Visualisations, imagery, positive affirmations, repetitive counting…they are all practiced techniques that incredible sportsmen/sportswomen and hypnobirthers have in common.
Paula Radcliffe - “Everybody, whatever level you're running at, will go through at least one difficult period in the race. It can come out of the blue, but it's rarely in the first half of the race. Even when I've run a personal best I've still gone through rough spots.
"It's important not to panic and to keep focused. Use little techniques to make yourself think about the moment, whether it's singing to yourself, counting landmarks or counting in your head - anything. I used to count to 100 three times in my head and I knew that was roughly a mile.That helped me break down the mile into smaller chunks so instead of thinking 'I've got 12 miles left', you're just counting 'one, two, three...' and that's all you're thinking about. You will disappear into your own little world.”
Sir Mo Farah - “let me tell you: it doesn’t just get tough, it gets very tough! I think you could see that on my face at the London Marathon this year (2019). I know people like Paula [Radcliffe] do things to zone out, like count to 100 over and over, but I don’t have any tricks like that. I just keep going over the training I’ve done in my head and telling myself how strong, how fit, how ready I am – and how everything I have done means I can handle the pain. Positive thinking, all the time.’
Jose Perry, sport psychologist says:
"In the week before the marathon we should be going one step further than visualisation and instead use imagery, a technique which doesn’t just help us see what we want but uses all of our senses to bring the situation to life. This helps our brain recognise the imagery as a memory and gives us a confidence boost that we have already achieved this goal before. We think about our ideal scenario over a part of the marathon we are worried about; perhaps the start line or hitting 20 miles and then write ourselves a script to cover the few minutes around it. We ensure we include what we can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. This helps make it realistic. We record our script and listen to it every night until we have given ourselves 5-10 memories of doing that tough bit brilliantly. This will help us be much more confident on the start line.
On race morning we can continue our imagery or we can hone it down into what do we want to see when we cross the line. If it is finishing that matters then imagine who you will get to hug when you cross the finish line.
Hypnobirthers use exactly the same techniques. We let fears and anxieties go, we use counting techniques to focus on and give us a sense of progession, and we concentrate on our breath to bring us into the present moment. We use visualisations to take us to a realaxing place and imagery to use all of our senses to create more of a realistic type of positive expectancy. We also use scripts to support our new learnings within our subconscious mind. On top of this we use, read, listen to, say positive birth affirmations over and over again to let ourselves know that yes, we absolutely can do this, we have it within ourselves to bring our babies earthside and we absolutely do get to enjoy the experience as a whole, even the tough bits!
If sport psychology was called 'hypno-sport' I think hypnobirthing would be the norm. On the flip side, rather than calling it hypnobirthing, why don't we just call is 'Birth Psychology'? That, I think, every birthing woman and their birth partner deserves to be educated on.
This is usually enough to convince even the most sceptic of sceptics, that labouring women can too mentally and physically prepare for the births of their baby's. They accept the physical challenge, they can jump those hurdles, they see their destination and nothing gets in their way. Childbirth requires stamina, strength and determination. Just like an athlete.