TheFitMum is more than just a pretty face, you know 😉 She’s also an NLP Master Practitioner. This means that she’s not just a qualified NLP Practitioner, but has done further qualifications and is the next level up. She uses NLP in her work as a leadership development coach, but she’s also taught me a bit about it in the context of sports psychology.
I was sitting with her yesterday (she was kindly altering my sparkly-bikini!) and thought I’d do a quick Q&A to find out 3 NLP techniques you competitors can use during contest prep, or on show day.
What is NLP?
NLP – “neuro linguistic programming – is a type of psychotherapy which looks at the links between our brains’ neurological processes, the language we use (internal and external!) and our learned behaviours.
Mum says, “It’s about how the language we use affects our mental attitude and the way in which we react to things. For example, if you say to yourself “I’m going to dread training today, I’ll never be able to pull that 100kg deadlift…”, it becomes what a lot of people would call a self-fulfilling prophesy. Your brain tells your body what you’ve said to yourself, and that equates to not being able to do whatever it is you want to do. Because the message you’ve sent to your brain is “I can’t do it”. The brain doesn’t have opinions of its own, it operates on the messages you deliver to it. It can’t do anything else: it’s your brain!”
I did a quick poll on Facebook the other day about 3 things competitors struggle with during competition prep or on competition day, and asked Mum which NLP techniques she thinks would be most useful.
I would recommend a type of visualisation which is called “Scramble Pattern” in NLP.
When people get nervous, they are usually visualising what they dread, not what they want.
One of the best ways to get you out of that negative mindset is to make yourself relax by laughing. Once you start to smile and laugh, your body releases endorphins and you relax. So you need to get to the stage of having a giggle brewing inside of you.
Well in advance of the day, really call to mind what you’re nervous about. Think about it in detail. You’re about to step on stage, you’re standing in the wings… think about that very vividly. Then, in your head, change everything you can about that mental picture. Use all your senses.
Think about what you’d love to feel under your feet (sand, grass?)
What’s your favourite smell? The air in the auditorium smells just like that (coffee, popcorn?)
As you step on stage, you look at the audience and they’re all wearing t-shirts and waving flags of your favourite colour – all you can see is a sea of your very favourite, happy colour.
In the centre of the judging table is your favourite person in the world, grinning up at you.
Create a mental image which completely smashes the nerves. Get away from the reality of what you fear it might be like. Imagine something a little bit crazy: so you might end up walking across sand, smelling popcorn, with whole audience dressed in bright pink. Ideally, think of something really silly – maybe the audience are all wearing pink afro wigs – this will make you smile and laugh.
You need to keep thinking about your silly, funny mental image. Sit and contemplate it every time you get that nervous feeling, and put this on top of it. “Scramble Pattern” scrambles the nervous picture, mixes it up, and turns it into something which you look forward to thinking about.
NLP For Stage Presence
One of the best things to do if you want more confident stage presence is a technique called “modelling”. Think of your favourite person in the world, someone you really look up to as successful and confident. It could be another bodybuilder but it doesn’t have to be. It could be an actor, a singer, even someone you know. It needs to be somebody you personally think is superbly confident.
Think about what it is that they do to come across as so confident. Is it the way they walk, the way they stand, or smile? Pinch one or two of the things they do and practice them for yourself.
When you’re on stage at your show, you’re not going on stage as you (the you that you feel is underconfident) – you going to be them. You are sending yourself the message that “I am just like DLB because I am walking on stage and smiling just like she does…” (or whatever it is). You can even give yourself a new nickname to match your new persona, a name you use for yourself on show day.
I think it would help competitors to also choose posing music which really matches this persona, and helps you think of yourself as a rock star, a dancer, or whatever it is. It all helps you think of yourself as this person who is wonderfully confident who loves being centre stage.
Another technique which would help with nerves and confidence is “anchoring”. Set yourself an anchor – you need to do this way in advance of your comp.
Think of a time in your life when you were really confident (it doesn’t matter how long ago it was or what age you were). You need to be able to remember the exact details of what you were doing.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed and call that time strongly to mind – it may take a while at first. What could you see, feel, smell and hear? Was anyone saying something to you? Who was there? Was it warm or cold?
Really bring to mind that feeling of achievement, confidence, happiness and pride. As you get that feeling welling up inside you, anchor it. You do this by using a unique stimulus – something you don’t typically do (so, clenching a fist for instance wouldn’t work as you do this sometimes already). Many people use a physical action such as pressing thumb and ring finger together. It needs to be something the judges won’t see/notice but something you don’t typically do.
As you feel that wonderful confident memory, do your unique stimulus movement. As the feeling ebbs – let it go (you don’t want to anchor the feeling as it ebbs away).
Then “break state” by getting up, going away and doing something different like getting a drink of water.
The more often you do this, the quicker it will become. Your mind is very quick to remember and anticipate it. Soon you will barely have to think about it, just redo your anchor, and it will bring the state to your mind.
We naturally anchor lots of things, it’s a very common thing – think about how you feel when you smell suntan lotion!
NLP For Food Cravings
This is very powerful – I call it “like-to-dislike” – but it will be helpful if you can get the help of someone who knows about NLP.
Think of a food or drink you really hate, something you find truly disgusting. Close your eyes and really think about it. When you picture it in your head, is it close to you, far away, right, left up or down? Is it in colour? Is it on a plate or in a cup? Is there a smell associated with it? Is there a frame around the mental image?
Now break state.
Come back and go through the same process with the food you are craving and struggling with during your prep. Where is the mental picture? Ask all the questions above.
Now, what are the differences between the two pictures? Is the thing you hate far away and to the left and in black and white? Is the thing you crave closer, in colour, slightly above you?
Picture the thing you crave and move it to where the picture of thing you hate is. Change everything about the picture of the thing you crave, so it takes on the same properties as the picture of the thing you can’t stand.
That’s all it takes. Once the picture of the food you’ve been craving is in the same place, with the same size/colour/properties as the mental image of the thing which disgusts you, your brain won’t be able to cope with it.
If you need more, as you move the image of the craving to the place where the yukky food was, imagine you are taking the craving food and dipping it into/mixing it with the gross thing. Even talking about this is making me feel a bit sick, since I did it myself and cured myself of craving crisps!
Thanks Mum! This was so interesting (and I love any excuse to sit and chit-chat with you!) xx ❤ I really hope some of you found this helpful. Do you struggle with any of these 3 categories? Have you ever used NLP for sports performance?
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.