Affirmations: What is your “inner coach” telling you?

It’s happens to all of us, and often without our awareness. It can be one of the most harmful aspects of race day performance or it can give you that extra edge …it’s the power of our self-talk. Self-talk goes by many other names such as, inner dialogue, inner chatter, affirmations, thinking, inner script, automatic thoughts, automatic self-talk, etc. Self-talk is like self instruction or as I like to call it “your inner coach.” Is your “coach” supportive or critical? Is your “inner coach” telling you what you did right or what you did wrong or can’t do? If it is the latter, some change needs to happen in order for you to get the most of your potential.

Often when I hear athletes talking about themselves, their performance, etc. it gives me a big clue to what beliefs, or self-talk, they are engaging in. As I approach Oceanside 70.3 this weekend I am trying to be very aware of what is going on in my self-talk and change negative to fear based thoughts/talk. My mantra is “you can’t change what you are not aware of” so get aware of what is going on between your ears and once you do I believe that developing realistic-healthy affirmations is a great starting point. Let’s explore them below:


Many elite athletes all over the world understand the importance of their mental game. For example, many of the USA Olympic teams, NCAA Division I universities, professional runners, tennis players, and golfers employ sports psychologist to help facilitate mental skills such as, self-talk. They have used strategies to improve this aspect of their performance. When it comes right down to it, talent is not always the deciding factor in sports. Sometimes games are decided by determination and mental toughness. Besides, who wins when talent is a draw? Well, research in the field that states that the more elite/professional you get in competition the more physical capabilities balance/baseline out across athletes and the more the mental aspect delineates one athlete from another, and more specifically which ones wins and which don’t.

So, as you build physical capabilities don’t forget to build your mental edge! The affirmations in this category can improve your game day performance by fortifying your belief in yourself, your abilities, your potential for success, and even helping you remember to do the little things that make the difference.

One way to reprogram your self-talk is by repeating positive/healthy affirmations until you begin to get a good sense of what positive thinking really sounds like. After all, much self-talk is actually negative affirmations. Our emotions, perceptions, and behaviors are shaped by our most dominant thoughts. Advocates of affirmations theorize that our frequent thoughts represent goals which the subconscious mind strives to actualize. What we most often tell ourselves can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you want to explore the power of positive affirmations, follow these guidelines.

  1. Personalize your affirmations with words like “I,” “me,” and “my.” You can’t always control circumstances or other people, athletes, weather, conditions, so make your affirmations about what you can control—yourself. Make your affirmations state your own goals, wants, and values—not someone else’s.
  2. Some authors say affirmations are best stated in the present tense, because, if affirmations are in future tense (“I will…”) your subconscious mind feels no urgency to act NOW. If you feel hypocritical stating affirmations in the present tense (as in “I am strong, fast, and ready”) then state your affirmations as a process (as in “Each day I am becoming stronger, faster, and more ready.”)
  3. Make your affirmations believable and realistic so that you can say them with sincerity. Begin with small, easily achievable goals, and work your way up to bigger accomplishments. “I have the energy and focus I need most of the time” is probably more believable versus “I have the energy and focus I need when I need it.”
  4. State affirmations in the positive. To say “I  will not eat fatty foods,” only focuses your attention on the behavior you want to avoid. Instead say “I eat nutritious foods that fuel my body for performance and recovery.”
  5. Make affirmations short and easy to remember. Catchy slogans stay with us longer than essays.  “I am ready, strong, and steady,” “I can do this. I got this.” “
  6. Repeat your positive affirmations often and positive thinking will become routine. Post them in obvious places to remind yourself, visually and mentally, to stay aware.

To maintain positive self-talk, fill your mind with uplifting ideas. Recognize your strengths. Comfort yourself when things go wrong. Let your self-talk be like the soothing, supportive words of a counselor, friend, or mentor. As you improve your self-talk, commit to changing your actions accordingly. Lasting accomplishments come when we change our behaviors as well as our thinking.

Good luck on developing your affirmations and remember, it is one of many tools that you can pull out on race-day when you need that extra edge!

Keep reaching for your peak….and give thanks in the process!

Published by

Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.

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