The word Mantra comes from a Sanskrit word meaning a “sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel.” And if I’m being honest, I need ALL of that and more when I am racing. When the going gets tough, I am looking for ANY message, charm, spell, hocus pocus, magic beans, OR advice from a spectator to keep pushing.
When I first started racing, my thoughts were all over the place. Mainly I was just trying not to die, and I didn’t really have a phrase or mantra to keep me going. But as my races got longer, I needed something to keep me going.
Here are some of the mantras I have tried, and the one I love the most.
Do it for [insert name]. This one is tricky because you have to pick the right person. If you pick your partner/spouse, there is a slight chance your mind might wander to the last fight you had when you wanted to watch Bridgerton but he said it was a stupid show and it made you question who you married 19 years ago. In all seriousness, I actually used this mantra on my very first marathon. I dedicated miles 19–25 to people who were important to me, and darn it, I actually teared up at mile 25 when I thought of my husband waiting for me at the finish line (he does have his merits).
Attitude of Gratitude. This one is great because it will pull you out of the “woe is me” part of the day when things start to get hard and you question your life choices. It forces you to remember that you GET to do this, you don’t HAVE to do this. And then you begin to think of all of the people who can’t be in your spot today, whether because of an injury, financial reasons, or other personal reasons. This mantra went through my mind a lot when I came back to racing after a shoulder injury and it will be on my mind in my first race back, post-Covid.
Stop being a little &*#%$. This one works when you start to get in your own way. You know what I am talking about. When the little race devil on one shoulder starts to tell you that you are not good enough, that you won’t make the cut off, that the woman who just passed you is on a hybrid bike and you are on your tri bike (which you even got fitted for). Sometimes, you just have to tell yourself to snap out of it and stop being a *&$%. Studies have shown that cursing CAN make you work harder and go faster, and I’m here for it. I love this one.
Just Keep Swimming. Obviously this one is used at the beginning of the tri, when your heart rate is sky high from the swim start and people are knocking into you and then a guy swims RIGHT OVER YOU and pushes you underwater (just me?). This is when you channel your inner Dory and just keep swimming. Put it on repeat as you pass each buoy. It works.
A Swim. A Bike. And a Run. This one works well before race day to calm the nerves. When you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of anxiety about completing the race, just remember that it really is just a swim, a bike and a run. That’s it. And you can do those three things because you have spent months training those disciplines.
Stay focused. This one works at any point in the race where you start to get ahead of yourself. When I am running, I will remind myself to run the mile I am in (ha! another mantra!) because otherwise I start to get ahead of myself and worry about the second loop or who is passing me. When on the bike, I will sometimes lose focus and forget to eat or drink (kiss of death, right there) so it’s important to FOCUS on where you are in the race (and it’s safer, especially when on the bike). Focus on your breathing, your pace, your body, your mind. The only time I let myself get ahead of where I am is when I am approaching transition. Then I mentally practice what I am about to do in T1 or T2. Otherwise, stay focused. The time is now.
Race Strong, Race Happy. This is what I write on my arms before every race. This is my go-to mantra. I tend to be a bit too anxious before a race, a bit too serious in the race, and a bit too doubtful of my ability to race to my potential. I settled on this one because it combines my two goals for the day: to be strong physically and mentally and to be grateful that I am able to do this sport and that I made it to race day healthy.
So those are some of my favorite mantras. I would love to hear yours, so reach out @amywoodsfitness on instagram!