Posted On:
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Swap Your Adjectives, Swap Your Mindset

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Tall grasses in a field blowing in the wind.

It’s Tuesday again, which means that it’s also Coach Tip Tuesday!

You’ve heard me talk before about how we all tell ourselves stories, and that since we are listening, we should be careful about what we say.  This week, I want to dive into this a little bit deeper by offering a specific suggestion to help you frame the conversations that you have with yourself:

Swap the adjectives that you tell yourself.

You’re probably thinking right now, “I don’t use adjectives when I talk to myself.”  Yes, yes you do.  How many of you have “heard” any of the following words in your head in the middle of a workout:

  • Hard
  • Tired
  • Cold
  • Hot
  • Windy
  • Rainy
  • Humid
  • Choppy

This is by no means a comprehensive list of adjectives that you might use to describe a workout, but I can tell you anecdotally from years of coaching athletes that these are some of the most adjectives I hear from athletes.  And, as the athletes I’ve worked with can tell you, I often encourage them to rephrase what they were saying, or to look at things in a different light than they were before.  In effect, that is what I am recommending that you all do this week.

Words like “hard” can be swapped for “challenging.”  “Tired” can be swapped to “adapting.”  “Cold” can be substituted with “tough.”  And while this phrase isn’t an adjective, it’s still a good one to swap out: “have to” becomes “get to.”

Read through those again. Doesn’t even just reading them make you feel calmer, better? Words matter, my friends. They really, really do. And as such, we should strive to be intentional and wise about what words we select in our conversations - our conversations with other people, but most importantly, our conversations with ourselves.

My best good coach friend Mark Turner taught me long ago that the only certainty in endurance sports is adversity. Ever since he taught me that, I’ve embraced that adversity. I know it’s going to happen at some point, so why try to fight it? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. By WELCOMING adversity - both mentally and in how I talk about my workouts and races - the entire experience becomes so much more pleasant, enjoyable, and fun. It’s like I’m inviting a friend along with me, a friend who makes me better.

So now, this is what I teach to athletes.  Embrace that there will be tough days that make you stronger.  Know that you will be tired but that it’s because your body is adapting, changing, and evolving.  Feel the wind around you, and speak the truth: that that wind is pushing you to become your best self (sometimes quite literally ;) ).  

There isn’t another human being on the planet that you will talk to more in the course of your lifetime than yourself.  Fine-tune how you have those conversations, and make sure that you are being as motivating, positive, and encouraging to yourself as you would if you were speaking to another human. :)


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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