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How to talk to yourself in a race

New research suggests that addressing yourself as "you" works better than repeating an "I" mantra

We’re all familiar with that point in a race where you’re not sure you’re going to achieve your goal. It’s at this point that some of us break out the self-talk, which has proven benefits. However it turns out that there are specific ways of talking yourself through a hard patch that work better than others.

Photo: Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend

A new study suggests that when the going gets tough towards the end of a race, talking to yourself as if you were another person works better than repeating affirmations or mantras that start with “I.” In other words, though they may sounds pretty similar, “You can do it” or “You’ve got this” makes us faster than the “I” version of these affirmations.

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The research was done on cyclists, but could apply equally well to running. The study, by researchers at Bangor University in Wales, published in the Journal of Sports Science and reported in the Telegraph, tested 22 cyclists in a series of 10K time trials. Quite simply, those who urged themselves on using “you” finished faster than those who used “I.”

The study’s authors weren’t sure why this was the case, but speculated it could be because hearing “you” reminded athletes of being spoken to by a coach or parent, and kept the focus away from themselves and whatever pain they may be experiencing in that moment.

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So in your next race, when the going gets tough, remember: You (not I) can do it.