Lately I have been spending a lot of my thinking time about running mantras. I never used to think that these were an important aspect of a regular running regime, but then I considered how many times in a race when my mind was overcome with the thought of how much discomfort I was feeling, and I realized that mantras can be super helpful to a runner in need of motivation. The power of personal inspiration should never be underestimated.
For me a mantra has become particularly important because I am trying to awake my leg speed and soften the self doubt in my mind. When I hit a mental wall, I hit it hard. Allowing myself to continue running as long as I have without a solid inspirational saying has just been like committing adultery on myself. Getting to the point where I feel the discomfort and begin to tire has always been a defining moment for me where I have a history of throwing in the towel and washing away all my hard work. So it is about time for me to get cracking.
According to Robert J Bell in an interview with Runner's World, he holds a PHD and is a certified consultant of the Association for the Applied Sport Psychology, "an effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you're trying to overcome". He also advises that your mantra should be personalized to your needs and should be short, positive, instructive, and filled with words of action.
I never considered expanding the already existing positive reinforcement that I have turned to in the past into a selection of custom mantras to meet my motivational needs. But this is a brilliant idea that I wish I would have realized sooner that will help me better meet my mental needs at different times in training or racing. At times I have turned to the thought that I need to just "have fun" which has been incredibly helpful, or "run soft", and "relax and breathe". Looking back to past races, the times that I felt the most positive post-run or had the best experience while running I was repeating these simple sayings to myself. However, I never thought to consider these phrases my mantras until recently. These phrases are great and they have worked for me in the past, yet I have felt lately that I need more depth to my motivation to be able to push through in all situations.
Deena Kastor repeated "define yourself" in her mind after her coach spoke these words to her before the 2005 Chicago Marathon where she kicked major booty. While Deena Kastor and I are in two completely different racing worlds, the thought of defining myself gives me goosebumps. Maybe trying to channel my biggest running idol will give me the little extra push I have been looking for. Phrases like "embrace speed", "be fierce", and "run like an animal" may all come in handy in the future as well. The amazing power of mantras is that it can be anything that causes inspiration.
Discovering the influence of mantras and their ability to fuel strength at moments of extreme venerability is something that every runner should consider adding to their routine. Exposure to things that provide a little added potency when necessary can make a mentally weak runners, such as myself, feel that much stronger in the end.