What is one of the secret weapons of top athletes when they want to run their fastest? Top runners know that there is a strong mind-body connection for peak running performance and to bridge that mind-body gap runners utilize mantras.
A mantra is a repeated word, sound or phrase that helps athletes achieve a strong focus and concentration on the running task at hand. When we think these mantras, the focus becomes a reality within ourselves and within our experience.
Doubts and distractions can derail your attempts, but a well-chosen mantra can keep you calm and on target. “Repeating choice words whenever you need to focus helps direct your mind away from negative thoughts and toward a positive experience,” says Stephen Walker, Ph.D., a sports psychologist in Boulder.
An effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you’re trying to overcome, says Robert J. Bell, Ph.D., a certified consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. In fact, when discomfort strikes, the worst thing you can do is embrace the pain, says Walker. “When you start thinking, Oh, this hurts, Oh, I have a side stitch, Oh, my legs are tired—those negative thoughts pile on,” he says. A good mantra diverts your mind from thoughts that reinforce the pain to thoughts that help you transcend it.
So what makes a good mantra? One that’s short, positive, instructive, and full of action words. I suggest preparing 3 mantras before your goal race and recite the mantras while visualizing your race.
Here are some inspiring mantras used by top runners:
“This is what you came for.” —SCOTT JUREK, running 165.7 miles en route to breaking the American 24-hour record in May 2010