Journaling For Fitness Athletes: Training Positivity, Self-Knowledge, Mental Toughness & Consistency
“I’ve tried to journal, but I don’t know how.”
If that sounds like you, this blog post is your answer. I’m going to give you an exact framework of the 4 most common journaling exercises I use with the athletes I work with.
If you’re like almost every athlete I have spoken to, you know you should be journaling, but you’re not sure how, you’re not sure it will even benefit you, or you struggle with it feeling like it’s working.
If you’re not journaling, you’re missing out on huge mindset gains because you’re just settling for what’s normal to you…
…not what’s best for you.
Most athletes never get the most out of journaling because they don’t know how to do it effectively.
I’m going to teach you how to journal for four main goals:
How to be more a more positive athlete
How to increase your self-knowledge
How to become mentally tougher (or any other character skill you want)
How to be more consistent, driven & disciplined
How to be a more positive athlete
Whilst neuroticism is a psychological trait with almost concrete parameters, positivity can be trained. And it should be trained if you want to be able to pull out of negative dips and commit to the best version of yourself possible.
You do it through the AMWAP.
AMWAP stands for As Many Wins As Possible.
How to execute the AMWAP:
At the end of each day (or training session if you want to nail this), write down as many wins as you can
A win is anything which moved you forward to being the athlete you want to be
Points of performance for the AMWAP:
Focus on process based wins, not just outcomes
Find the small wins, not the big wins
Feel why these are wins whilst you’re writing them
It’s more important when you’ve had a bad training session than a good one
This is not necessarily a gratitude practise
This is particularly effective if wins are aimed at overcoming a mindset problem you face
The 5 biggest wins from this training session were
Write for 7 minutes about how you’ve grown as an athlete in the past 12 months
12 wins from the past 24 hours for time
How to gain self-knowledge through journaling
“Knowing yourself is the start of all wisdom” - Aristotle
If you want to reach your potential as an athlete, you have to fully accept where you’re at now. No matter how uncomfortable that will be for you. You need to know your non-serving patterns and exactly what your negative self-talk sounds like.
You need to see your loops of behaviour clearly to overcome them.
You also need to know what your strengths are so you can lean into them.
Self-knowledge is the foundation of a good mindset for an athlete.
To do this, perform an OYIA (Observe Your Inner Athlete).
How to execute the OYIA:
Set a timer for at least 5 minutes
Write whatever comes to mind when you look at the prompt
Do not redact, edit, hide from, or filter what you write
Dig into what you want to avoid
Ask yourself why and try to go deeper if you can
Example OYIA prompts:
My biggest weaknesses are…
This is how I get in my own way…
What would I most like to change about myself…
How to train mental toughness through journaling
Every training session, if used intentionally, is an opportunity to train not just the body, but the mind too. You do this by identifying the character skills you need to level up, and getting specific in ways to challenge them.
I call this character skill training.
How to execute character skill training as an athlete:
Look at the upcoming workout and anticipate where you'll struggle most
Think about what state of mind would accompany the struggle
What character skill would overcome that struggle?
Find an example way of training that character skill
Note: don’t just focus on the forcing traits like aggression and discipline. Train things like compassion, forgiveness, and patience too.
Example of completed character skill training:
“Biggest anticipated struggle: giving up on the toes to bar. State of mind accompanying struggle: giving in/resignation to failure. Character skill: mental toughness. How to display: getting back on the bar before I feel completely recovered.
How to be more consistent and disciplined
Shiny object syndrome is the death of progress. Jumping from one goal to another disrupts consistency and progress. To overcome this you need to do three things:
First, you must keep the long term vision in mind. Not only what you want to achieve, but also who you need to become to succeed, and why that’s important to you.
Second, you need to regularly assess if you’re on the correct path or not. You must adjust course to get to your goal quicker.
Finally, you must take action today that lines up with that goal.
To do this, we use the Direction Review.
The Direction Review has three parts to it. Here’s how to execute it:
Write down what it will look and feel like to achieve your goal. Vary the time frame between 6 months and three years.
Assess how you’re doing and see if it’s appropriate to change anything
Create a list of essential intentions for the day
Example of a Direction Review
Vision: It’s three years from now and I’m going into The Open with complete self-belief and trust that I will perform at my potential. I’ve overcome my previous weaknesses of gymnastic work. I’ve worked on my mindset to make that the strongest part of my game. I feel confident but not arrogant. This will be my best season yet.
Direction: I’ve done everything in my power. I just need to commit to focusing on the effort I put into this season. Numbers are moving in the right direction. Fully commit to each training session.
Intentions: Both training sessions, talk to coach about strategy for muscle ups today, eat according to macros, mobility work, mindset work.