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  • Writer's pictureMary Brooking

Self talk: It matters!

Whether you are preparing for a marathon, a park run or any goal the way you talk to yourself, your internal dialogue or self-talk, matters. It influences the way our brain behaves, which in turn changes the way our bodies perform. The nature of this self talk can make all the difference between inspiring yourself to push harder or convincing yourself you have gone as far as you can: it can motivate or demoralise you.

Negative self talk is the voice of the inner critic trying to convince you its not worth the effort. When you listen to it, you start to give up: "Everyone else looks stronger than me, There’s no way I'm doing this, You're getting tired, Slow down". Changing the way you talk to yourself can benefit how you train, perform and feel; and its something we can work to improve. Motivational self-talk

These are mantras or mini pep talks you use to get yourself going: "You can do this, You can drop them, Dig deep on this next interval". Motivational self talk keeps you focussed on your goals, helps you push through difficulties on the way to them, and start believing in yourself: "You kept working hard, You’re moving closer to your goals".

Talk to yourself as if you were an observer or as a coach would using “you”; research shows this is more effective. Practice looking at a negative situation in a positive light. Not “I’m struggling" but “This is what you need, its making you stronger". Instructional self talk

This can have a technique focus: "Relax those shoulders, control your breathing, run tall" or an attitude focus helping you overcome negative thoughts: "You know you can make this workout happen if you really try, Get your trainers out and get ready to go". Reward self talk This is not just praise for praise's sake - it helps build confidence and a mindset that becomes more positive and therefore motivated. "Well done, You really smashed it, That was an amazing sprint, You’re getting so much faster/stronger". It's also helpful to recast negative thoughts: "You tried hard, next time you’ll make it to the end, You have more to give, you’ll give it next time".

The more you practice using positive self talk the easier it gets, until becomes a habit; then you can automatically talk yourself towards the best performance that’s possible for you.

Start by listening to your current self talk. Be alert to the voice of the inner critic and prepare how to recast and head off these thought patterns. Make a list of positive phrases you are already using you’ll find some are more effective than others, keep using them and try others out, refining until you have a set of phrases that really work for you.

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