Hawthorne Effect || Run Effect

So, do you have a coach or not? Do you train with other runners’?

You are fine, you don’t need a coach. Ok  You have your online marathon guide. Or your couch to 5K plan. Perhaps you have downloaded one of the millions of free plans and you are A-ok with your training. Or maybe you just feel great after your run and that’s fine for you you don’t like running with others and never have 

Hi, my name is Heiko and welcome to the advanced endurance coaching blog. Where we talk about matters of the mind related to running. Especially if you are over 40 or a run coach. Surely you have experienced it, you were nervous about the race, had many scenarios in your head as to what might go wrong, and as it turns out you didn’t run the time you were capable of. Maybe even had a DNF.

Hang on there buddy I thought this was supposed to be motivational why you talking about DNF. it’s all about your attitude isn’t it?

Well-being a passionate runner, I am so convinced that in the times to come smarter people than me will find more and more evidence as to how our minds relate to our running abilities. There are so many studies out there, explaining the benefits of mental training and how effective it is. But so many of them are written and spoken about using complex terminology, and not broken down to the everyday runner, That the normal middle of the pack weekend warrior can also get the benefits. Seems like it’s something reserved for elite runners’, and I have been changing that. So that’s what I am doing as a run coach and hypnotherapist, I am making the mind techniques accessible and applicable to runners’ especially in the over 40 age group, and I do this in real life coaching or with the blog or YouTube Blog, I want you to run longer, feel better, and go for your best running experience. 

Some runners’ are extremely sceptical. I can tell when I read their email it’s like they have this preconceived notion that I will send them a hypnosis download and a special offer for the price of 3 for 1. no that’s not what I do. Actually, I train runners’ especially for longer distances, what is a longer distance well for some it’s a 10K for others it’s the Comrades marathon. 

What I do is help you to build intrinsic motivation and identify limiting beliefs you might have. Sometimes your spouse or colleague might tell you hey, “you are constantly pressing your ballpoint pen, it’s driving me nuts” and you never noticed it. 

Same with your running. We are creatures of habit, and the more often we repeat a run distance, the more ingrained it gets. 

Then we start to reason with ourselves, that this is the best distance as “I never get injured” or you know it is a distance you can always run even if you have been inconsistent in your training. Look, these are extremely personal ingrained behaviors. And in order to get your best running, which I firmly believe is accessible for all of us, you need to tackle those issues. And that is not something that a hypnosis download mp3 will do for you.

This requires a stringent routine of scientifically proven methods, so that you can make changes that are deep rooted. Inside your core values, and beliefs. But before I get sidetracked, let me tell you about a study I am sure you have heard of. Anyone who has ever taken a course in psychology or read social science textbooks has come across the Hawthorne effect. 

The Hawthorne effect is short and sweet, what it says is: “individuals modify their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed”. 

Interesting, is I sincerely doubt that such a study can ever be reproduced Just imagine for over 5 years, workers were observed to the ultimate possible, not only how long they took to assemble parts, but also what they spoke about, (relationship issues, general talk) where they were from, how they looked, the attitude that they displayed I can hear all you HR and compliance experts getting high blood pressure. 

The name is from the company where the research was done, the Hawthorne works for telephone equipment. 

The term was coined by Henry Landesberger, as he investigated and analyzed this study. Just imagine it’s the 1920’s just outside of Chicago 30.000 people come to work everyday The workers assembled telephone switchboard, wirings, all analog technology, nothing compared to your iphone. Very mundane task, plus the time and motion studies which would show workers the most effective way to work. Today this factory which used to produce for AT&T is a huge shopping complex. 

The main aim was to increase productivity, this was the 1930’s. What was said is that if you are observed your behavior will change. 

Therefore, simply by being part of the study, by being observed, the productivity improved.

Now there had up till then never been such a detailed study, just picture it as an old fashioned relay. Where let’s say you wanted to call your friend, you would reach a switchboard operator, and she would connect your call. Those tubes, wires, sockets. That’s what was assembled in this factory. 

Masses of them. 

How it started was, or what the study is best known for is, that 3 groups of staff got selected to participate in what was called an illumination study that for one group, made the workplace brighter in another group it was said that the lighting would change but. but actually, nothing was changed, and in the third group they kept decreasing the illumination.

It was also mentioned that all staff would be observed to analyze how effectiveness would be affected.

But the study continued, and 5 Women were selected from the factory floor to make these relays in a separate room where they were monitored to the utmost. For over 5 years. The observers recorded their speed of movement, and over a period of time they added breaks. Two times in 5 minutes. What do you think, productivity increased? Yes of course

Then they added a lunch break, and productivity increased. 

Then hours were reduced, but still, productivity remained the same. Until and this is the shocking part, the brakes were scrapped, and what do you think Productivity increased.

Now with each of these adjustments, or changes you didn’t see immediate progress, but over a certain period, it showed gradual increase being achieved. Now again remember, this study was conducted over many years. It is extremely exhaustive and as one would expect there are some critics to the way the research was conducted etc. But don’t let that get you sidetracked 

readers, the results:

Surprisingly in all three groups effectivity increased, be it where the lights were increased, where there was no change, and even in the group where the lights were dimmed. They kept on conducting these tests, and in the group where the lights were dimmed, it was becoming harder to see. But here comes the surprising part: no matter what they did, the productivity improved. 

