscious thoughts.
When it comes to more goal-focused hypnosis sessions, however, we also focus on what the person really wants. And we focus especially on the positive and the possible, and to find practical ways to get there during the conversation or coaching part of the session, as well as focusing on this in hypnosis.
Visualizing Physical Techniques
Having practiced martial arts for many years, I was asked (after about three years with one school) to break a slab of concrete using a “hammer fist” technique. (To be 100% clear, do not attempt this at home. It takes training and proper conditioning of the hands, for months or longer, to be able to pull off this technique. If you attempt to do this without proper training, under the supervision of a qualified trainer, you will break your hand. It’s just that simple.)
I was nervous about injuring myself. There’s a quote attributed to Bruce Lee: “bricks don’t hit back.” Lee didn’t really say that. But bricks don’t have to hit back. It’s entirely unnatural to hit a brick, block of wood, or slab of concrete. My first attempt to break a slab of concrete, with a hammer fist, failed. So did my second.
Told to do it the following week (“try to do it” wasn’t an option), I decided to meditate on the slab of concrete every day, dissecting it, and visualizing it as made up of wafer-thin layers of concrete, I visualized how much pressure it would take to break one of these thin layers (it would probably break just by touching it), then two, then four, then eight, and so on, mentally gauging how much pressure, or speed, I would need to break it. Then, confident I knew how much speed I would need to do the job, I would visualize myself striking, and breaking the slab.
I went through this mental and visualization exercise without fail, at least once a day for a week. At the end, I wasn’t nervous. I knew that, with all my training, and all my visualizing and contemplating breaking the concrete slab, I could do it.
When it came to the day, my instructor went to get one of the slabs of concrete I’d been visualizing. These were about 1.75″ thick with air bubbles (but, being used in construction, still solid). There weren’t any. He told me to break one about half an inch thicker and much denser. This was a bigger challenge. I ran through the visualization I’d been doing all week with this new type of slab. Then, after a few minutes, I stood in front of the slab and — with a hammer fist — broke it on the first strike. (Again, do not try this at home.)
Of course, you can visualize performing other physical techniques, whether that’s sparring, playing basketball, football, weightlifting, or yoga. In essence, you want to break down large, intimidating physical techniques or challenges, into smaller pieces. Then visualize tackling each piece, one at a time, before putting it all together.
If, for example, you’re practicing a martial art and you need to practice a sequence of techniques (e.g., guard, step, turn, punch, kick, punch), you can visualize doing each of these techniques ten or twenty times before moving on to visualize the next technique in the sequence. Then, lastly, put the sequence together, visualizing going through it with increasing speed from slow to extremely fast.
Some Self-Hypnosis Tips for Physical Fitness and Skills
Okay, so we’ve looked at how to break down a technique (or techniques) and how to visualize going through it successfully. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that while visualization, hypnosis and self-hypnosis will give you a mental edge, and can be an integral part of effective training, you must do the physical training, and you must do it consistently. In probably every sport, you must develop muscle memory, and that means moving those muscles. There is no way around that.
Nevertheless, suppose you’re a champion boxer or MMA fighter, and you’re on a flight traveling across the country to a fight. You can’t train physically on the plane. But you can go through your strategy, visualizing your intended moves. You can, in other words, practice the fight with your eyes closed and your imagination engaged.
Or, perhaps you’re just trying to improve at a sport like baseball or football and are practicing five days a week. But you want to practice more “consciously.” Set aside ten, twenty, or thirty minutes a day to use visualization to improve your technique and your game.
The question is when to do it? In general, I recommend doing visualizations as soon as you feel yourself waking up in the morning, before your eyes are open. You’ll be in the hypnopompic state (a kind of natural, light, hypnotic state) which will make visualization easier. But, of course, there are also other pluses: Probably, no one will be bothering you yet. And it will also start your day off right, focusing on what really matters to you.
However, you can also set time aside later on in the day to do some visualization. Try doing it after you take a shower, or after lunch or dinner, so that you have a definite time, and habitual signal, to do it. (If you just set a time — 6 AM or 1 PM — the chances are that you’ll forget or get caught up with something else.) Stick to a regime.
Find a quiet place, Sit, or lie down, relax, and visualize the technique (or techniques) as described above. Break it down, put it together, and visualize doing it successfully. Focus intently and make it as real as possible. If you’re imagining batting, in baseball, imagine the feel of the bat in your hands, and imagine its weight. Don’t just see what’s going on; feel it, hear it, even smell it.
Do this every day for a week, focusing on one technique at a time. Really understand the mechanics of what you’re doing. Feel yourself doing it. And see yourself succeeding.
If you find that you don’t understand the mechanics, or can’t visualize the technique, go back to practicing it. Focus on the mechanics. Then, later, return to your visualization. If you consistently employ this mental technique in conjunction with consistent physical practice you will soon notice results.