The best mantras for runners
By Henry Howard
When runners hit the wall, bonk or hit a rough patch, one method to overcome the issue is to focus on a mantra. Focusing your mind on a positive message will definitely help you persevere.
That is something I learned around mile 20 during my first marathon, the Indy Monumental in 2012. In one section, a lone spectator was clapping, cheering and encouraging every runner by repeating, “You can and you will.”
That stuck with me for the rest of the race, and I’ve used it since then to get through other tough times.
Why mantras are helpful for runners
Focus and motivation. Mantras can help runners stay focused on their goals during a run and provide motivation to keep going, especially when feeling tired or wanting to quit. Repeating a short phrase like “Just get to the next aid station (or mile)” can help redirect the mind.
Rhythm and pacing. Linking a mantra to one's breathing rhythm or footfalls can help runners maintain a steady, effective pace. Mantras provide a form of auditory feedback.
Confidence and positivity. Mantras can reinforce a positive, empowered attitude. Affirmations like “(Your name) are stronger than you think you are” or “You’ve got this, (your name)” boost self-confidence during challenging times.
Stress relief and relaxation. The repetition of a mantra can induce a meditative state for some runners. This helps relieve stress and tension in the body.
Distraction from discomfort. Mantras give the mind something to focus on other than physical discomfort from exhaustion or injury. The distraction can help runners push through the tough patches.
Consistency and improvement. Using the same mantras in training helps cement them as cognitive tools. Over time, they become habits that pay off in better performance.
Best mantras for runners
The most effective mantras are short, positive, and specific to your goals or needs in that moment. Try different mantras during training runs and see which ones resonate best for you.
Here are some examples:
• “(Your name) can do hard things.”
• “Just breathe.”
• “Mind over matter.”
• “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
• “Push through this.”
• “(Your name) is strong/powerful/unstoppable.”
• “Keep going, one more mile/minute.”
• “We've got this!”
• “One step at a time.”
You may have noticed, I recommended using your own name rather then “I” or “you.”
That is because studies like this one suggest that whether you say “I can do this” vs. “You can do this” has a different effect on performance. When you refer to yourself as “you” or “your name,” you distance yourself from the emotions you are feeling. Think about it this way: Using “you” or your name allows you to view your performance like a coach would.
What are your favorite mantras or ones that you have used previously that work well? Let me know via email, or on the socials where this is posted.