Journaling and athletics may seem like interests that don’t have much in common since the stereotypical image of a person keeping a journal is usually a bookish introvert without much interest in sports. However, journaling is surprisingly popular among the most successful people in all sorts of fields, including athletics.
What are effective journaling prompts for athletes? Athletes can benefit most from journaling prompts that lead to self-awareness, interpersonal dynamics, and objective-setting.
To that end, the journal prompt ideas that we will include here are just a jumping-off point, which can spark each athlete’s creativity to use journaling in the way that works best for them.
As a short introduction for those who might be new to keeping a journal, a journal prompt is a short phrase or question that gives journal-writers an idea of what to write about. They’re often related to reflections on the past, future goals, or simply a creative exercise.
Some people like to keep slips of paper with prompts in a jar where they can draw one at random when they need inspiration. Other journal-writers prefer to have long lists of prompts so they can read through and choose the one that appeals most at the time.
In fact, one of the more difficult things about regular journaling over time is continually coming up with topics to keep you motivated and consistent. For athletes, it can seem obvious to journal about recent performance, training, or difficulties directly related to the sport or activity they do. But those topics can only take you so far before they become repetitive and start to lose value to the writer.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of 60 effective journaling prompts for athletes, organized by general topic. We’ll discuss prompt types, explain when and why journaling can be beneficial, and give several examples of prompts that can be adapted to your individual preference.
Most people have a general, sometimes vague, idea that keeping a journal might be a good habit that helps people to relax and work through their thoughts. Journaling is a meditative, calming experience that has therapeutic advantages for many people. It has been shown in various studies that reflecting on our own emotions, experiences, and anxieties in writing help to reduce stress and improve cognitive function.
Hearing about all the potential virtues of keeping a journal regularly may lead you to wonder why it isn’t a more widespread practice. However, we can’t exactly know how common it is since many people choose to keep their journaling habit private.
The psychological benefits of keeping a journal have been extensively documented by Dr. James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin, who is widely known as the foremost expert on this topic. In double-blind studies, his research has shown that a form of journal-writing called expressive writing can lead to lower rates of depression and anxiety.
For athletes, the mental and psychological benefits mentioned above will clearly support their overall health as well as their athletic performance. Less obviously, journaling has also been shown to lead to measurable improvements in physical health. Those who journal regularly have stronger immune systems, sleep better, and experience less pain and stress. Pennebaker’s study participants also showed lower blood pressure and fewer medical visits reported by the journal-writing group as compared to the control group.
The benefits were most apparent when participants wrote about emotional and painful topics. Although this can obviously bring up negative feelings, it seems that the practice of getting those feelings out of their brains and onto the page leads people to think more objectively about them.
Therefore, it’s clear that not every athlete’s journal entry has to be focused on athletics or performance to be meaningful for them. In fact, thinking of the journal as an exercise log or training diary will be less useful than allowing for the more free-form recording of thoughts, ideas, and memories.
As most athletes are also aiming to be well-rounded people, they should not limit the writing to any one particular topic. Toward that end, below, we’ll offer a variety of prompts that relate both directly and indirectly to physical performance.
Below you’ll find ten general journaling topics and several prompts for each one. You can use the prompt as-is or use it to brainstorm a different prompt if you prefer.
Starting a journal for the first time can be intimidating, with all the blank pages stretching out in front of you waiting to be filled. Some people will find it easier to commit if they go out and purchase a designated special book to write in, while others might find that increases the intimidation factor.
It doesn’t really matter what you use, since it’s the act of getting the thoughts out that seems to lead to beneficial outcomes.
If coming up with topics is a struggle, note that you can also purchase a purpose-made journal book that already comes with prompts. There are a variety of themes available, from personal reflection to structured food and exercise journals. Those who don’t want to spend a lot of time and need daily prompts may appreciate one of the many 5- or 10-minute journals available.
In fact, your journal doesn’t even have to be a book or notebook at all. The positive results were consistent for people who typed their journals or used a voice recorder to put their experiences into words. Experiment with different methods to see what feels best to you, since there’s no one right or wrong way to journal.
We recommend you start by writing 15-20 minutes per day, starting with whatever emotional experiences are recent and forefront in your mind. If nothing is coming to mind immediately, use one of the writing prompts listed in this article, or make up your own. The important thing is to get comfortable with the experience of journaling without judgment, censorship, or concern about what others might think of it.
The more honest you can be in your journaling, the better it will serve you. Be curious and explore whatever ideas come to mind, without worrying about grammar or penmanship. Writing about emotions and deep feelings will be more beneficial than just recording the weather or how many reps you completed at the gym.
That said, If you’re not already keeping track of your food, physical condition, and activity in an organized way, you may want to record these statistics during your daily journaling session. In fact, it can be helpful to build your habit by making sure you log at least a few points every day, even if you don’t have the time or energy for a more intensive writing session each time.
By doing so, you may find that how you’re feeling for the day may be connected to your current physical health, too. For example, maybe you didn’t eat enough carbs before a marathon and now you feel completely drained. A journal will help you monitor those connections.
There’s no one answer for everyone about what time of day is most effective for journaling. Some people prefer to do it in the evening to wrap up and reflect on the day’s events. For others, writing a journal first thing in the morning helps them to focus and prepare for the day. It can also be a nice way to shift gears during a lunch or mid-afternoon break. Really whenever you have your journal and a bit of quiet time is the right time for journaling.
That said, generally, people build a habit most easily by doing the activity at the same time every day. Carrying your journal around with you with the hopes that you’ll be able to grab a few spare minutes probably won’t work as well as setting aside a specific time to write. Although journaling is not an arduous or time-consuming process, consistency is key to gaining the most from the practice.
If you happen to lose your momentum for a few days or longer, don’t get discouraged. There’s no competition or pressure when it comes to journaling; this is something you’re doing for yourself. Reassess and pick up the habit where you left off, without feeling bad about the break.
Once you start reading through the known benefits of journaling, it’s easy to see how they apply directly to themes of physical performance, goal-setting, and self-confidence. Athletes can use their journals to track progress, work through complex problems, and keep their minds sharp. They can also be useful for looking back and reviewing development over time.
Regardless of if you’re new to journal writing or have been keeping one for years, we hope the recommendations in this article will help inspire you to direct your journal writing toward topics that can complement your progress as an athlete.
In addition to the 60 prompts in this article, you’ll find many more on a variety of topics available online at journal-writing websites. We also recommend books or websites that list quotes from famous people as a great source of inspiration. Regardless of where you get your inspiration and what you write about, we hope you will make journaling an everyday habit and score all the psychological and physical benefits.
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