When you’re in the gym and you’re exhausted—a hard day, a harder workout—simply telling yourself you’re not tired could actually make it so. A recent study from the University of Kent in England showed that motivational self-talk could actually help keep you energized when you’re working out.
The study used 24 active, young men and women and had them pedal a computerized stationary bicycle until they wanted to quit, measuring the riders’ heart rates, pedaling power, and pace. Then, split into two groups, half the riders were told to continue with their normal exercise routine for the next two weeks, and the other group was coached in motivational self-talk. Each person was asked to choose four phrases that pumped them up.
Then, another lab test, where participants were told to cycle on the stationary bike and the coached half were repeating those mantras. They went longer, harder, and faster than the group that only performed regular exercise.
This is a fantastic breakthrough. Our advice is to do like the study participants: Find a mantra, or two, or three that you can repeat to yourself when you are working out. You could, literally, talk and motivate yourself out of exhaustion. According to Samuele Marcora, senior author of the study and the director of exercise research at the University of Kent, “Motivational self-talk improves endurance performance compared to not using it.”