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Why positive self-talk improves your athletic performance

December 27th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

The mind-body revolution of the 1970s fueled the field of sport psychology. Self-talk soon emerged as a primary area of research, and dozens of studies began to investigate this topic. 

Positive self-talk was found to help both professional athletes and the general public in their performance AND their mental-emotional experiences.

But what is positive self-talk? How do you know if you are doing it right? What is a person to do about all the critical, hurtful chatter in their mind?

The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that offers resources in health, fitness, and well-being. Whether you are a hard-core athlete or a weekend warrior, there are programs at the club for you.

We know your mental game is integral to your ability to come to class, feel confident, and enjoy yourself. The method of positive self-talk is a free, easy-to-use approach to help you stay active and feel good. 

In this article, you will learn what positive self-talk is, its benefits, examples of positive self-talk, and how to manage negative, intrusive thoughts.

comp_unnamed (17)What is positive self-talk?

Positive self-talk is internal dialogue people use to help motivate and accomplish challenging tasks. Statements are kind, encouraging, and optimistic. 

Positive self-talk, especially while engaging in athletics, creates a dynamic that feeds upon itself and pushes negative thoughts away. This creates a positive feedback loop.

Is positive self-talk just for pro athletes?


The best pro athletes possess raw talent, but they cannot rely on that alone. They combine their athletic aptitude with tenacity and overwhelming confidence in their own abilities. This recipe is what allows them to rise to the top of their sport.

This approach can be adopted by “regular people” as well. We have an opportunity to rise to the best version of ourselves — and positive self-talk is a critical part of that.

Positive self-talk is applicable in all aspects of life. We think of positive self-talk as being associated with exercise or athletic events, but it can be used daily for all types of activities. Practicing positive self-talk conveys a belief that no matter what is happening, you can overcome the challenge. 

comp_IMG_7106What are the benefits of self-talk?

There are six key aspects to how self-talk positively impacts people.

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Increases motivation
  • Improves motor learning
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Improves athletic performance
  • Increases coping mechanisms for stress

Positive self-talk naturally partners with positive imagery, thus reinforcing and supporting better outcomes. 

comp_IMG-8433 (2)How do we deal with negative self-talk? 

Negative self-talk is prevalent for everyone. It affects our relationships, our work, and our experiences at the gym. 

Negative self-talk is critical, hurtful, or punishing comments. And more often than not, these intrusive thoughts are also inaccurate. Researchers have proven that people do not succeed through doubt, meanness, or hatred

The key to quieting negative self-talk is to quickly create or counter that negative thought with a positive one

Imagine heading out the door to meet your friends for a game of pickleball when you notice the temperature has dropped and the weather has picked up. Your negative self-talk rears its ugly head, attempting to discourage you from following through with your plans.

Negative self-talk:

It’s windy and cold, and this is stupid. I can’t do this!

Counter thought:

I’ve got this! Ok, it’s windy. Ok, it’s cold. This is not that much fun, but I will not be defeated. 

It is optimal to have positive thoughts as much as you can, but that isn't possible to do all the time. We are all human, and it is common to have ups and downs.

Sometimes we have such high expectations of ourselves that the biggest obstacle is not accepting the normalcy of these highs and lows. 

a080ad52-b0fb-4019-b507-7caa18b7d347What are some examples of positive self-talk that we can use?

When you step on the court, into the gym, or onto the paseos getting to the starting line is already an accomplishment. You have done the hardest part — taking on the challenge. That in itself is positive. That in itself is a win. 

Begin your workout with the message, “I have already won.”

Follow that positive self-talk with any of the following options — or ones you invent yourself.

  • I can do this.
  • One step at a time. 
  • I’m Ok, and I can do this. 
  • I’m so proud of myself for taking this on. 
  • I am amazing because I’ve chosen to do this. 

d1baca1a-60f6-425b-87f1-b4e06089a28eImplementing positive self-talk in your life

Self-doubt, exhaustion, and fear of failure can hold us back from trying new things or adopting new habits. Putting yourself in a situation where you are a novice is scary and can make you feel vulnerable.

Utilizing positive self-talk is a personal practice that can be adopted by anyone, regardless of age or ability. It is a key factor in accomplishing what you set out to do. Positive self-talk is an expression of self-love and compassion — a winning equation for all aspects of our lives.

The Paseo Club has supported members in their journeys of health and wellness for twenty years. The club offers over 60 fitness classes, plus swimming, tennis, and pickleball.

But the Paseo Club is not just a fitness center. We have a cafe, a full-service spa, and multiple social and charitable events every month. The Paseo Club is a great way to meet other people with similar goals and values. 

If you are not yet a member, this is a great time to schedule a tour of the Paseo Club and meet members, staff, and instructors. The Paseo Club is your home away from home.

Schedule a Tour

Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!