The effects of motivational self-talk during exercise

In a recent study published by Copeman Kineseologist & Exercise Physiologist, Phil Wallace, in ACSM’s Medicine Science in Sports & Exercise Journal, it was proven that motivational self-talk has the ability to increase endurance capacity by up to 29% while exercising.

Goal of the study

The purpose of the study was to determine a way to improve exercise performance in stressful conditions (in this case, the heat) when our bodies become too hot or “hyperthermic”. When we reach this hyperthermic stage, and are exercising or working in the heat, we tend to see a decrease in exercise performance and a decline in higher order cognitive function (i.e. executive function). Although simpler cognitive tasks (such as reaction time, working memory) tend to be better maintained, the study aimed to find a way to reduce the effects of the stressful scenario.

After testing methods such as cooling or hydration strategies to alter physiological parameters to affect performance, it started to become clear that there was a mental/psychological component to performance that had yet to be studied. To address this component, a psychological skill intervention known as motivational self-talk was introduced.

What is motivational self-talk?

Motivational self-talk is different from positive self-talk in that it focuses on an individual’s actual ability to verbalize to themselves that they can accomplish a task.

The results

By introducing motivational self-talk, trained athletes, and competitive male and female cyclists were able to improve their endurance capacity for the activity by 29%, improve their tolerance for exercise by 100%, and improve their speed and duration for executive function.

One of the key takeaways from this study is that while motivational self-talk will help to improve endurance, these skills need to be practiced. Over each practice session, participants used more self-talk and found it to be more beneficial as they re-tooled and tested their statements.

Overall, this study advises us to take an integrated approach to help improve overall performance and that this style can benefit people on multiple levels including exercise performance, psychological mindset, or neuro-cognitive function.

It also goes to show that no matter what stage you are at in life, mental skills can still be learned.

To read the full abstract, click here!