Great Heiko, what has this got to do with running? I am glad you asked. Nope it doesn’t mean you should go running with your headlamp set on a dim joke. Trying to be funny here.

Remember right at the beginning of the blog I asked you whether you train in a group, or whether you have a coach?

No, I am not going to sell you a coaching program, what I want to get across is that you are losing out on a powerful effect that will increase your run performance. Because it is not always down to the workout itself, rather we as runners. have the desire for human attention. Yes, some more some less. But the manner of attention and the type of attention is a key driver that affects our running motivation. 

In case you doubt it, just think back to high school wasn’t there one teacher who never ever paid you any attention? Yes of course, and you remember it clearly. 

And this phenomenon; it is called the Hawthorne Effect. You have done this before. Maybe your spouse didn’t want to come to the race, and you convinced him or her, you will finish the 10K in 50 minutes. Or at work you let slip that you are doing your first marathon, and your colleagues said that they will cheer you on, they even ask for your BIB number to follow you online.

As runners’ we will put an emphasis on speed or strong pace, and once others are commenting on how good it was, you as a runner feel faster or stronger. Summary, If you publicize your next race, and someone important to you gets a hold of your dream time, then you begin to look for ways to improve, on a subconscious level. You know your fans, or followers, or stalkers are going to comment on how much faster or stronger looking you look.

Sometimes there is an actual change, but never as quickly as people are prone to comment on the change. In fact, it was the suggestion of improved speed or strength that resulted in the perceived change. The lesson is that the power of suggestion and subsequent belief in the suggestion is incredibly strong. 

Now of course, as coaches, we need to make sure that the suggestion is somehow and I hear this a lot “supported by reality”. But honestly in my coaching career I have seen runners’ reach goals that far surpassed what I thought they were capable of. Not because I didn’t believe in them, rather because they grew more as runners than they could have imagined. So, who am I to say what reality is? 

You have set yourself those achievable goals long enough. You must be bored with participating the same races, and running after the same pacer, crossing the line at the same time (more or less). 

From now on, why don’t you harness the power of the Hawthorne effect, set an ambitious goal for a distance or time you know you have wanted to improve a long time ago. Share it with those closest to you. 

Get a coach or train with others to ensure you feel the “extra pair of eyes” observing your performance. How about if you knew how to elicit the power of suggestion by learning how to not be your own worst enemy whilst running. This is a vital step before you can use that power of your subconscious.  

Now let me share with you a secret, something that no hypnotherapist will want to share with you. Let’s say your training plan said 10K at a faster than usual pace. Weather is good, you head out, but somehow it’s not your day. 

As soon as you completed the 10K run, but upon reflection you realize that it wasn’t your best performance. Obviously, no one was there to check up on you, and somehow, you were thinking about that guy that cut you off in traffic, perhaps you called him an idiot. Which you shouldn’t because he can’t hear you. And this affected you run on not calling him an idiot, the fact that you were distracted. It became a slow 10K, hardly any power or speed, you stopped looking at your pace after 2KM, and were glad to get home.

And now it is annoying you. Perhaps because tomorrow’s run is supposed to be a long slow run and it’s going to rain. You feel guilty having let yourself down.

Here is what you can do straight away. No heading off to the Himalayas to learn the secrets of the Buddhist monks no here is an extremely effective tool.

There is a much better way to start mental training than suggested by the internet-hype selling. What you do is find a comfortable place, have a seat and can close your eyes, just take a second to catch your breath. Simply take a deep breath to really fill your lungs, be sure to inhale through your nose, and then slowly exhale, preferably through your mouth. If you already have a breathing routine that gets you relaxed, use that. If not again, through the nose inhale. And through the mouth exhale.  Simple nothing to it.

Recall that run you just completed. Through your mind’s eye see yourself running and just allow those moments to come up automatically, perhaps the first time you checked your watch for the pace, or, as you passed the house with the hyper nervous dog that barks like mad. See yourself as though you are being filmed viewed from the outside. As though you are being observed

Now just change your body position. Yes, in your imagination, increase your stride. Focus on your breathing, and increase the amount of oxygen into your lungs. Shoulders back, head up looking forward. Yes, allow your imagination to show you a version of yourself you are proud of, that would intimidate the current World record holder.

Develop and harness that feeling of pride and joy. And tell yourself that this is how you want to be running. This is your standard, this is your capability, your perfect stride, and perhaps take a glance at your watch and your pace is spot on.

This simple exercise performed after your run, if performed regularly is a lot of fun. And it has a huge effect. Ok, maybe you have some doubts, because it’s your habit to be critical. “Hey Heiko, my inner critic motivates me” well, that might be, but really that’s just a habit. There is more power inside of you if the motivation comes from the positive. Just think about it, nothing has ever been realized if it wasn’t imagined. First the idee, the imagination, where we let our mind play, and then replay it in reality. 

Hey so there you have it, the effect of Hawthorne study, and a quick and simple add on to your run routine will be the first steps to help you become a better, stronger, and injury free runner.


If you are interested in more details please visit our website heikostribl.com where I do offer a detailed online course with over 4 hours video lessons, a complete online learning tool developed for runners’ obviously by a runner with over 35 years of experience. Don’t buy the course if you are into darts, or curling, this is not for everyone, really for those that realize time flies over 40 and it takes that mental edge to remain a strong runner.

My name is Heiko, thanks for reading and hey would you give me a 5 star rating so the show gets some exposure to those that are looking for such kind of material.

Thanks for reading

Take it easy.


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