I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Your mind can and will impact your performance as a runner—so what you say to yourself during a run, and how you say it, matters. This is why some runners, especially long-distance runners, utilize the power of running mantras.
Simply put, a running mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat in your mind while you run. Usually, that word or phrase is something you find encouraging and motivating, and it holds some deeper meaning for you. Many runners turn to common phrases like “one foot in front of the other” and “one step at a time,” but there are no rules or restrictions when it comes to choosing your own. What’s important is that the word or phrase drives you forward—and repeating it to yourself helps you keep going.
Now, let’s talk about why they can work and run through more examples.
Why running mantras work
A running mantra is a form of positive self-talk with incredible power. Studies have shown that self-talk heavily influences our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and that positive self-talk can improve one’s confidence and reduce anxiety.* With a running mantra, you are essentially functioning as your own coach—you’re giving yourself the validation and affirmation you need to get through your run.
How to choose your running mantra
When trying to decide what your running mantra is, there are a few approaches you can take:
- First, try thinking back to moments when you pushed yourself or conquered a challenging feat. What thoughts were running through your head? If you wanted to quit at any point, what did you say to yourself?
- Second, you can try reflecting on past moments with your favorite coaches, mentors, etc. Was (or is) there someone who inspires or motivates you? What’s a phrase that they’ve said or a word that reminds you of them?
- Finally, think about what holds you back when you’re running: Do you get anxious that you won’t finish the run? Do you start to panic? What are the negative, self-defeating thoughts you have during your runs? The answers to these questions will provide you with powerful insight into the thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back. And once you identify them, you can generate running mantras that address them.
Examples of running mantras
Still no mantras in mind? Fortunately, the options are endless. For the past few years, I personally have relied on three mantras: “You’ve got this.” “Everything is okay.” “All you have to do is cruise.”
My mind is my toughest obstacle on runs because at times I struggle with self-doubt and anxiety. Telling myself “you’ve got this” feels like a friend or a coach encouraging me, and it combats the voice in my head that questions my abilities.
“Everything is okay,” is a direct response to my anxious thoughts. When I get a cramp or something feels off, it’s easy to get worked up and convince myself that everything is ruined. Reminding myself that everything is fine keeps me grounded and level-headed.
My favorite mantra, though, is “all you have to do is cruise.” I’m not a competitive runner—I run for enjoyment and to maintain my health—so the only person putting pressure on me to run faster or further is myself. There’s no external reason why I have to keep a certain pace or run a specific distance. So if I go out too fast during a race or my mind starts spiraling a mile into my run, I tell myself to cruise. This mantra gives me permission to turn on autopilot, focus on my stride, and get out of my head.
Maybe one of those mantras will work for you too, but if not, here’s a non-comprehensive list of examples:
- You are strong, (your name). Be strong.
- I am stronger than I think.
- Run the mile you’re in.
- The mind gives up before the body does.
- Just stay calm.
- Strong. Focused. Relaxed.
- I can and I will.
- Just breathe.
- I know I can do this.
- One step at a time.
- Put one foot in front of the other.
- I believe in myself.
- Don’t think, just run.
- Keep moving forward.
- I’m grateful that I can run.
- There is nothing in my way.
- I’ve trained for this.
- This too shall pass.
Bottom line: Running mantras can be effective, powerful tools that runners can benefit from implementing. Grab a piece of paper and write down a list of words, phrases, and quotes that resonate with you, and then try them out on your runs and see how you feel. Just remember to keep it positive and uplifting—you can’t shame yourself into thriving.
- Effects of Self-Talk Training on Competitive Anxiety, Self-Efficacy, Volitional Skills, and Performance: An Intervention Study with Junior Sub-Elite Athletes
- Increasing self-confidence through self-talk
- Using a positive self-talk intervention to enhance coping skills in breast cancer survivors: lessons from a community-based group delivery model