In all of my explorations of methods and strategies for using hypnosis to help advance sporting performance, one of the most impressive uses of hypnosis within studies has been that,

“Perception of effort during exercise can be systematically increased or decreased with hypnotic suggestion even though the actual physical work-load is maintained at a constant level. Furthermore, alterations in effort sense are associated with significant changes in metabolic responses and brain activation as measured by SPECT and MRI.” (Morgan, 2002)

This is incredibly good news for us runners.

Additionally, my friend, hypnotherapist and multi world title winning fighter, Gary Turner is writing a lot about running while he is spending just 12 weeks preparing and training for a 40 mile ultra marathon. Here is what he wrote as his Facebook status update earlier this week:

Heard on the radio earlier a DJ talking about his London Marathon entry talking about what a massive hurdle it is to overcome.

It isn’t.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be doing a marathon a week for my ultramarathon training. Long runs for me now seem normal. Yet his is only my 4th week of preparation. Impressive? Nope. Just know what I’m doing and expect to be able to do it.

Eddie Izzard did 43 marathons in 51 days on just 5 weeks of training. Think about what our military do in training as a matter of course.

Many people do far more impressive distances. 

Your body can do 1,000 times more than you think it can. You just have to vote with your feet, and have a strong mind.” (Gary Turner, 19th September, 2012, Facebook)

Gary sums up nicely my own sentiments and there is evidence to show that we are more capable than we sometimes think, and also we can alter our perceived level of effort to enhance and advance our running performance.

In the early 2000’s Williamson and colleagues (2001, 2002) showed how hypnosis and receiving suggestions in hypnosis could alter the level of perceived effort by the athlete, resulting in them being able to perform better – and actually having a cardiovascular response to the brain believing in that perceived effort level. It sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but evidence repeatedly supports this notion and it makes complete sense when you consider it fully.

Today’s self-hypnosis technique and process is a cognitive strategy to engage in while running, but to implement with mental rehearsal in self-hypnosis sessions. (It is also not a million miles away from a previous blog entry and process I put together here: Using Self-Hypnosis To Go That Extra Mile)

Our bodies respond to the message of the brain and we really do tend to respond to effort, pain, discomfort in a very sanitary and self-preserving fashion which does not really stretch and push us. Often, runners believe they are much more tired than they really are….

Elite athletes and sports people know that they can go further and have conviction and belief that they can push themselves further. This is not the central theme today, but that belief in our perception of our own level of effort is what this is all about today. You’ll be able to run further, faster and also enjoy your training runs much more as a result of learning this process.

Just follow these simple steps, Using Self-Hypnosis To Alter Perceived Level Of Effort When Running:

Step One: Induce Hypnosis.

You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my Science of self-hypnosis book, use the free audio we give away on this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:

Heavy Arm Self-Hypnosis Induction Method
Using Eye Fixation for Self-Hypnosis
The Chiasson Self-Hypnosis Method
Hand to Face Self-Hypnosis Induction
Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis
The Coin Drop Self-Hypnosis Induction

However, with this process, an induction is potentially too much activity, so I teach my clients how to adopt a hypnotic mindset and simply have a mindset that is positive and expectant. Again, to really understand the cognitive set of the hypnotic mindset, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book where it is explained in simple but comprehensive terms.

Once you have induced hypnosis, or just adopted the hypnotic mindset, move on to the next step.

Step Two: Imagine being out on a typical run. (You can start doing this with training runs, ideally your long runs where you are on your feet for longer periods of time, then start to use this process for racing and competing and practice it for use during those crucial events.

Imagine being on that run. Engage with surroundings. See the sights, hear the sounds and just tune in to what you notice around you.

Tell yourself that each imagine step, each sight and each sound all take you deeper into hypnosis. Spend enough time on this step to really get a good receptive, deep perceived level of hypnosis.

When you have fully engaged with the run and the environment and have it all vivid in your mind, move on to the next step.

Step Three: Now move your awareness inwards and tune in to how you are feeling while running.

Be mindful. Notice your breathing and the movements attached to your running and breathing. Become engaged with your level of perspiration and really notice how hard you are working at this stage of your run according to how your body feels and the kind of thoughts you are thinking and having while running.

On a scale of 0-10 rate what your level of effort is at this stage of your run.

Think of how much further you have to go, how far you have gone and weigh up how much effort it all is for you to continue going at this pace; gauge and scale how much effort it is for you to continue as you are doing.

