Coach Tip Tuesday: Be Careful About What You Tell Yourself

Posted On:
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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What a week! It’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday again!

I’m just coming back from coaching a beginner triathlon camp in Henderson, Nevada with my Team MPI colleagues for Team Semper Fi, which is a non-profit organization that provides much-needed services to combat wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured members of the United States Armed Forces.  The work that Team Semper Fi does is critically important for these brave men and women as they transition away from the military and back to civilian life.  One of the ways Team Semper Fi provides these services is by providing opportunities for the service members to use sport as a way to heal, reintegrate, and be a part of a supportive team.  In the case of our camp, we covered all aspects of triathlon, including sports psychology.

In her sports psychology presentation, my fellow Team MPI Senior Coach Amanda Leibovitz shared a great tidbit: For every negative interaction or comment, you need three positive interactions or comments to counteract it.

Go back and read that again:  For every negative interaction or comment, you need three positive interactions or comments to counteract it.

The athletes who I work with can tell you this: if they dare to say something negative to or about themselves, I instantly work with them on reducing (and hopefully, stopping) that behavior. Why? Because I have always believed that everyone deserves to be their own best cheerleader, not their own worst critic. I didn’t have the data until Amanda shared that factoid this weekend, but I’ve seen just how damaging negative self-talk can be for athletes, and as such, I work with folks to try and reduce it as much as possible.

So when you look at the pace of your runs and it’s slower than you’d like, what do you tell yourself? Do you tell yourself that you are slow and terrible, or do you tell yourself that you did the best you could and you’re proud of yourself?

When you get in the pool for a swim, do you compare yourself to the person in the next lane over, and tell yourself that you’ll never be that good, or do you tell yourself that you’re working on reaching your goals and that one day you’ll be more comfortable and efficient in the water?

When you hop on your bike, do you compare your pace to everyone around you, or do you give yourself some grace and evaluate it based on where you are right now?

When you miss a workout, do you beat yourself up about it and tell yourself that you’re the worst for missing it, or do you head to bed knowing that tomorrow is another day and you’ll give it another go then?

It’s irrational to think or expect that one will be positive all the time, but here’s the deal: we can invest our time into being negative (which honestly doesn’t do anything constructive), or we can invest our time into being rational and framing things in a positive way that promotes self-growth both mentally and physically.  

This week, I challenge you to find one thing that you are satisfied with, happy about, or that you learned from each of your workouts. Record it in your workout log (if you don’t have one, Final Surge is a great one and it’s FREE), and start a record of your thoughts so you can use them to build your self-awareness and growth as an athlete.

After just one week of doing this - looking at your workouts and training from a positive/growth perspective - you’ll start to see that there is SO much to be grateful for and from which you can springboard to future goals.  And by looking at things through this lens, you will see that those negative things that you’ve been telling yourself weren’t helpful, and honestly, likely untrue as well. :)

So, my friends.  Be sure to be mindful about what you tell yourselves….you’re listening. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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