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.
An Intro to Journaling Prompts for Athletes
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.
Benefits of Journaling for Athletes
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.
Sports-Related Journaling is Optional
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.
60 Effective Journaling Prompts for Athletes
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.
Journaling Prompts for Increased Discipline
- Are you as disciplined as you would like? If not, what stops you from being disciplined?
- When you “waste time,” do you feel guilty, or do you enjoy it?
- Write about a time that you’ve used discipline to get the result you wanted.
- Do you think it’s better to push as hard as possible until you finish a task or to space out periodic breaks while you’re working so you don’t get tired?
- How important is it to be on time? What are reasonable excuses for being late?
Journaling Prompts for Creativity
- If you were going to do a stand-up comedy routine, what topics would you discuss? Would you enjoy being on stage?
- If you could go back and repeat today knowing everything that happened, what would you do differently?
- Do you think your name suits you? Why or why not?
- Imagine someone had never seen your favorite sport. How would you explain it to them? Which are the most appealing points about playing or watching it?
Journaling Prompts about Self-Confidence
- What is the most interesting or surprising thing that most people don’t know about you?
- If you could advise your younger self, what would you say?
- What are five things you love about yourself?
- What scares you, and why?
- What negative thoughts do you have about yourself that you’d never think to say to someone else?
- Write about a time you were jealous of someone else, or when someone was jealous of you. What happened, and is there anything you wish had gone differently?
- What are some non-verbal ways people have of expressing confidence?
- Write about a time you received praise or encouragement unexpectedly. How did it make you feel?
Journaling Prompts about Focus
- When you have been distracted in the past, what were the best ways you found to get back on track?
- Is a cheering crowd more encouraging or distracting for athletes?
- Look around you and observe everything, using all your senses. Write for at least 15 minutes describing your environment.
- Some people say that multitasking is impossible, and it’s better to concentrate on one task at a time for more extended amounts of time. Do you like to work on several different tasks at the same time, or do you try to ignore everything else until your current responsibility is complete?
Journaling Prompts about Leadership
- Write about someone you know who’s a great leader, and what qualities make them great.
- Write about a time when you followed someone else’s lead even though you didn’t want to.
- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a leader?
- How do your experiences as an athlete help you in other situations?
- Is it important for everyone in a group to take turns in positions of authority, or should the best supervisor play that role all the time?
- How does sports leadership differ from leadership in other activities?
Journaling Prompts about Athletic Development
- Who is your biggest inspiration as an athlete, and why?
- When it comes to training, are you pushing yourself too hard, not hard enough, or the right amount?
- What is your greatest physical talent?
- Is it more important to have an innate talent or to work hard?
- When did you first realize you had an athletic ability?
- How does your family feel about sports and athleticism? What do you think would be different about your life if your family felt the opposite way?
Journaling Prompts about Dreams and Goals
- What would your dream life look like? What about your dream for 5 or 10 years in the future?
- If you knew there was no chance of failure, what would you do?
- What is your hope for keeping this journal, and how will you know if you were successful?
- If you could live inside one movie or TV show, which would you choose and why?
- What are your top three goals for the week, the month, and the year?
- What topic would you like to know more about, and why? How can you learn about it?
- How important is organization when it comes to achieving goals? Are you an organized person?
- How are your dreams and goals different from how they were five years ago?
- Do you have a favorite quote? What is it, and what does it mean to you?
Journaling Prompts about Stress
- How do you handle stressful situations?
- Write about a time when you had to make a difficult decision, and how you decided what to do.
- What would you do if you had an entire day off?
- What situations make you feel most relaxed?
- What one or two things do you have the power to change about your life that would reduce your stress levels?
Journaling Prompts about Teams
- What role does loyalty play in team dynamics?
- Have you ever felt disrespected by your teammate? How did you handle the situation? Would you do it differently if you could do it over again?
- Does peer pressure always have a negative connotation?
- Is it better to address team problems on your own, or should you ask a coach to mediate? What are the pros and cons of each method?
- How can you show care for a teammate who is having a bad day without embarrassing them?
Journaling Prompts about Relationships
- What are the main three or four things you want from a coach? A teammate? A friend?
- Who are you most grateful for in your life?
- Who knows you best?
- Pick one teammate or frequent competitor and think about how you interact with them. What are the elements of your relationship that affect how you perform?
- Are you good at communicating with others? How could you communicate better?
- Who do you spend the most time with?
- Write five questions you could ask to get to know someone better. How would you answer these questions about yourself?
- Write about a time you encountered someone with a different culture than yours, and how that affected your interactions. Detail your feelings and anything you learned during or after that situation.
How to Start Journaling
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.
When Should You Journal?
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.