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Mastering the Art of Positive Self-Talk in Endurance Training

Mastering Positive Self-Talk Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike

Endurance athletes experience numerous mental and physical challenges throughout their training and races. Many athletes spend time addressing aspects related to training, but one of the most important aspects that should be considered is the power of the performance mindset. Self-talk is the internal dialogue an athlete has with themselves, and it plays a significant role in a number of elements, including confidence, motivation, and emotional regulation. Mastering positive self-talk can enhance performance and should be part of any training plan.

Understanding the Impact of Self-Talk

How athletes talk to themselves during training and races can influence their mental state and physical performance. Self-talk can be positive, instructional, and negative, impacting how athletes process situations and evaluate their confidence and abilities. Self-talk affects how athletes feel about themselves and can influence their decision-making, physiological responses, and overall performance outcomes. Positive self-talk assists athletes in boosting confidence, enhancing motivation, and improving resilience in the face of challenges. Instructional self-talk helps an athlete facilitate their performance by using specific cues to execute the skill. Negative self-talk, including doubts, self-criticism, or negative thoughts, can decrease confidence and increase anxiety states.

Here are some ways self-talk can impact performance for endurance athletes:

  1. Emotional Regulation 

Most endurance athletes experience high stress levels and emotions throughout training and race day. These highs and lows can impact athletes physiologically as well as psychologically. If athletes speak negatively to themselves, they may experience high levels of stress, confidence issues, and challenges with decision-making. Physiologically, they may also experience elevated cortisol levels and increased muscle tension. If an athlete is utilizing positive self-talk, they might find that they are better able to regulate emotions and experience reduced anxiety states. 

  1. Boosting Focus

A challenge for endurance athletes is staying focused throughout their races, especially since they can experience unknowns and distractions. If athletes struggle to remain focused, speaking negatively to themselves can cause them to encounter more challenges with concentration. An athlete speaking positively to themselves utilizes a task-oriented mindset where their focus is more controlled.

  1. Enhancing Confidence

An endurance athlete’s confidence levels impact how they approach situations and how they believe they will successfully complete the task at hand. Self-talk and confidence have a strong connection. An athlete utilizing negative self-talk could be focused more on self-doubt, concerns of failure, and fear of the unknown. This struggle with confidence could negatively impact performance. When athletes utilize positive self-talk strategies, they usually experience heightened self-confidence mostly because they believe in their abilities.


  1. Resilient Mindset

Rebounding from setbacks is unique for each endurance athlete and can impact how they approach training and race day. The mindset of an athlete comes into play in these situations. An athlete with a growth mindset is more likely to recognize the lessons learned from the setback, speak with encouragement to themselves, and be open to future challenges. When athletes talk negatively to themselves regarding setbacks, they might be more likely to experience challenges when overcoming obstacles and be less likely to take future risks related to their performance.

  1. Perceived Effort

The perception of effort is a huge factor in endurance performance. Negative self-talk, associated with self-doubt, can lead an athlete to perceive tasks as difficult. When this occurs, the athlete might notice a decline in motivation and be more likely to slow down or give up during a race. Positive self-talk can help athletes perceive tasks as more manageable, allowing them to enjoy the process, increase effort, and enhance motivation.

How an athlete chooses to speak to themselves directly connects to their relationship with themselves and their overall performance. The words athletes internalize shape their mental states and influence how their bodies respond to the demands they encounter with their sport. Through mastering positive self-talk, athletes can work on enhancing confidence, motivation, and resilience. Mastering mindset by developing a positive mindset is gradual but provides numerous rewards to help athletes improve their performance.


Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.