“You have another 5 hours to go, at least. It’s freezing and this is the hardest section of the run, good luck with that! You should have tried the head torch, you can’t see a thing, you are going to kick a rock and bust your toenail, again. Your legs are shuttered; this is going to be a long walk of shame. What were you thinking going out so hard??"
“Last 30 km. Maybe 5 hours?! Then a large pizza! You made it here in exceptional time; now it's cold, you are tired and with the dimmed light from your head torch on this technical trail, you may be better off power walking for a bit. Maybe start running when the course flattens to sprint finish!"
Both statements are equally true but what a difference!
If you were my support crew I hope you would use the more encouraging one, or you won’t get moving.
The thing is that we often forget we are our own support crew. All the time.
The words we use in our own self-talk have an enormous impact on our training and racing.
The way I see it, the little chatterbox in our heads interprets the external stimuli, processes the feedback from our body, taps into our core values, beliefs and fears, adds some drama and doubts and shakes things up! The final cocktail is a stream of self-talk, a story we tell ourselves, which ends up influencing the reality we experience and our decisions.
It is a story. Although we are the narrators, we should take it with a pinch of salt!
Even better, because we have an active part in telling ourselves that story, we should remember a very powerful principle:
Before you speak, you should ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?
[by Socrates (Greek philosopher) first and extended by Sai Baba (Indian guru)]
While we expect others (or should expect) to talk to us accordingly to the above principle, sometimes we have double standards about our self-talk.
And given we talk to ourselves all the time, day in and day out, during training and during races, we should pay attention to how we talk and what we say to ourselves.
Imagine if we could rely on our self-talk as our main allay, our internal cheer squad and motivator during races. What a performance booster! The self-talk would reinforce our belief we have the ability to overcome the challenge in front of us. Our mental energy would be invested in constructive and positive thoughts, keeping us grounded, relaxed and on the task.
I don’t think anyone is immune to negative self-talk. I think it is about recognising it for what it truly is: just a thought, a story we tell ourselves.
A common trait I see with successful and positive people is that they have a different dialogue with themselves and others. And they naturally bring that in their own self-talk, because ultimately we are what we practice. In my opinion, it has less to do with “reframing” a situation but more of a genuine “growing mindset”. In their character, actions, and conversations I see that:
This is not a complete list of course. I just wanted to point out the obvious we all forget: Tackling negative self-talk begins way before the self-talk starts! A quick fix in isolation, whether its a mantra, a reframing, a long exhale, or loud shouting as I always do when I get overwhelmed, don't help if the base conversation we have with ourselves is not honest, kind, necessary, true and improves upon the silence.