A “Mantra” (/ˈmæntrə, ˈmɑːn-, ˈmʌn-/ (Sanskrit: मंत्र);) is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning. – taken from Wikipedia
“Breathe out pain and suffering. Breathe in relaxation and peace.”
Mantras. Whether we use them or not or believe in their power the results may be due to placebo effect or perhaps we just needed that psychological kick to move forward.
Endurance training is something like 20% physical and 80% mental by the tail end of a session. Those last few minutes or last few kilometres can feel like hours or an additional 10 kilometres before we hit the finish line.
What do I do when I face that wall? I mentally repeat mantras that function similarly like a coach offering me guidance and support to push those last minutes or kilometres when my legs are feeling heavy and sore.
“Relax and breathe. Give in and let go.” I tend to tense up near the end of a long session. This one reminds me to let my body go and allow gravity to do some work for me. This also prevents me from breathing from my chest and loosens my tummy to breathe “diaphragmatically” (I’m like my sister who loves to make up new words, probably like this one).
“Make this your best session ever!” Completing a hard session and realizing this will be a new personal best is a huge boost to motivation and self esteem. Being on the verge of stopping to rest, if this session is going to be my best I will skip the break and set my aim higher.
“Don’t quit. Fail instead. It’s much better.” I hate quitting but I don’t mind failing. When I fail, it is a failure for that session only. The next session will see an improvement. But if I quit, I won’t see that improvement. Plus, I’ll hate myself for quitting.
“Head up?” This one is a constant for me as I have this tendency to look down. I pose it as a question because I have to give an answer with an action. I don’t know why I look down all the time, but this question corrects my posture and gets me standing taller.
“Reach!” I use this one for swimming. The coach tells me to reach further because I have long arms. Think of “orange orangutan arms”. My reach has an advantage of catching more water to propel me further using less strokes.
“Feel the surface. Kick harder.” Last one. My legs sink and that’s because I suck at kicking. I have a hard time clinching my butt and kicking at the same time. However, I learned recently how hard I should be kicking with a simple exercise and it has made a significant improvement to my kick.
These are mantras I use when I train. I know some may not sound like mantras, but that’s because I use the shortened version of what I have here; such as, “Don’t quit!” or “Push hard!” and “Let it all go.”
Does it work? For me they do. These have helped me improve my game and often times it is enough of a push to correct my form when fatigue makes me lazy. A couple words to get me back in focus, or keep me motivated when fatigue sets in can sometimes help. If I’m faced with the thought of, say, “Still got another half to go?! Fuck me!” I can use a mantra to switch that thought to something more positive and motivating, such as, “Stay calm and focus on the now.”
When things seem hard and difficult in our training, most of the time it’s all mental. I push my body into the upper limits quite often, to the point my muscles will misfire and then fire due to failure, so I know where that limit is for me. The body likes to remain safe, cozy, and comfortable and will do everything imaginable to stay that way, well below the upper limits of your capabilities. Using mantras will quiet the mind and put the mind and body at ease which will allow for you to complete your set or workout.
Share with me some of your mantras. I may just use yours in my sessions and it may well be what I need to get over the final minutes or final kilometres of a training session.