Negative Self-Talk- Four tips to Turn it Around

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Running Negative selftalkA few weeks ago I participated in the BMO Vancouver Marathon.  This was my 5th half marathon, third BMO race, and first postnatal half. In typical BMO style the race was top notch. From package pick up and organization, to the crowd and finish line party.  The difference this  year was my attitude.

Having a 13 month old and working full-time didn’t leave me nearly the same amount of time to train that I am accustom to. In addition to this I was nervous about running the distance since recovering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) during pregnancy. 

 INside my head:

2017 BMO FinishKm #1: Take it easy you aren’t ready for this.
KM #5: Wow 5 km and I’m already losing the 2 hour pace bunny. I am going to have the worst time.
KM #8 (uphill): OMG I hate this hill. My back hurts, I can barely lift my feet!
KM #10: Wow 1 hour 2 Minutes, I’m actually doing pretty good….You won’t be able to keep it up you started too fast.
KM #11: Legs are getting tired that never happens during the race……see you aren’t ready for this. You are going to hurt yourself.
Km 16: Usually I would start to feel happy and emotional….Why don’t feel any of that?? Must be because I am doing so poorly??

You get the idea. Once I had decided that I hadn’t had enough training my negative self-talk was in the driver seat.  I didn’t experience the happy emotions  that usually come with the accomplishment of crossing the finish -line  because I had just spent 2 hours mentally beating myself up.

what is self-talk?

Self talkSelf-talk is the purposeful and random thoughts that go through our heads at any given time.

Imagine the little angel and devil from cartoons. The angel,  positive self-talk which is supportive and motivational, “You can do it, you’ve got this!”  The devil, negative self-talk full of pessimism and self-criticism. “You’ll never win, this is too hard.“  During this run the little devil on my shoulder kept using his pitch fork and knocking the supportive angel off my shoulder.

How negative self-talk slips into our thoughts:

  •  Focusing on past performance:  “I raced so poorly last time,” or “I can’t believe I started so slowly.”  Not letting go of previous mistakes or poor performances can take focus away from the current event.
  • Focusing on weaknesses: Worrying about weakness can take your attention away from your strengths and erode confidence.
  • Focusing only on the outcome:  Focusing on the end means you miss the journey.
  • Focusing on uncontrollable factors:  Worrying about the hills on the course, or anything thing beyond control, is a waste of energy.
  • Trying to be perfect: Every race cannot be a PB and to expect that  is unrealistic.

Changing the Negative to the Positive: 4 Tips to turn it around

 close door on negative-self talkControlling self-talk is a skill that must be practiced, not just in running but in everyday life. Here are 4 tips to help turn it around.

  • Self-awareness: Listen to what you say to yourself. Are you focusing on your weaknesses? Are you being mean to yourself?
  • Trying to be perfect? Are there certain points that your original motivation turns to self-doubt?
  • Once you are aware of the negative talk, you must stop it, which is easier said than done. A girlfriend (you know who you are ;)) shared with me a wonderful exercise; When a negative thoughts start to creep in acknowledge it, then imagine picking it up and putting it outside a door.  Close the door on that thought, it’s not welcome.
  • Replace with the positive: Visualize your positive thoughts. Practice saying them out loud.  Sounds easy, right? Then why do we focus on what we can’t do? I can’t pass this person, I can’t run any faster, and I can’t finish this race. Taking control of your self-talk and focusing on what you can do is a much more effective strategy. It may seem silly to say them out loud but I find its often the best way to drowned out the negative-self talk.

A lesson Learnt:

Voice in your head a liar A great performance is related not only to talent, skill, and practice but mental preparation. Just as I train for endurance and speed and the finishing sprint, I can’t forget to practice controlling my self-talk. In the end I finished the race in a respectable 2:04:37 which far surpassed my expectations.  Because of my negative self-talk I didn’t enjoy the journey as much as I should have.

Do you find yourself using negative self-talk? Were you aware of what you were doing? How do use positive self-talk to improve your performance?

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24 thoughts on “Negative Self-Talk- Four tips to Turn it Around

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Awww thank you I’m glad you were able to relate and enjoyed my writing. Thank you for the compliment, Ireland encouraging when you hear this.

  1. Lisa Sell says:

    I’m doing a C25K programme and as someone who is running to beat the mental illness demons I can certainly relate to how negative self-talk tries to encroach on my runs. It’s so important to try not to let it take a hold. Great post.

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Good for you I know several people that got started with a C25k program. With the right mind frame it can be really cathartic. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Sarah says:

    This is so great! I feel as if as I’m getting older I’m getting better at this, or maybe it’s because I just care less about what people think of me!!! LOL

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Lol yes I think you right I find as I’ve gotten older I care less about what others think. However I’m still my own worst critic.

  3. Christina Snyder says:

    This is a great post that really hits close to home!
    I’m guilty of the mental struggle during a workout… which are never as enduring as yours but focusing on every ounce of uncomfortable notion and the duration until finish, I’m there.
    I like how you point out that it’s a process and like any other process being aware is the first step.

  4. Jamie says:

    I love this post! Attitude is so important. I never realized how important until I changed my own. It has been a game changer. Self talk is still hard for me but I try to put a positive spin on things- instead of being disappointed when something doesn’t go my way- I try to think of it as an answer to my prayer and this time the answer was “no.”

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Good for you! I’m trying too and it’s not always easy. Whatever works to turn it around!

  5. Leah says:

    I suffer from depression so negeative self talk has been a major issue in my life. I have spoken to counselors who teach Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is training your brain to stop that negative self talk. It helped a little bit, but I have overcome it mostly by myself because only I know how best to stop it. These are great tips, I will use them next the little devil starts trying to talk in my ear.

  6. Bobbi says:

    Love this post! I’m constantly dealing with negative self-talk when it comes to most things in my life. I’ve actually let it talk me out of a few things I’ve really wanted to do. I’ve been working really hard at shutting it up; so far, so good.

  7. Elizabeth Brico says:

    Whoa. Congratulations on the half marathon. That’s amazing all on its own.
    Also on owning your negative self talk. I have PTSD so I have MAJOR issues with this. This post is really relevant and important. I’m sharing it around.
    I would also like to invite you to add it to my new link-up. I’m trying to get the word out, yes, but I also genuinely believe this post would be an excellent fit. The current theme is “celebrations,” and this post definitely fits that theme in multiple ways. Once the link-up closes the page stays open on my blog as a link archive, so your post would be there for anyone looking for this type of thing to find 🙂 I would be honored if you would add it. Of course, whether you do or not, thank you for taking the time to write it and share these important tips with all of us!
    bettysbattleground.com Off-Fridays Week 2

  8. Surbhi says:

    What a great write up! You are absolutely right about the reasons why we do negative self talk. I am glad I read this today.

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