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You know that feeling when you’re working out and nothing is moving how it normally does?

The weights feel heavy; you feel slow, sluggish; that final mile feels impossible to run. 

How do you talk to yourself in these moments?

Do you tell yourself that you’re weak? That you’re a failure? 

Or, do you spur yourself on with words of encouragement?

TikToker and influencer Natalee Barnett has become known for her words of affirmation while working out.

In almost every video she parrots the same phrase: ‘there’s nothing I cannot do’. 

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The truth is, most of us aren’t very good at this – but adopting this kind of self-talk could be the key to maximising your progress in the gym.

The way we talk to ourselves is ‘incredibly important’ says sports psychologist Dr Josephine Perry.

‘It has a strong impact, because you live with yourself all day, every day,’ she tells 

‘If you speak negatively to yourself for months and months and months, you’re going to feel really rubbish, omeprazole bone loss and you’re not going to try because you’ll get to a point where it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it.’

Helpful vs unhelpful self-talk

Dr Josephine says we need to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful negative self-talk.

There’s a difference, for example, between telling yourself you didn’t work hard enough one day (when you actually didn’t), to telling yourself you’re a failure. 

‘The former might prompt you to work harder next time,’ says Josephine, which is definitely going to be helpful in the long run.

If you find that your self-talk is mostly unhelpful, though, you need to start by trying to reframe it. 

‘This isn’t about trying to cheesily find the good or, or make things up, but you are trying to shift the focus,’ says Josephine.

‘Instead of telling yourself you failed, tell yourself that you’re proud of the fact that you tried.’

Once you’ve begun to reframe any unhelpful thoughts you have during or after exercising, trying to add in more positive self-talk can make you feel even better.

Motivational self-talk

According to Josephine, there are two main types of positive self-talk: instructional and motivational.

‘Motivational self-talk is when you’re pulling out some real positives, but focusing on why you’re working out, and this is most effective when there’s a bit of emotion in it,’ she explains.

This could be about a long term goal you have, what you’re hoping to learn from your training, on an emotional as well as a physical level, who inspires you – essentially, all the important reasons to keep pushing. 

You can implement motivational self-talk by reminding yourself of your why – Josephine even suggests writing it down on your phone or sticking it on your water bottle so you can have physical reminders. 

Instructional self-talk

‘Instructional self-talk is when you’re giving your body instructions for how to do things,’ says Josephine. 

‘That could be bending your knees, grip tight, shoulders back, whatever it is that makes you better at that move and improve your form.’

This is very practical and helpful self-talk, especially when you’re getting tired.

As Josephine explains, it’s like having a coach on your shoulder, pushing you to work at the highest possible standard for as long as you can – even when you don’t want to. 

At the end of the day, berating yourself can feel natural, but it shouldn’t be that way.

Constantly putting yourself down will only make you less motivated in the long run, and your negative self-talk will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Become your own number one fan and see how much you improve. 

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