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Is Negative Self Talk Hurting Your Workout?

athlete doing back squat

Whether you utter the words aloud or say them silently in your head, the chances are that you use self-talk during your workout. Statistics show that a huge 95% of athletes talk to themselves when they are doing an activity. You might think nothing of it – it’s merely your method of getting the job done. However, if you’re guilty of negative self-talk, you might want to change your ways. It could be harming your workout.

How Does Negative Self-Talk Affect Your Fitness?

Anxiety Could Kill Your Workout

Feeling anxious before you hit the gym? You’re not alone. These thoughts are typical directly before activity and, of course, any form of competition. Research published in the Journal of Sport Behavior noted that pre-competition and workout anxiety is the norm. It’s how you deal with it that matters. Yes, the way in which you react to these feelings could have a direct impact on your activity performance.

Surprisingly, the researchers suggested that focusing solely on trying to get rid of the fear could lead to higher levels of negative self-talk during exercise. The reason could be that this habit leads you to put a huge amount of attention on your worried feelings and even obsess about them. Instead, accepting the pre-workout anxiety could reduce the amount of worry you actually feel during your session.

athlete fighting negative self-talk

Stop, Breathe, and Relax

When it comes to letting your performance anxiety go, it’s often easier said than done. Should you already be in the habit of negative self-talk, you may feel as though there’s no way out of that mindset. In the research paper "The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes," Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D. offers one way in which you can overcome this issue.

"If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or negative self-talk, stop and focus only on your breathing," he writes. "Focusing on your breathing rhythm will automatically pull you back into the present. Force a smile. Really. If you are struggling with negative thoughts and can't break out of the cycle, simply force yourself to smile." Taking a brief moment to bring yourself back down to earth could be the key to overcoming the problem.

Talk Yourself To Success

Rather than focusing on negative self-talk, why not try switching things up? Is it really possible to talk yourself into athletic success? It may be worth giving a try. One study from Taylor & Francis suggests that you could harness the power of self-talk. It found that talking yourself through a problem could help you perform better than ever.

athlete thinking about negative self-talk

As part of the study, researchers set participants a task to find an object within a series of pictures. Some were guided to speak to themselves about the issues while others completed the task in silence. The results found that those who spoke to themselves were able to identify the objects faster than those who did not.

This specific theory can be directly applied to your workout or training. Rather than battling negative self-talk, perhaps you should change the conversation altogether. Why not tell yourself that you can succeed and talk yourself through the steps to reach your goals? Doing so could boost your performance and help you get more out of your workout.

Negative self-talk is a bad habit. But the good news is that you can break it. Quitting isn’t a decision that you make once – you have to make it each and every time you head to the gym. Whenever you catch yourself getting into that thought pattern, you need to stop and reassess the situation. Changing the way in which you speak to yourself could be better for your mind and your workout, in the long-run.

Tags: mindset


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