Updated: Mar 2, 2020
As a multisport coach I have noticed many athletes, at all levels, using negative self-talk just before an event they have been training for. While waiting for the start of a race, I have overheard things like, “I haven’t been swimming enough” or “I didn’t sleep very well last night." These types of thoughts and talk can chip away at any athlete’s mental state and cause them to not perform at their full potential.
If you are lining up for the start of your event and you find yourself speaking negatively about your training, how much sleep or rest you didn’t get, or the fact you didn’t lose that last 10 pounds before race day...you are giving yourself an “out” or excuse. By using self-deprecating talk you could be predetermining the outcome of an event you are very much ready for and could do very well. Speaking out-loud negatively or even listening to other negative talk around you can possibly affect your race. When the course is challenging and things get tough, and in endurance racing it always gets tough, you have already subconsciously given in to failure.
These seemingly harmless negative comments are common before workouts as well as races. When you are standing around with a group of teammates preparing to start, does the conversation focus on the things that have been going wrong? Do you or do the others start making excuses why you will not be able to push hard that day?
While it is important to acknowledge weaknesses and work on those, discussing them at the start line is not the time or place. What you should be doing before each race and training session is to speak and think positively. Focus on the fact that you have been training and that so many aspects have gone right! If you catch yourself starting to talk about the things that have been going wrong, stop and start talking about positive things. Focus on what is right: “Today is great weather for a run,” or “I am looking forward to the sunrise this morning." If those around you continue negative talk, change the subject or even - better walk away. Keep the conversation and your thoughts positive. Positive self-talk will put you into the correct frame of mind to perform at your best.
So next time, instead of making negative comments and talking about why you could fail, express why you will succeed. You will have a better race/workout and you will enjoy it more. Stay positive verbally and thoughtfully!