Over the coming weeks, I want to give you all some tangible suggestions for how to make your training a more positive and enjoyable experience. This week, we’re starting with this tip:
Compliment yourself at least one time during each workout.
Think back to the last workout you did. Did you say anything positive to yourself while you were doing the workout or in your Post-Workout Notes?
In my experience, athletes are pretty darn good at being their own best critics and identifying the “bad” things in a workout or where they “fall short.” I’m here today to help you all find the good.
Yes, there is always something good to be found in every workout. Nothing is ever completely horrible when it comes to workouts. It’s important to reflect on how a workout truly went, but it’s important that that assessment be honest. To be clear, being honest doesn’t have to mean that we seek out only the “bad” things. While we can certainly identify things we can improve on, we also want to take the time to celebrate what we’re doing well.
This week, I challenge each and every one of you to compliment yourselves at least one time in each workout you do. (I wouldn’t be upset if you complimented yourselves two or more times, though. ;) ) Taking it one step further, I not only challenge you to compliment yourself, but to write down that compliment that you are saying to yourself.
You’ve heard me say it many times: Words have power. Therefore, feelings (compliments in this case) that are written down in real words have more power than if we just dismissively say in our minds, “Self, you did a good job today.” Seeing our thoughts in real words and re-reading them to ourselves helps to plant those words in our minds, thereby increasing the snowball effect of the positive message we are telling ourselves. Yes, indeed. It actually makes it easier over time to see the good and celebrate it within ourselves.
As a side note here: I’m living proof that this works; this is something I’ve discovered that I’m fairly effective at doing. The athletes I work with would likely tell you that I am constantly finding the good things in their workouts. How do I do this? I either write it to them or I speak it out loud to them. Day in and day out, I’m seeking the things to celebrate in their workouts, and I’m translating what I see into real words. I truly believe that this helps me be very effective when it comes to doing it for myself; the constant practice and repetition of seeking the good in others that helps make it come “naturally” to me. I say “naturally” with quotations because it’s not necessarily natural; it’s a very specific, consistently cultivated habit that has become easier (“natural”) over time the longer I’ve done it. And it’s not just unique to endurance coaches! You can do this, too!
How? Well, as you’re talking to yourself, be specific in how you compliment yourself. A generic “That was great” is sort of great, but not getting to the heart of what I’m talking about here. Find something specific to compliment yourself on.
“Great job getting out the door when you really didn’t want to.”
“Nice job dressing in the appropriate layers to execute this workout comfortably! That made it more fun.”
“Good work sticking to the planned parameters of the workout and not going harder than planned.”
“That was a wise modification that was made when things weren’t going as planned mid-workout.”
“Great job acknowledging that your body was requiring rest more than it needed a workout.” (Okay, so this is not an example of a compliment about a completed workout, but it’s still an example of a compliment about a workout situation, so it counts!)
I could go on and on, but I think you get the general idea. During the workout, say the compliment out loud to yourself. When you finish your workout, a great place to write these compliments down is in a pen-and-paper journal or in the Post-Workout Notes section of an online training log such as Final Surge.
You may think I’m suggesting this practice of complimenting yourself because it sounds nice and I want you to feel good about yourselves. And, well, you’d be partially correct. I do want you to speak kindly to yourselves and feel good about yourselves.
However, the impact of positive self-talk like this extends beyond just warm and fuzzy feelings. Researchers have been able to conclusively prove that endurance performance increases by as much as 18% when athletes incorporate positive self-talk into their workouts. In the study that these researchers conducted, athletes were able to extend their Time to Exhaustion (TTE) by 18% while simultaneously lowering the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) that they were experiencing.
That’s right, folks. Go back and read that again. Without making any other training changes, these athletes improved their performance by eighteen percent when they incorporated positive self-talk! To put this into context, that’s essentially the equivalent of being able to run for an additional 43 minutes after finishing a marathon in four hours or the equivalent of being able to run an additional 2 hours and 10 minutes after finishing an IRONMAN in 13 hours.
This, my friends, is the equivalent of getting an acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s real life magic, and each of you has the power to wield it in your own lives. Exhaustion in the mind can be just as significant, if not more so, than physical exhaustion. Complimenting yourself and incorporating positive self-talk into your workouts and training offers you a way to help combat this exhaustion in your mind.
Go forth this week, and compliment yo’self! Don’t be shy; don’t be bashful. Get out there and declare to yourself that you have done something worth praising and celebrating. The truth is, you definitely have. :)
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)
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.