Hazel Gale How Chronic Fatigue Took her From British Kick Boxing Champion to Champion Hypnotherapist

Hazel Gale  How  Chronic FatigueTook her From British Kick Boxing Champion to Champion Hypnotherapist 

I have a real treat for those of you who love an epic story of struggle and success. Today I’m joined by Hazel Gale ex British Kick-Boxing champion, who became ill with ME only to fight back and use her experience and skills to support others in the sporting sector. This is  a great and inspirational story.

hazel gale

CD. For people who don’t know you, can you tell our readers a little about yourself and how you coach others?

HG. I’m a Quest Trained Cognitive Hypnotherapist specialising in sports performance (although I see clients with all manner of other presenting issues as well). Before qualifying as a therapist, I coached and competed in kickboxing and boxing for the best part of a decade, so combat sports are an area I hold particularly close to my heart. I think athletes appreciate the fact that I know what it means to compete in something you’re so passionate about when they see me as clients.

hazel kick

Combat sports demand an extremely high level of dedication, focus and mental strength, so as I began studying the processes of the unconscious mind I immediately recognised hypnotherapy to be something that could benefit myself and many of the athletes I trained with greatly. To this day, I still compete as an amateur boxer and I use mental training techniques in preparation for every competition I enter.

CD. What an interesting background, what made you go from being a competitive kick-boxer to being a hypnotherapist and coach?

HG. In 2009 I got very ill with chronic fatigue (or ME). I first got ill in the build up to the British kickboxing championships in February of that year. I was due to defend my current title in full contact, and as usual, I was piling the pressure on. Training wasn’t going well. I was struggling to make the weight and I had twisted my ankle. None of that was particularly new but something else was beginning to bother me – I felt tired and weak during sessions and thoroughly sick afterwards. It seemed as though every time I stood up I’d feel faint, and I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour or so before being woken up by my racing heart as if from a nightmare (although I was aware of no such stimulus). In the end, I failed to make the weight and so entered the category above mine, but I performed terribly and lost my first fight.

After the championships I continued to feel ill. It seemed to be some kind of a virus at first. I was tested for glandular fever, then anaemia and hypothyroidism (amongst other things) but nothing came back positive and I was showing little sign of improvement. The cruellest thing about ME, in my opinion, is that you’ll oscillate between feeling paralysed by fatigue and then having a few tantalisingly good days or sometimes weeks. These good spells would fill me with hope before the fatigue would return without the slightest bit of notice to crush me and my optimism once again.


I carried on for years in that state. I never managed to get above thirty or forty percent of the fitness to which I was accustomed, but fighting had become such an integral part of my identity that stopping to get better was out of the question. I’d continually risk putting myself out of action for two weeks just to train in one more squad session, and I’d turn up to big tournaments knowing that after one minute of the first round I’d be dragging my feet and gasping for air. That’s not ideal when someone is trying to knock you out

Over the years I’d tried Western medicine, Eastern medicine, and all number of alternative medicines. I’d tried becoming a vegetarian, a vegan, I cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar… Along the way I went to see a hypnotherapist who sparked an interest in me that would turn out to be life defining. I began  researching it just for personal gain. Then, somewhat impulsively, at 3am one morning I signed up for a course to qualify as a clinical hypnotherapist. Since then I’ve also completed courses in sport psychology and cognitive hypnotherapy and I’ve now been practicing for around three years. That early morning whim was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

hazel fight

CD. Such a powerful story and an inspiration to other people who suffer from ME. It’s very easy to let having an illness stop you from actively chasing your dreams and goals. I love how you still compete at the top level and how you are using your own experiences with a therapist to help others in the sporting industry. As a hypnotherapist what is the main benefit from a session of cognitive hypnotherapy?

HG. That’s an incredibly tough question to answer because everyone is different. That’s actually one of the most important premises of Cognitive Hypnotherapy that makes the way we practice differ from some of the more traditional styles. Even if I specialised in something like arachnophobia and only saw people with a fear of spiders, still every session would be different because everyone will have acquired their phobia from a different place, and would do their fear in a different way. I chose the processes and techniques for each client depending on what comes up in the session and what I think will work best for them, and any suggestion work is only ever created to fit the client’s idiosyncratic perception of the world (so no scripts basically).

