Talking to Yourself

By Trevor Moawad

In Coaching, Rest Day/Theory, Videos

July 23, 2010

Video Article

Every athlete deals with self-talk, that little voice in the head telling him or her to quit, speed up, drop the bar or push harder. How we manage that inner voice has a lot to do with the success or failure of our efforts. Standing in front of a room of elite CrossFitters, Trevor Moawad, IMG’s director of performance, gives these athletes a pep talk on scripting a strong inner monologue.

“You can literally convince yourself to do almost anything,” Moawad says before giving some anecdotal evidence about the success of the self-talk strategies at the IMG Performance Institute.

“All words are simply tools,” he says, and you have to decide if you want to use those tools to build something up or tear it down.

6min 53sec

Additional reading: The Mind Game by Steven Shrago, published March 27, 2010.

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19 Comments on “Talking to Yourself”


wrote …

not as insightful as the role playing in the car, but equally useful. The story about the POWs was so inspirational. And that guy in the refrigerator, what a stud. I will put that one to use by teaching my clients how to kill themselves with their minds. They will become such elite tennis players that they will be able to say 200,000 things to themselves during matches.


Erik Larson wrote …

Awesome video and so true. The power of the mind if incredible. We have rules at Aspen Crossfit and #7 is "Words not to be used in the gym - 1. Can't 2. Try 3. Never and 4. Should." We believe that can't if the worst 4 letter word created and is incredibly limiting. I personally think that can't is worse than the f-bomb... Try is an excuse to fail before you even begin. Not much if anything is never and should is a stick we use to beat ourselves and others. "Honey, you should have... Oh, I should have... etc... We have motivational consequences if someone launches one of these words and its one BURPEE. We see athletes begin to drop and do a burpee as they catch themselves. It even happens now in public. Its about redirecting thoughts and shifting to a more positive mindset... Powerful stuff and we have fun doing it... Thank you CrossFit for continuing to provide us affiliate owners and athletes such incredible resources... Peace, Erik


wrote …

Trevor and CrossFit group,
Where do you draw the line b/w confidence and dilusion? For example saying "I will win" a race/competition/The Games...etc. You can't KNOW you will win. It would be like me saying I will beat Usain Bolt out on the track tomorrow without any training. Erik, flesh out your "try" theory for me. I have never really been very good at determining the Yoda proverb anyway. Thanks for all your help!



wrote …

Power perceived is power achieved. USMC


William Adams wrote …

Ben Green, comment 1, you missed the point completely.

The power of positive thinking is well known and is taught instinctively by parents, teachers and coaches.

One take home phrase from this short clip is "I don't know if positive thinking will work in every situation but I know that negative thinking will."

To make a champion you must focus on training, diet and mind. If you neglect any of the three you will come up short.

Have Fun, Train Hard,

Olympic Crossfit


wrote …

I began reading and listening to Dr. Denis Waitley during the early 80's. He was one of the first psychologists to teach visualization and control of self-talk. Denis was the lead psychologist responsible for the deprogramming of the Vietnam POW's, has trained Olympic Athletes in visualization and the psychological behavior of our astronauts.

We must learn to think about what we are thinking about. Our self talk controls each and every moment of our life and the outcomes of all of our endeavors.

1st lesson. Think about what you are thinking about. 'Capture' the negative thoughts, rebuke them and replace them with positive thoughts.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."-Aristotle


wrote …

#3 Jay: talking to yourself is something you will do so that internal conversation needs to be as positive as possible. This is something that gets applied to the task at hand. You are not racing one of the fastest men on the planet so it is a nonsense comment in a way. If you were actually in that scenario in a foot race with elite champion atheletes then yes, I would say you need to talk to yourself about beating the competition whoever it is. Otherwise, why are you there?

This applies all over life. Read "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill or "As a man thinketh" by James Allen. Go to for these.

I do understand your inquiry about not deluding yourself; unfortunately we all do that to some degree and we need to get realistic and apply our energies to that which makes the most sense. Obviously here we are interested in how it relates to crossfit. Write down your long term goals- for example "I want to be able to do muscle-ups." or whatever applies to you. I view self talk as the short term version of writing down your long term goals. When you get to the gym and you see the WOD, you don't necessarily write down your goal for what you will accomplish in the next 15 minutes but you do tell yourself over and over "I WILL ACCOMPLISH XXXX". Of course, not every day can be a PR day but I am convinced that positive self-talk is an awesome form of motivation and your PRs will be better than if you did not do it.


wrote …

Be careful what you think, for that will determine your attitude

Be careful about your attitude, for that will determine your actions

Be careful about your actions, for that will determine your character

Be careful about your character, for that will determine your lifestyle.


