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Why Running Mantras Work & How to Write Your Own

If you’ve ever struggled to get motivated to run, you’re not alone. It’s not fun, but it happens to everyone at some point. Aside from making some changes to your routine, a running mantra is another tool you can use to regain your motivation and inspire yourself to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it. To help you push through, here’s what you need to know about running mantras, how to create one, and some excellent examples.

Why do I lose motivation to run?

Man running on a bridge.

As a runner, it’s normal for your motivation to come and go. You won’t always feel a strong desire to hit the pavement at 5 a.m., and sometimes it might feel impossible even to lace up your running shoes. Fortunately, you’re not alone. If you’re currently struggling to find the motivation to run, take heart in knowing many others are in the same boat, and you won’t always feel this way.

There are several reasons why you might not have any motivation to run right now:

  • You might be suffering from burnout. This might result from overtraining or being overwhelmed in other areas of your life.
  • Or, maybe you need more physical energy to get out and run. Perhaps you haven’t been sleeping well, or your diet has been off. These things can impact your energy levels and leave you feeling sluggish and unmotivated.
  • Alternatively, you might be bored. Maybe all the routes you typically run have lost their appeal, and your training routine has become monotonous.

Whatever is causing you to feel unmotivated, there are ways to break through the monotony and get inspired to run again. For example, you might:

  • Switch up your training routine and try cross-training with another activity.
  • Rest! Take a few weeks off and get back to running once you’ve given your mind and body a break.
  • Run with another person or group instead of alone.
  • Change up your running scenery and try a new route.
  • Stop comparing your stats to others. Unplug and just run for yourself.
  • Purchase some new running gear for short-term motivation that helps you push through a few hard training days.

Can a mantra help you run faster?

Two runners on top of a mountain.

Another great way to motivate yourself to run is to develop a few running mantras. Although a mantra may not help you run faster, it’s likely to help improve your focus and motivation and, as a result, run better overall.

But first, what is a mantra? A mantra is a sound, word, or short phrase that’s significant to you. When you repeat it over and over, it helps you concentrate and push through physically difficult or uncomfortable circumstances. Since running is just as much a psychological workout as a physical one, it’s easy to see how repeating a mantra might be helpful.

Repeating a mantra to yourself while running is a spiritual practice, but many people believe it can have powerful physical effects, too. For example, Olympic runner and medalist Courtney Frerichs insists certain words she speaks silently and aloud to herself gave her the confidence to run from the front in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in Tokyo and to hang on through the end to capture the silver medal.1

While mantras are a helpful approach for Frerichs and other athletes, scientific research also backs this idea. One 2015 study in the journal “Brain and Behavior” found subjects who repeated a mantra displayed decreased brain activity, improving focus and relaxation.2 These qualities are certainly beneficial when you’re trying to run a race!

Another 2017 study in the journal “The Sport Psychologist” found that runners who completed a 60-mile race and used a mantra reported that it was helpful during both training and racing. They even continued using their mantras after the study was over.3

How do you make a running mantra?

A runner next to a mountain when the sun is rising.

If you’ve decided to try out a few running mantras for yourself, the first step is creating them. While a mantra can be whatever you want it to be, consider the following qualities to develop the most effective running mantras possible:

  • Keep them short. Something easy to remember and repeat is best. That way, you can easily repeat it to yourself while running.
  • Fight back against self-sabotaging thoughts. We all tell ourselves internal stories when we’re stressed, physically exhausted, or feel like we can’t go on. Your mantras should disprove these stories by attacking their fundamental lies, such as “I’m weak.” or “I’m not capable of doing this.” with truths like “I’m strong.” or “I can do this.”
  • Make it personal. To be effective, a mantra should mean something to you. If it doesn’t, it likely won’t impact your physical performance. A running mantra should remind you why you choose to run and what keeps you moving.
  • Use “you” instead of “I”: Many athletes argue this is most effective because it forces you to step outside yourself and affirm yourself in a meaningful and encouraging way.

What is a good running mantra?

Two runners next to a big blue sea.

Coming up with running mantras that are powerful and effective isn’t always an easy task. Here are some excellent examples of mantras to inspire you:

  • One mile at a time.
  • You can push through this.
  • You are committed. You won’t quit.
  • You’re stronger than I know.
  • Just finish.
  • Keep going.
  • Put one foot in front of the other.
  • Strong mind, strong body.
  • You have what it takes.
  • Nothing can stop you.
  • You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be right now.
  • You will face this with confidence.
  • You’re unstoppable.
  • You’ve trained for this.

Once you find or create a running mantra that you love, write it down or put it in the notes app on your phone so you won’t forget it. Using mantras during training or racing may not come naturally to you at first, but with practice, it will start to feel more natural, and you may rely on them more.

Remember to use running mantras responsibly

A female runner in the rain.

Although running mantras can be highly effective, just like any other running tool, they can also be misused. For instance, if you start using a mantra to push through pain you shouldn’t ignore, you will likely suffer for it later. Unfortunately, no mantra can override a severe injury. So use mantras wisely but also listen to your body and stop when you need to.

Key Takeaways:

Running mantras are an effective mental tool that many athletes use to regain motivation or push through difficult or unpleasant physical circumstances. Take some of our examples or use our tips to create your own mantras and try them out today!

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  1. nytimes.com. (2021, September 26). https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/26/sports/courtney-frerichs-running-mantras.html 
  2. Berkovich‐Ohana, A., Wilf, M., Kahana, R., Arieli, A., & Malach, R. (2015). Repetitive speech elicits widespread deactivation in the human cortex: the “Mantra” effect? Brain and Behavior, 5(7). https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.346 
  3. McCormick, A., Meijen, C., & Marcora, S. (2018). Effects of a Motivational Self-Talk Intervention for Endurance Athletes Completing an Ultramarathon. The Sport Psychologist, 32(1), 42–50. https://doi.org/10.1123/tsp.2017-0018 

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