Having said that, in a much broader sense, what I believe to be the most valuable thing that people take away from this style of therapy is an increased self-awareness: an understanding of why their mind would create these problems in the first place; and (crucially) an increased feeling of power over behaviours or responses that once felt beyond their control.

I think that element takes people by surprise quite often. People tend to expect hypnotherapy to be a case of coming in, lying down and being put under some kind of spell for an hour before they leave (fixed). In reality, that’s a long way from the truth but what is really achievable is far more empowering and valuable should they allow themselves to fully participate in the process of gaining this level of understanding.

CD. I agree, often peoples perception of hypnotherapy is wrong and as you said self awareness for me is a big part of the therapy session. Does sports coaching differ from general coaching? Do you always have to meet clients face to face?  

HG. I’ve actually just made a series of 6 videos for a website aimed at professional and amateur squash players explaining some techniques they can use. The techniques I do with a client in session would tend to be a little more complex; working with regression and other reframe techniques to address limiting beliefs etc. Basically a sports session usually isn’t really any different to a regular therapy session.

For someone potentially looking for a therapist, what questions should they ask before booking a session? 

HG. Working with the right therapist is crucial. The relationship that forms (even over a period of just a few sessions) can be integral to the process of change. I’d suggest that anyone looking for a therapist research them thoroughly first. A recommendation from a friend is great, but if they don’t personally click with the practitioner then he/she’s probably not the one for them.

I offer a lot of information on my website for this reason. I won’t be right for everyone and I wouldn’t want my site to be a catch-all client gathering machine that sends anyone who stumbles across it into my office. It’s much better that I let them know as much about me and my approach as I can in order for them to be able to make an informed decision.

CD. Its really important for the client to trust their therapist and I agree clients should research, and even telephone the hypnotherapist to ask them questions to ensure the match is right. And how do your friends react when they find out your a hypnotherapist? 

HG. Ha. I get a lot of jokes about swinging pocket watches and looking into people’s eyes… You get used to that though. Actually, I think that it’s a brilliant time to be involved in this field. It’s still relatively new and exciting to most people. However, in the main we’re much more ready to accept this type of thing these days. Ten years ago, if you’d told me you were a hypnotherapist I probably would have laughed you out of the room. I remember an ex-boyfriend once hiding a self-help book from me because he knew how disdainful my reaction would be  if I caught him reading it (I feel pretty bad about that now). So things are changing… for the better, and it’s great to be at the forefront of that change.

hazel winner

CD. You have had a fascinating journey from athlete to coach, what goals have you set for yourself? Did you achieve them?

HG. Goal setting is obviously something I work with often in my clients’ sessions. Personally, it’s become second nature to think carefully about my aims and the route I need to take to achieve them. When something important is on the horizon I’ll use all the goal setting and future programming techniques that I’d teach to my clients and, if I’m honest, I genuinely can’t think of a goal I’ve failed to achieve in the last few years.

My most recent achievement was adding a second National ABA Boxing Title to my résumé. It wasn’t easy. Just making weight was an enormous struggle, not to mention overcoming various injuries and then, of course, performing in the fight itself. However, there was never a point at which I let self-doubt obscure the clear image I had in my head of me with my hand raised, and I can certainly thank the work I’ve done with my therapist for that.

This is the article Hazel wrote about the limiting beliefs (and resulting illness)and what  she overcame in therapy to free herself up to achieve what she has to date in her sports career: http://www.hazelgale.co.uk/blog/2013/09/inside-a-boxers-mind-from-me-to-the-medal-podium/ 

CD. You have come so far in such a short period if time, where do you see yourself in the next 3-4 years?

HG. One of my lifelong goals is to write a book (or two). I’d like to get that underway in the next few years. I’m still considering the topic at the moment but I think there’s a big gap in the market for a good sports hypnosis book for fighters so that’s my initial idea.

CD. Yes there are plenty of books on the general subject of coaching, but there are few in that niche. Plus I think the readers would love to hear your story in detail. Hazel is has been fantastic to meet you, I love your story and how you have built on your own success. I would like to end by wishing you the best of luck in the future with your business and…book? 

 If you are a coach and would like to be interviewed as part of this series please contact me at chrisdelaney7@gmail.com 

 hazel gale

Contact Hazel:

Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions  and Public Speaking Events

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Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions  and Public Speaking Events

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