Wendy Swift wrote …

I agree with Trevor that Self-Talk is a tool – but a tool to do what? The purpose of being really positive is not just to build big belief. As mentioned above, building big belief goals can sometimes end up looking a bit ‘delusional’. I believe the purpose of your self-talk is to help create your optimal performance state. There are 2 other factors that contribute to an optimal performance state – these are what you feel, and what you do. Create positive self-talk to make you feel the way you want for a performance, and positive self-talk that helps you execute what you want to do for a performance. Then, in the words of Kristen Clever you will have “given it your all, what else can you do?”
Thanks for the article.


wrote …

Great video. Would love to see more from that seminar.


wrote …

Wendy - so true!

The purpose of positive self talk and visualisation is not beating your competitor - because you have NO CONTROL over THEIR actions.

It is about learning to control YOUR OWN actions to give the best you have in the that moment, that said....whether you beat you competitors encompasses both physical AND psychological preparation and realistic goal setting.


Parker Bondi wrote …

This is an awesome video and concept totally love the idea of doing 1 burpee every time you say something negative. I am going to do that from now on!


wrote …

What is delusional thinking really? Was Roger Bannister delusional when he decided to run a sub 4 minute mile.... of course he was. Before he ran a 4 minute mile it was thought that running that fast would cause your heart to fail. If you don't get a little delusional, you will never rise farther than you ever thought possible.

I understand that I am not an elite sprinter, and so I will never set a goal to run sub 10 in the 100 meters. I also understand that if I were to put all of my efforts to that end, I could get much closer than if I simply said I can't do that, and never tried.

I say set delusional goals. Shoot for the stars, because you may just reach the moon!


Wendy Swift wrote …

I wouldn’t say Roger Bannister needed ‘delusional’ thinking to achieve the 4 minute mile. The mark was only 1.4 seconds inside the World Record at the time, and that record had stood for 9 years, in a period that included WW2 which had a significant impact on the development of athletics at the time. For a world class runner such as Bannister, the 4 min mile was a realistic goal requiring systematic application to training.
Clifford - you raise a really cool point. You would never set an unrealistic goal, but if you did you are sure it would help you improve your performance. The issue is not that you currently don’t have an unrealistic goal – but that you are not putting 100% into your training. The question is– what is the best way to get you training better? I suggest that a goal that you don’t believe you will ever achieve is not it. A dream to be the best sprinter you can be might be a better start. BUT if you simply LOVED sprinting, you would train and practice all the time, and no matter what goal was put in front of you, you would not be able to do more – you would get to the moon.
Many athletes don’t focus on outcomes at all. They have no goal, they just turn up and train and find a joy in what they do. Some of these athletes are elite performers, and when someone puts a goal in their head e.g. “you could win the crossfit games”, it completely screws them up.
Positive self-talk is one component to achieving your best – but only if it results in action that moves you toward your goal.


wrote …

I battled depression for a few years and the thing that really helped me beat it was getting my thinking straightened out. It is a little like Aikido, though, because our thoughts are slippery and tenacious. Positive thinking alone is unrealistic. The key for me was learning to recognize my negative thoughts as they arose, and either disputing them or minimizing them. For example, during a workout if I find myself thinking, "This is too hard, I hate this, I suck, that other guy is so much stronger than me, etc", I would first of all notice that I am thinking that, then I could just say to myself, "Wow, look at those thoughts, my brain can really make up some negative junk, I am going to keep on moving and not believe what I am hearing from my self, Just because I think something, doesn't mean its true." or I could actively dispute the thoughts like "Of course this is hard, its crossfit man!" or "I don't 'suck' but I do want to get in better shape so this is what I am doing to get better, so I will keep moving" or Yes, that guy is stronger than me, he probably got that way by working out hard and so can I." This is a never ending process. There are a lot of great books out there on Cognitive Therapy by Albert Ellis, Steve Hays, and David Burns. I also recommend Toughness Training for Daily Life by James Loehr. He has a lot of good stuff on 'acting tough under pressure.' Good luck everyone!


replied to comment from Peter Evans

Pete, love the comment how you can't influence your competitors actions. But I think there is something to be said about your competitors PRESENCE. If usain lined up next to me on the track I think that would have a negative or positive outcome on my performance depending on my self talk. It's just the self talk part and not getting intimidated that's the bugger.


wrote …

Great video. Really impressed with the level of instructors at this seminar. There seems to be a lot of focus on the mental. Keep these vids coming please, and hire some of these guys to do a cert focused on the mental side of athletics. I know I would attend. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we think we are.


wrote …

Great video, but I wish they had talked about more. I truly hope this topic will be expanded upon in further CrossFit Journal videos. It's an area that I know I struggle with myself at many times, and I know many others do as well, and it's an element that is often not stressed enough in training. A video on the practical application of these principles would be great!


replied to comment from James Galon

I love the cert idea, I would definitely go to something like this.

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