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Positive Self-talk: What is it Good for Anyway?

“Dig deep girl! C’mon finish within the next 30 seconds.” I envision my coach and mentor, Rosario, watching and telling me how I need to finish the last few reps. I can’t stop if she’s watching. I can’t fail when she is telling me I will succeed if I do one more rep.

“Think about self-talk as a form of mental conditioning whereby you are visualizing and focusing on positive elements of performance and distancing yourself from emotions and negative thoughts that distract you.”

In my own athletic experiences I have found that my mind easily trumps how my body feels. If the workout is cool enough or if I have a competition I have used mental conditioning and self-talk to perform even when horrifically sick. Conversely, I have experienced days where I’m feeling so down and out that 70% of my max feels like 100%. It is days like these that positive self-talk is most valuable.

Related: Gratitude: The Art of the 5-Minute Journal

But what exactly is positive self-talk and how can it benefit you come your next WOD or PR attempt? Self-talk is deliberately talking to yourself in a way that creates a desired emotional and (hopefully) physical response. There are three main kinds of self-talk: motivational, instructional, and imagery-outcome.


MOTIVATIONAL SELF-TALK

Motivational self-talk is when you repeat a positive mantra or saying in order to help you concentrate and psych yourself up to perform. Some studies have shown that the most effective way to do self-talk is to talk to yourself in third person. For example, instead of saying, “I can do this,” I would say, “Jasmine can do this!” In the third person, you are better able to distance yourself from emotions that may inhibit your performance, and focus on the specific demands of the moment. Some studies even suggest imagining someone you look up to coaching and encouraging you through a task.


INSTRUCTIONAL SELF-TALK

Instructional self-talk is the process whereby athletes talk themselves through a movement. “Elbows up, hips back, chest up,” are all examples of self-cueing, and studies have shown that instructional self-talk can be incredibly efficacious when used for accomplishing fine motor skills like cleans, snatches, and squats. This is a great form of self-talk if you are not necessarily into being your own cheerleader. Instead, you can think of yourself as your own coach.


IMAGERY-OUTCOME SELF-TALK

This form of self-talk is part talk and part visualization that you can couple with motivational or instructional self-talk. Imagery-outcome self-talk asks you not only to talk to yourself positively, but also to envision yourself succeeding at the task at hand. For example, say I have one last attempt to PR my deadlift. I would want to take a second to visualize how I want to look as I execute the deadlift, how I want to feel as I execute the lift, and how awesome I will feel after I complete the deadlift. This way, I have primed my mind and body to execute the movement.

Related:The Mindfulness of Movement

My challenge to you is to prepare positive self-talk scripts ahead of time. Pick a positive saying you can repeat in your head over and over. Think about who you would want on the sidelines telling you to keep going. Practice visualizing exactly how you would like to look when performing a movement, and most importantly, visualize yourself successfully completing that movement. Think about self-talk as a form of mental conditioning whereby you are visualizing and focusing on positive elements of performance and distancing yourself from emotions and negative thoughts that distract you.

If you need help coming up with scripts to use or are finding yourself constantly thinking negatively during a workout, feel free to email me at jasmine@crossfitslipstream.com. Together we can figure out ways to hold yourself accountable to positive self-talk during class.

Until next time, dig deep and crush your next workout!

Jasmine Gerritsen

Coach/Trainer

jasmine@crossfitslipstream.com