Then just ascertain one number on a scale of 0-10 of what your level of effort is currently at this stage of your run.

Once you have that number in mind, move on to the next step.

Step Four: Now start to think of reducing that number to a level where you think you’d be more comfortable, more capable and would be enjoying your run further still.

So if you felt that you were struggling to maintain your pace at mile 10 of a 20 mile run, you might have gauged that you were at an 8 or 9 level of effort. You might think that you’d prefer to be at 4 or 5 for things to be more comfortable. (I sometimes yearn to be at a 4 or 5 when I am running a fast 20 miler!)

Simply change the number in your mind to a 4 or 5, for example.

Superimpose that number in your mind, imagine a sound that goes with it, and as you look at that number in your mind, look at it as if you believe it. You might colour it, you might make it incredibly large, do whatever you like to have that new number inside of your mind and at the forefront of your awareness – representing your new level of effort.

Look at it and encourage yourself to believe that this is actually the true representation of your level of effort. Do all you can to convince yourself.

Once you have that new number there in your mind, and you are looking at it as if you believe that is your actual effort level, move on to the next step.

Step Six: As you carry on running, now start to run as if you are at that effort level. Hold your body as if you are at that effort level. Think in your mind as if you are at that effort level. Behave, act and run absolutely as if you are at that lower effort level – convince yourself that is where you actually are.

Adopt the behaviour of how you would be at that actual level of effort.

Once you have done so, move on to the next step.

Step Seven: Now engage your internal dialogue and affirm powerfully to yourself. Use your cognitions to advance your belief and response to your effort level.  As you run, repeat to yourself something along the lines of;

“This is easier and easier.”
“I am so much more comfortable”
“I am more capable than I realise”

Or whatever it is that suits you and your preferences. Use language that is in the present tense (i.e. is happening NOW) but that you feel comfortable with and that inspires and drives you onwards.

Importantly again though, say it in your mind as if you truly mean it. Say it with purpose and volition. Say the words to yourself as if they are the truth and you believe it 100%. Be determined and driven.

Repeat this for a while with real meaning and keep doing all you can to believe, then move on to the next step.

Step Eight: Continue to repeat the positive cognitions, continue to believe in the new number, the new effort level you have set in your mind. Then imagine a sense of comfort is now spreading through your body. You can do this in a number of ways;

1. Imagine a colour of comfort spreading through you.
2. Imagine a sound resonating comfortably through you and spreading.
3. Imagine a feeling of comfort moving gently and surely through your body, especially your legs.

4. Imagine your muscles relaxing and softening.

You could easily engage in a version of progressive relaxation here if you have a good understanding of it.

Notice how it feels and enjoy the easiness of running at this new perceived level of effort. Remind yourself that this is effecting and influencing your brains response to your body. Once you have spent enough time on this step, and you are really noticing the level of comfort, then move on to the final step.

Step Nine: Exit hypnosis.

Wiggle your fingers and toes and take a couple of good, deep breaths and then open your eyes.

Run through this process a few times in a self-hypnosis session, get it all set up, loaded and so that you remember it all and then go and start using this strategy when on your runs and start to influence and effect your perceived level of effort when running – because you’ll really be able to run further, faster and better as a result.


If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:

1. Has poor psychology held you back from performing at your best? Would you benefit from advancing your mental game?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others performa better?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Have you read my book Hypnosis for Running: Training Your Mind to Maximise Your Running Performance? It helps any runner, athlete or sportsperson maximise performance.

Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.


Morgan, W. P. (2001) Psychological factors associated with distance running and the marathon. In D. Tunstall Pedoe (ed.) Marathon Medicine 2000, pp. 293-310. Royal Society of Medicine, London.

Morgan, W. P. (2002) Hypnosis in sport and exercise psychology. In J. L. Van Raalte and B. W. Brewer (ed.) Exploring Sport and Exercise Psychology, pp. 151-181. American Psychological Association, Washington DC.

Williamson, J. W., McColl, R., Mathews, D., Mitchell, J. H., Raven, P. B. and Morgan, W. P. (2001) Hypnotic Manipulation of effort sense during dynamic exercise: Cardiovasular responses and brain activation. Journal of Applied Physiology, 90: 1392-1399.

Williamson, J. W., Mitchell, J. H. and Raven, P. B. (2005) Cardiorespitary control: hypnosis and perceived exertion. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4: 518-526.