Ok, you've done your breathing exercises, you've practiced your mantra and you've written your script. How do you take all these new skills and translate them into one focused performance such as a win at a crucial event or a superb performance during a club ride or summer cycling vacation?
"Hypnosis is a state of mind in which suggestions are acted upon much more powerfully than is possible under normal conditions. While in hypnosis, one suppresses the power of conscious criticism. One's focus of attention is narrower and one's level of awareness on a focal point is much higher than if one were awake. During this heightened focus and awareness, suggestions appear to go directly into the unconscious mind."
Brian Alman, Ph.D. and Peter Lambrou, Ph.D.
This fourth and final article will deal with self-hypnosis. Since the word, "hypnosis" has some heavy and confused misconceptions surrounding it, I prefer to refer to it as guided visualization, but in essence it's the same thing. Hypnosis or guided visualization is the process of relaxing the body and the conscious mind to the point where you attain a trance-like state.
During this state (which will feel different for every athlete, so don't expect anything in particular), the conscious mind drops its guard and the subconscious mind is more accepting of positive suggestions and ideas.
Although I often take my clients through these guided visualizations myself, with great results, it's possible to do it on your own and with practice, get the same positive results.
Step 1: Learn your script backwards and forwards. Read it aloud several times.
Step 2: Find a comfortable place. Begin to relax. Count your breaths. Imagine with each breath you're breathing in safe, comforting, relaxing energy. With each breath out, you are releasing stress, anxiety and toxins.
Step 3: Try one of the following "progressive relaxation techniques." There are many more, but these are the two I find most effective.
Imagine a glowing ball of energy at your feet. Give it a soothing color and a sound. Breathe in and pull the energy up and over your feet and ankles. Breathe out and feel your body relax. With the next breath in, pull it over your calves and up to your knees. As it covers your body, it relaxes and soothes every muscle, filling you with confidence and power. Continue until the glowing ball of energy covers your entire body. Finish by bringing it over your head, relaxing your jaw and your eyes.
The second technique I find to be effective goes like this: You're on a quiet beach with an empty string bag. In front of you is a beautiful blue lagoon. It's your lagoon, there's nothing there that can harm you and you can breathe underwater. Wade into the lagoon, to about 10 feet deep.
Lower yourself one foot, and as you do so put all your stress and anxiety into the bag. Go another foot deeper and put any fear you may have into the bag. Go another foot deeper and put any unresolved issues or tasks that are weighing on you into the bag. Continue like this all the way to the bottom of the lagoon where you'll release the bag full of all your concerns and problems and watch it drift away.
Step 4: Assuming you've been doing all the breathing exercises and affirmations up until now, you should now be very relaxed and your "monkey mind" should basically be under control. Begin your script. Go through it very slowly experiencing every perfect moment of the day of your race.
Feel the blankets as you lift them off you in the morning, feel the warmth of the shower, feel yourself riding strongly and more efficiently on the bike than ever before in your entire life. Experience your entire script from the beginning of the race to the end. Don't be afraid to imagine the ultimate result. This is the time to dream, don't hold back.
Step 5: As you finish your script, imagine you're riding on a beautiful straight road -- an ideal cycling road. Come to a special place, such as a forest or a beach, and sit down and relax. Begin to say your affirmations. You should be in a deep state of relaxation, but don't worry if you feel fidgety and anxious.
Remember, there's no right or wrong way to do things. As Zen practice reminds us, there's only what you do and what you don't do, not a wrong way and a right way:
"The true purpose is to see things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. This is to put everything under control in its widest sense."
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services check out contact Josh@liquidfitness.com or check out his Web site at www.liquidfitness.com.