In a recent study, participants were given different sayings to repeat regularly while they worked out.* Those that were given the positive phrases to repeat silently were able to push through fatigue and keep going. To be most effective, the phrases needed to be consistently positive and systematically repeated. This means that developing positive self-talk needs to become an ingrained habit before the moment of physical or mental fatigue comes along. You’ve probably heard the phrase “muscle, memory, reflex” to describe training your muscle’s movement pattern. Your brain works in a similar fashion, making it just as important to train your brain to focus on the positive when you start to get tired mentally and physically.
In yoga, mantras are words or phrases with meaning that are chanted out loud or repeated silently. The use of mantras can serve to focus or relax your mind. Another way that mantra supports endurance athletes is through the benefits of repetition. In her most recent book, Racing Wisely, Sage Rountree, an internationally recognized authority in yoga for athletes and an endurance sports coach specializing in athletic recovery and mindful racing, explains, "Mantra keeps you mindful by centering you on a word, phrase, or lines you repeat to yourself. These could be something short, like form and breath, or fast and smooth, or something long, like the chorus to a song. Your mantra will coordinate with your footfalls or your pedal or swim strokes. Repeating it helps you shut out the stimulation you’re getting externally from your senses and internally from the chattering mind. Mantra helps you focus on repetition itself—and that, at its core, is what endurance sports are. We repeat an action over and over and over as we move through space and to the finish."
Developing the habit of repeating a positive word or phrase can help you push through a difficult part of your training and could make a difference in your performance. To find your mantra, find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes. Visualize yourself swimming, biking and running with ease and speed. Pick a phrase that describes how you feel in this moment when you are performing at your very best and repeat it silently. Examples of sports performance mantras could include: I am fast, I am powerful, I am fierce, I am strong, I feel great etc. Try them out to find one that works best for you.