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5Aug

Hypnotherapist, Personal Trainer, Professional Sportsman (retired), Performance Expert

As I crossed the first peak of the mountains my legs were like jelly. The wobble in my legs vibrated through my body. Then the cramps started. These were deep cramps right across my hamstrings and calves. I felt wasted, completed exhausted, spent. I was in pain. I was struggling.

Yet, I was smiling.

This was around 8 or 9 miles into the Brecon Beacon Ultra-Marathon last December – a 42 mile race across some very tough terrain. I knew at that point in the race why our Special Forces use the Brecon Beacons for training – the terrain is amazingly tough. I still had well over 30 miles to go.

I did what I had to do. I smiled with the ridiculousness of it all. I put one foot in front of the other. I kept momentum. I kept going. My wobbles stopped and my cramps eased. I continued making progress. My running became easier. I started to flow again. I really started to enjoy the race.

(You can read a little more about this in Adam Eason’s book ‘Hypnosis for Running’. I had the pleasure of writing the foreword for this book and based it on the Ultra-Marathon I describe above. Adam is another expert here on Talk Health Partnership.)

I completed the race in good shape, a broad smile across my face. Yet, if I had listened to the signals from my body I would have stopped, less than a quarter of the race completed. Back there my body was telling me to stop, give it up; it’s too hard, it’s not necessary. Why didn’t I listen to it?

I know that the signals from my body are received in my brain. They are ‘perceived’ there. I also know that perceptions are not reality. If my body really couldn’t do any more then it would stop. It wouldn’t work. The lack of energy would stop my muscles from firing. If I couldn’t do any more I literally wouldn’t be able to do any more. But I could. So I did.

When we look to sport, fitness or anything else to do with physical performance it is only our own minds that limit our results. Our minds put the mental blocks in place – the fears, the anxieties, the self-talk and the parts of our personality that let us down. It is rarely our bodies that let us down. Our bodies can do far more than we can ever dream of.

In the book ‘Iron War’ by Matt Fitzgerald he tells the story of the legendary battles between two great Ironman competitors – Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Along the way he describes lots of the science of performance.

Fitzgerald describes how physiologists used to (some still do) believe in the ‘catastrophe model’. Technically speaking, the catastrophe model is where “…fatigue is an involuntary drop in performance caused by the loss of homeostasis (or balance) somewhere in the body. For example, lactic acid builds up in the muscles and makes them too acidic to function properly. Or the muscles become depleted of glycogen (their primary, carbohydrate-based fuel), so there’s no longer enough energy available to sustain performance.” Under this model fatigue is associated with a ‘catastrophic’ functional breakdown in the muscles.

In ‘Iron War’ Fitzgerald describes the ground breaking experiments of Samuele Marcora that overturned the catastrophe model. It was shown quite clearly and in many circumstances that the mind limits the body long before the body can’t do any more. The difference between winning and losing in races is often how strong the athlete’s mind is to just, simply, keep going.

If you were me, legs wobbling all over the place on the mountain peak – would you have stopped?

I can almost hear your minds know, making excuses such as “well I could never run that far” and such like. How do you know if you haven’t tried? If you haven’t allowed yourself to give it a go? Worked with your body and not the limitations of your mind?

So how is your mind limiting what you can do? What will happen if you realise, now, that it is your mind that stops you, it is your mind that creates the blocks, your mind that limits you – and not your bodies? How much more can you achieve?

Think about being in the gym, or running, or even thinking about going training. How much more could you achieve if you just let your body do what it can do, instead of limiting it to what you think it can?

As I understand how the mind works just as much as the body, in my Personal Training sessions clients regularly achieve far more than they imagined they could. I read their body language during sessions, and just at the point where they are about to stop I redirect their self-talk to achieving and then they just keep going. I use pattern interrupts. I fill their minds to block out the self-talk. I attach a positive emotion to being the very best that they can be, not the persons that are limited by their own minds. I help them allow themselves to achieve.

