By Rebecca Jung
The Little Engine that Could’s self talk mantra of “I think I can, I think I can” may actually yield real world results.
A link between positive self-talk and success has recently been established in a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine.
The study was published in “Medicine and Science in Sports Medicine,” a journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
According to the study abstract, this study is the first to definitively prove this idea. However, the fitness department at Baylor has embraced this approach for quite some time.
“I do this every day,” said Van Davis, assistant director of fitness. “I believe in positive self-talk and it’s a constant throughout my day. I try not to put any negativity in my mind at all.”
This approach works because the body follows the mind, Davis said, which is also a sentiment the study suggested.
“Anything good in life takes practice,” Davis said. “Negative self-talk won’t go away overnight,” She said those struggling with positive self-talk can try is to make a list of positive thoughts and then when struggle arises they can look at that list.
In the study, 24 cyclists rode as long as they could at 80 percent of their peak output and those times were recorded.
The cyclists were then divided into two groups, one that received instruction on motivation through self-talk and one that did not.
They then rode the bikes again.
The cyclists using the self-talk improved their time by 18 percent and dropped a point on the exertion scale. The group that received no motivational instruction, however, had no improvement in time or exhaustion.
Chelsea Richwine, a Bear X Boot Camp instructor, also uses a positive self-talk motivation style as an instructor and on her own.
“I think positive self-talk makes all the difference in whether someone is successful or not. Certainly external motivation can be extremely beneficial, but if you don’t believe in you, then you’re not going to be able to reap the benefits of a workout,” she said.
Richwine said she has seen this approach work well for clients.
“You can’t meet goals if you’re working against yourself — in the form of any negative self-talk — telling yourself that you can work harder and actually knowing that you can will make all the difference,” Richwine said. “I love it when people stop telling me ‘why’ they can’t do something and they just try it. Oftentimes, people are surprised by what they can accomplish even at their base level. Just think — it only gets better from there.”
While some famous Hollywood fitness instructors, like Jillian Michaels from “The Biggest Loser,” scream at individuals she’s training, this approach is not one that all workout instructors take.
“If you want a positive result, why would you want to use negativity?” Davis said. “Negative motivation will only work short term but after awhile that person will start to feel defeated.”
Davis makes a habit of hiring positive people to work as instructors and trainers in the fitness department.
“When people live a positive lifestyle, it’s easy to see that they do, because they exude positivity,” Davis said.
She said she can generally tell during the interview process if they are positive people. Positive people are easy to spot because they’ve learned to channel the positive self-talk in a way that truly changes their life, in and outside of the gym.