The Science of 'Mind Over Matter' — and How It Can Improve Your WorkoutErin Whitehead
When the going gets tough in your workouts, the tough should get talking — to yourself. That’s right — talking to yourself and giving yourself a pep talk during your workout may make you push yourself harder and longer than if you don’t.
In a recent small study, participants who used positive self-talk significantly lengthened their time cycling on a bike compared to their first attempt. In the study, participants rode as long as they could at 80 percent of their peak power output. They were then split into two groups, one of which received coaching to use phrases like “feeling good” or “push through this” during their workouts.
Those who received that coaching to push themselves with positive talk did just that, and pushed through it about 18 percent longer than those who didn’t use self-talk. They reported that they didn’t feel like they were working as hard, either. The study concluded that self-talk significantly reduces your rate of perceived exertion (how hard you think you’re working) and enhances endurance performance.
So mind over matter really may make a difference when you’re out on a long run, or climbing a big hill on a bike— or even just trying to make it through five more minutes of a workout. It’s worked for me many times. I’ve used positive self-talk with myself when trying to eke out that last push-up or trying to make it one more mile during a tough run. Having done a 10-plus mile Tough Mudder, I have experience with the long and difficult slog through a workout. Heck, I’ve had to resort to mantras even one mile into a run because sometimes that first mile is the toughest! A simple “I can do this” or “Just keep going” can be enough to push me over the wall of fatigue and get a second wind. And when those fail, I just remind myself “It’s not childbirth” or “It’s not a 10-mile Tough Mudder.” It’s amazing how easy workouts seem when I’m reminded of that!
So don’t fall into the trap of thinking your workouts are all about your body. There is a strong mental aspect of exercise too. The more you practice your mental toughness and positive mantras, the better your workouts will be!
Need ideas for your own mantras? Jessica Cohen shared eight fitness enthusiasts’ motivational mantras earlier this week. Check them out!
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