How to adopt positive self-talk

Learn to talk the talk when it comes to performance psychology...

Avoid the negative

“Some riders arrive at the start of a session warning that they’re ‘not feeling up to it’ or ‘haven’t trained for weeks’,” explains Dr Steve Bull, coaching psychologist at GamePlanCoach. “Instead of getting your excuses in first, use more positive, affirming pre-ride self-talk.”

Zoom in

Self-talk is often used in tandem with visualisation to get into the right frame of mind, explains Dr. Barry Cripps ( “Imagine yourself in a spaceship 100 miles above the Earth, then come ‘zooming in’ to the start point of your ride to lock in focus,” he suggests.

Start a habit

“Elite athletes will make self-talk as natural as getting on the bike,” says Bull. The athlete should choose their affirmations, write them down and use them during training and competition.

“Prepare your own list of actions and phrases, practise them daily five or six times, then perform them at the last minute as a countdown to the start, as part of your mental rehearsal.”

Accentuate the positive 

“In as much as athletes warm up physically before an event, they also need to warm up psychologically; the two go hand-in-hand,” insists Cripps.

To make your self-talk impactful and focused, Cripps says it can help to have a physical approach. “Combine it with a physical act of relaxation and nerve control. Inhale, hold your breath, then exhale to an anchoring self-talk phrase.”

Talk on the go

“During the ride a cyclist can use a range of ‘self-talk’ phrases in order to pass through pain barriers, settle into an even rhythm and be in complete control both mentally and physically,” says Cripps. These ‘self-talk’ phrases are at their most effective when constructed using affirmations.

“An affirmation is a positive phrase about the self, made in the present tense, such as ‘I’m in control’ or ‘I can conquer this,’” says Cripps.

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