Give this a go.

Imagine doing everything you need to do in order to be the best you can be. Completely imagine it. Imagine what you would think like, how you would move, how you would act. Imagine this completely. Continuously imagine it, and imagine it happening at all the times you need to perform in the future and experience yourself performing far better than you could possibly imagine. Imagine it happening automatically, so much so, that this is you now and there is nothing that you can do about it.

Go and achieve.

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This is me coming down Pen Y Fan on the Ultra-Marathon. If you think it was easier doing it with huskies you are mistaken! The terrain did not allow them to pull me uphill, yet they could pull me downhill resulting in me having to brake on every decline putting massive stress on my legs. They made the race far harder! They loved it though, as you can see!

  

One Response to Performance – it is all in the mind

  1. I can’t fault anything you say Gary because I have myself seen the evidence at least twice in my personal “test” laboratory Vis-à-vis my own mind.

    You talk Gary of our mind often convincing us it is impossible, however in my case it really was impossible to achieve my goal, this was based on a seriously undeniable medical prognosis, and the at the time current knowledge of the human mind.

    Nevertheless I didn’t like, and refused to accept their prognosis. I made this decision even in the face of the certain knowledge that without any doubt in my mind what I wanted was apparently impossible. So I decided what we perceive as fact simply doesn’t matter if you make a commitment to yourself to make a stand with, if necessary, long term vision.

    However Gary as you know we must accept the vision in the present tense as if we have already attained it.

    You see Gary I witnessed something very profound while I was, following a major Traumatic Brain Injury, in Coma. I saw myself standing unseen among doctors, and students waiting for me to die, as I looked upon my own seemingly lifeless body. The thing that struck me powerfully at that time was that nobody; nobody did anything at all to help me! I had a definite sense that this was poor medicine, and felt that I knew more about medicine than they did. It was as if being out of body, gave me access to a powerhouse of hidden knowledge and resources that had not before been available to me.

    It is the memory of this that makes me such a good therapist now since although I may not always know the intricate mechanism of mind, I have witnessed that the mind can access incredible capabilities, resources we cannot guess at, and the how is really none of our damn business. It is at this time beyond our understanding yet when we are prepared to just accept, when we give our mind permission to access, then incredible and I believe limitless powers manifest for us that enable us even as I have proved beyond the impossible because I began a 35 year journey of recovery from what by all accounts should have ended me, but now I walk, I talk again as good as anybody despite I knew, and as I have said already it was impossible.

    I drew on the same resources when last year Gary you may remember I started 9th October 2012 until 28th April 2013 a 200 day fast comprising 3 periods of 40 days 24/7 water alone, separated by 2 periods of 40 days water and rice alone. Since the end of the fast I have eaten only rice, water, salt and cups of tea, and I never felt better nor thought more clearly than I do now.

    I’m getting ready on 1st October to do it all again, and I am looking forward to the first 40 days again on water alone 24/7. I highly recommend testing yourself to the limit as Gary has and I’m sure he will be the first to agree it is a fabulous way to obtain a really intimate look at how fabulous your mind really is. When you do a 200 day fast you quickly find in your own mind a committee of personalities trying to find some often exotic ways to subvert your goal, and I sent them all packing with a chuckle. I remember after the first ten days I began to smell fried onions and burgers…

    For three days but it didn’t trouble me, it was a very pleasant smell to me which I allowed myself to enjoy yet I had made my decision and so I was not tempted by the phantom smell.

    In closing if your mantra is “Yes but!” become a “What if?” success person, and you can achieve any goal. Even impossible goals are in reach.

    Warning
    Do not under any circumstances attempt any kind of fasting without staying in close communication first with your doctor, as I did. Make sure you get a before and after blood test because you may well be surprised that assuming you are healthy, our bodies are clearly equipped for extended periods with little or even no food, but WATER is the key to survival 1 oz water per pound of body weight daily. That’s around 9 pints for a 180lb person.

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