To me, to you: How you say things matters for endurance performance

J Sports Sci. 2019 Sep;37(18):2122-2130. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2019.1622240. Epub 2019 May 28.


Self-talk enhances physical performance. Nothing is known however about the way that a subtle grammatical difference in self-talk, using first or second person pronouns, may effect performance. As second person self-talk supports self-regulation in non-exercise populations, we hypothesized that 10 km cycling time-trial performance would be superior following second versus first person self-talk. Using a randomized, counterbalanced, crossover design, sixteen physically active males (Mage = 21.99, SD = 3.04 years) completed a familiarization visit followed by a 10 km time-trial during two separate experimental visits using first and second person self-talk. A paired t-test revealed that second person self-talk generated significantly faster time-trial performance than first person self-talk (p = .014). This was reflected in a significantly greater power output throughout the time-trial when using second person self-talk (p = .03), despite RPE remaining similar between conditions (p = .75). This is the first evidence that strategically using grammatical pronouns when implementing self-talk can influence physical performance providing practitioners with a new aspect to consider when developing interventions. We discussed findings in the context of a self-distancing phenomenon induced by the use second person pronouns.

Keywords: RPE; Self-talk; grammatical pronouns; power output; psychological strategy; time-trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bicycling / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Young Adult