Do you struggle with doubt and distractions when going after your goals? Then read this blog to discover how mantras can help keep you calm, focused and positive.
What Are Mantras and Why Athletes Use them
The Sanskrit word ‘mantra’ translates to ‘instrument for thinking’, as they are a powerful way to direct your mind towards positive thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Mantras are a selection of short, positive, instructive and actionable words that address what you want to think and how you want to feel – not the challenges you want to overcome.
Repeat your mantra to direct your mind away from the unhelpful thoughts, feelings and distractions and to focus your mind on the helpful thoughts, feelings and experiences you desire.
For example, when you are running and you start thinking ‘This hurts and now I have a stitch, and my legs are feeling heavy and tired, and there is still so far to go… etc.” These negative thoughts start to snowball.
A powerful mantra would focus your mind away from thoughts reinforcing pain and discomfort, and towards positive thoughts and feelings.
When Athletes Use Mantras
Mantras have become a very effective and popular practice with athletes to enhance their performance and to help keep them going when things get tough.
Positive, motivational and inspirational self-talk has been helping athletes win for decades. Athletes use mantras;
- During their training, to strengthen their mental game and keep themselves motivated
- Before a race or game, to build up strength and confidence, to get pumped and their energy flowing
- During their race or game, to empower them to stay focused, on target and positive
“This is what you came for.”
— SCOTT JUREK, one of greatest runners of all time running, feats include running 166 miles in 24 hours and the Appalachian Trail speed record, averaging nearly 50 miles a day over 46 days
“I’ve got this”
— LAURIE HERNANDEZ, American gymnast who has won an individual silver medal and team gold as a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team
“You’re tougher than the rest.”
— SARAH REINERTSEN, Paralympian who holds World Records in the 100m, 200m, 400, 5km marathon and marathon distance races, and is the first above-knee amputee woman to complete the Ironman World Championships.
How to create powerful mantras
1. Keep it short
You want a quick and powerful one-liner that’s less than 8 words.
2. Keep it positive
You are ONLY allowed to use positive words and you’re NOT allowed to use negative words. This ensures you will fire and strengthen the positive pathways in your brain – not the negative.
For example, instead of saying “I do not want to feel tired”, repeat to yourself “I feel power, I feel energy, I feel awesome!!”.
3. Keep it energised
Use powerful and strong verbs and adjectives that evoke energy, like ‘tough’ ‘fast’ ‘calm’
4. Keep it actionable
Use your mantra as a mental reminder for what you are capable of, how you want to feel or what you plan to do.
“Easy, light, smooth, fast”
— CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL, author of Born To Run. Chris uses this simple mantra to focus on his form when he starts to struggle during a run
5. Keep it at the forefront of your mind
You want to use your mantra(s) when you need to direct your mind away from unhelpful feelings, thoughts and actions and towards helpful feelings, thoughts and actions.
This could be when you’re reaching for that snooze button, craving sugar, entertaining the idea of a Netflix binge or tempted to go easy in a training session.