Coffee & Coaching Episode 29: The Importance of Self Talk

Episode 29

Title: The Importance of Self Talk

Episode Length: 14mins

(Can watch the episode or read the blog below)

About the Episode: 

The way we talk to ourselves at training and racing has such a huge impact on our performance and on the people around us. In this episode of Coffee & Coaching, Coach Liv talks about why self talk is so important and shares some strategies to help make yours more positive!

Watch the Replay 

What is self talk?

So, self-talk can be defines as the conscious or unconscious dialogue that occurs in your mind before, during and after an activity. It might we words you verbally express, or it may just be thoughts that stay inside your mind only - you don’t say them out loud. 

Engaging in negative self talk is likely to leave you feeling frustrated, extremely anxious - all of these things challenge your breathing, increase muscle tension and make it incredibly hard to focus on what you’re meant to. Your performance is likely to be lowered as a result.

In comparison, positive self-talk leaves you feeling more relaxed, calm, centred and able to focus on what you need to do, to perform at your best. Research has shown that athletes who engage in positive self-talk show increased control, decreased perceived exertion and an overall increase in endurance performance.

How to improve self talk?

Using a mantra is a great way to stay focused on keeping your self-talk positive. A mantra is a phrase or sometimes even just a word you can repeat (internally or vocally) to keep your head on track. For example, I will repeat ‘strong’ in my head for the whole swim leg of a race.

You’ve heard the sayings ‘mind over matter’ and ‘get your head in the game’ – and that’s exactly why we use positive self-talk and mantras. They help you stay in control of what’s going on inside your head. If you’re focused on repeating ‘strong’ it’s a lot harder for thoughts along the lines of ‘I can’t do this, I’m tired, it hurts’ to come into play.

Practical strategies to improve self talk:

  • Write your words of choice on your hand/arm so you can see it when cycling and running
  • Write it on some tape and stick it to your bike frame
  • Write it on your drink bottles or pop top bottles if you carry them for the run.
  • Take a minute after training to list 3 things you did well or are proud of

Self Talk in a group environment:

 Finally, it’s always good to remember that you are not the only one impacted by your attitude. Especially when training in a group, the language you use to describe your own performance is contagious. The great thing about training in a group is that you have other people around you to lift you up when you’re feeling down.

However, if you are constantly talking negatively about your own performance it can be incredibly draining to be around and it drags down the mood and the attitude of others around you. And as I said, attitudes are contagious. So if one person is always saying negative things about themselves, generally other people will start doing it too, which is absolutely not what we want. 

So, it’s important to manage your-self talk not only for your own sake, but for the sake of others around you too. If you’re a part of a group you want to be someone that contributes to making that group a positive and encouraging place to be.

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