5 Workout Self Talk Tips That IMPROVE Performance

by Coach Shawn

Can You Relate?

Ever been in the middle of a workout and in your head said any of the following:

“Oh my god this is so hard, I’m never going to get through this.”

“Ugh, I’m dead last. I’m so unfit.”

“You’re so out of shape.”

“Will anyone notice if I just stop early and don’t do it all?”

“You’re a piece of…”

“My legs are so tired, I can’t do this.”

Self talk is a reflection of our mindset. 

Unfortunately, our mental state is often clouded by doubts and fears that lead to common forms of training self-sabotage.

  • Holding you back from giving your best effort.
  • Getting too distracted by comparisons with peers.
  • Not meeting your own expectations aka “I should _____” 

(ie: be faster, stronger, the same weight as so n so…) 

Doubts, insecurities and fears are patterns of thought, and those patterns lead to the pattern of negative self-talk within training that hinders performance, progress and the experience all together.

During workouts, the ideal mindset is focused on the present

There’s very little distracting mental chatter. 

Most of the mind is bent on task accomplishment, positive self encouragement, and/or technique focus. 

Entirely present and focused on what’s under our control.

Adaptable to unexpected adversity and challenges.

Possessing high levels of mental flexibility.

Positive self-talk in sport is one of the simplest principles of sports psychology.

Yet, it’s one of the toughest to master. 

Self-talk is your internal dialogue.

But it’s strongly influenced by your subconscious mind and can be very negative if you’re not aware of it. Our brains are always involved in some form of self-talk, particularly when we’re under physical or mental pressure.

The key is to become aware of your internal chatter, acknowledging and noting it.

Whether positive, negative or uncertain.

Then take control and readdress it to make it as supportive and encouraging as possible. 

Here are 5 helpful methods – 

to adopt, utilize regularly and assist in reprogramming your inner dialogue during a workout to achieve greater results.  

#1 – Positive Self Talk – 

Rather than saying what you shouldn’t be doing, keep the focus on what you should be doing. “You’ve got a great pace”, or “you’ve got this” rather than “don’t slow down”. Doing this will boost your motivation without even trying. 

“You’ve got this. 

Keep up the great work. 

“I” statements according to research can bring stressful rather than positive feelings so a little trick – go third person on yourself instead of “I” statements.


“You’ve got this Shawn, you’re doing great.” 

“Come on Shawn, one more round.” 

The trick is to show yourself compassion and kindness. It’s something a lot of us find difficult to do, but it’s important.

Decide that from now on, you will talk yourself up. 

Be your own hype man/woman. 

The best self-talk encourages and motivates, as well as soothes and reassures.

#2 – Task Focused – Learning to “Chunk”

Some people thrive on focusing on specific tasks within working out. 

With the task method – your focus is a task within the larger picture. You’re zoomed in.

Example: 5 round workout of 20 Wall Balls, 15 Burpees, 10 Calorie Row. 

A task focused individual focuses on 1 particular thing at a time, not getting stressed by zooming out at all of the work. 

With a task focused method I like to squeeze it down one step further into “chunking.”

In chunking, we focus on the step itself – not the mountain.

If we take those 20 Wall Balls – this person could be thinking, “get to rep 5.” 

Once achieved, “okay now get to rep 10.” And they attack the 20 in bite size chunks.

Another example is to say you’re running a mile.

It could be as simple as “get to the corner of the building.”

Once you get there, “get to that parked truck.”

You’re taking the macro (a mile) and chunking it down into bite size chunks. 

This is extremely helpful when the workload is a lot, (ie: Murph, 12 Days of Christmas)

Or there’s a long particular effort involved (ie: Mile run, 2k row, 400m sandbag carry)


The workout involves a lot of reps or rounds (ie: 150 Wall Balls, 20 rounds of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats)

#3- The Cookie Jar – 

The premise regarding the Cookie Jar method is simple.

You remind yourself of the tough and painful things you’ve overcome and how you can overcome anything.

Made famous in his book, “Can’t Hurt Me” ex Navy Seal, now motivational speaker David Goggins explains the Cookie Jar method here:

“The Cookie Jar is something I’ve made up of all the failures of my life. 

All the things that I failed and I went back and finally succeeded. 

All the things that kicked my ass, I put them all in the Cookie Jar. 

Because in times of suffering, even the hardest men (or women) forget how hard they are. 

Suffering is just a test of life. 

Whenever I get pulled into a “woe is me” or “life sucks” mentality, I step off and pull out something from my Cookie Jar, and remind myself what a badass mother****** I am. 

It’s a reminder of who you truly are at the core of yourself.

When you are going through hell, keep going with the aid of the Cookie Jar. 

If you feel like quitting, pull up a cookie (a reminder of what you’ve overcome already) 

get energized, and keep going.”

#4- The Linkin Park Method 

Within a workout we can get lost in what’s left for us to do.

This can lead us to panic, start to compare ourselves to others and check out entirely.

Feeling disappointed and defeated inside. 

Instead, using the Linkin Park method, 

you focus on “what I’ve done” instead of what is left to be done. 

Example: You’re 1 mile and 7 rounds down into Murph. 

(You have 13 rounds and another mile to go…)

The method and mentality here is to remind yourself what you’ve accomplished already. 

You ran a mile. 

And did 7 rounds. 

You put your focus on what you’ve accomplished to drive you to keep going. 

And then you do another round. 

I call this method the Linkin Park Method due to their popular hit song, “What I’ve Done.” 

This puts the mentality in what you’ve achieved – not what is still left to be done. 

#5- The 40% Rule

Another mental gem made popular by David Goggins, the 40% rule. 

In his book, Goggins introduced a rule that is based on his experience. 

The rule, referred to as the 40% rule, states that “When your mind first tells you that you are done, that you are tired, and that you cannot go ahead and carry on, you are in fact only 40% done.”

I love the 40% rule.

It’s a total mindshift.

And we all know this to be inherently true.

We’ve all hit exhaustion, needing to stop and collect ourselves. 

Your mind can trick you into thinking “I’ve got nothing left.”

This re-frame EMPOWERS you. 

I’m indeed not done – I’ve got 60% left, I’m only 40% done. 

Ultimately leading us to that feeling of accomplishment once we complete the task. 


5 methods.

Explore them all, find what resonates and works best for you.

At certain points, each has their own place within whatever we are training and the degree of the challenge.

Make no mistake about it either – they are not unique to training or working out only.

They will carry over to life, which is guaranteed adversity, challenge and full of continuous tests.

Not Immune – But Can Control

Keep in mind, negative thoughts will always arise before and during a workout.

Challenges, nerves and adversity are inevitable. 

However, if we practice better self-talk within these challenges we not only improve our physical fitness but our mental resilience and mental fitness also.

Ultimately enjoying the entire training process more while also achieving better results over time.

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