Dear Dr. Clayton,
Thank you for the contributions that you have made to my Gold Medal experience. Two years ago when we began our preparation for optimal performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, I never thought that hypnosis would become such an instrumental part of my success. There were five areas that I found hypnosis particularly helpful.
Understanding Myself as an Athlete
Hypnosis has helped me to understand myself better as an athlete. Hypnosis has helped me to tune into both my body and mind. It has helped me with muscle tension and stiffness. I have found that by using relaxation techniques combined with controlled breathing my muscles would relax and tension seems to be drained from my body.
During my regular stretching routine, when my mind is focused on my body, I could feel my body become more flexible than before. I feel more intuitive and effective. During my visualization exercises I could feel my muscles jump in reaction to the images being either rehearsed or replayed in my mind. I had taken my mind through my training, warm-up and competition routines so many times that, when it was actually time to perform, my body did so with ease. This mind-body connection helped me to understand what worked best for me as an athlete. Now that I understand myself better, I have been able to eliminate unpredictability and have consistent performances.
Focusing in During Times of Pressure and Distraction
The benefit I experienced from learning how to focus was astronomical. It became instrumental in helping me block out the pressure and distractions of competing at the highest level. Because of my awesome performances prior to the games I started to gain unwanted media coverage and pressure from my country to bring home our first individual gold medal in track and field. Using a technique shown to me by Dr. Clayton, which I named "changing the picture" technique, I was able to block out anything that was not contributing to my race preparation. With this technique I would have an image of a situation when I felt pressured or distracted. I would then make adjustments or edit this image until it became comfortable or less intimidating. This transformation came easy. In the matter of minutes I am able to refocus from greeting crowds, signing autographs and doing interviews to becoming totally engrossed in the task at hand. In a recent interview my coach said he never knew how I would perform before a race. In warm-ups I would appear worried, unconfident and tense. However he noticed that as soon as I would walk onto the track there was a transformation. I would be in a zone. In fact, your sessions have also taught me how to cope by conducting self-hypnosis when I am Europe on the circuit and cannot come in for a session.
Changing Bad Habits into Good Habits
Hypnosis has also helped me to change bad habits into good ones. One bad habit that has plagued me for most of my athletic career is being overweight. With Dr. Clayton's help I was able to develop and implement strategies that helped me in this area. He helped me to totally eliminate the intake of candy and other food that were hindering me from maintaining my running weight. For the past 2 years I have been able to maintain my race weight without any problems.
Turning Negative Feelings into Positive Feelings
Through hypnotic techniques I have been able to change negative feelings into positive feelings. Hypnosis has showed me how to reprogram my mind when negative thoughts enter. In fact this technique worked so well that I developed a few catchy phrases that would positively influence my race and posted them everywhere in my room in the Olympic village. Phrases like "I am in good form and above the norm" to help with fitness. "Good competitors help me to perform my best" to help with whenever I was in a really completive race and "I get out without a doubt" which helped with one specific part of my race. In no time these phrases became more than words on index cards but they were images embedded in my mind which my body responded favorably to. By the time of my first rounds I had totally forgotten about past mistakes and failures at the previous Olympics in 2000. I was and still am a new athlete.
Competing with Total Confidence
With hypnosis I have been able to control performance anxiety. I have found that because I have been able to focus, visualize, control my thoughts, habits and emotions through relaxation I have developed more confidence when competing. I am in a relaxed state of complete awareness. This control over the physical and mental has allowed me to eliminate the anxiousness that comes from lack of control that accompanies major competitions. During interviews reporters often comment about the fixation of my eyes. It's simple I am just looking at what I am about to do. When they ask how and why I seem so calm? I always say the same thing, "My mind and body are now one and I am in complete harmony". Hypnosis simply has thought me to help my mind do what my body is able.