Trainers Share Mantras That Motivate Them
Sometimes all it takes to get to the gym or finish a workout is the perfect motivational phrase. These trainers share the words that keep them going strong.
Picture this: You’re in the gym or at the track, working out hard. But suddenly, you hit the proverbial wall. One more rep is just not happening. Or maybe your alarm has gone off and you’re still in bed, unmotivated to swap your lounge clothes for workout wear, and feeling less than enthused about slipping on your running shoes and getting your butt in gear.
When you need help breaking through these motivational barriers, sometimes all it takes is repeating the right phrase. A mantra can reset your outlook and help you dig deeper, work harder and push further. “A good mantra gives you a breath of motivation, confidence and energy,” says Kristin Traskie, an American College of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and fitness and wellness program coordinator at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. “It gives you the power to positively own and identify your greatness and reminds you that you can do this—whatever the goal is at hand.”
Not just any words will work, though. “A mantra has to speak to you,” says Reebok athlete Christian Harris. “It has to be something that can apply to you in every aspect of life, something you take with you everywhere.”
If you’re looking for a little mantra inspiration, check out these motivational words that exercise pros like Harris swear by. Because, seriously, you got this.
Fitness Pro: Christian Harris, Reebok athlete
Mantra: “Head down, mouth shut, work.”
The story: Harris first heard his go-to mantra in 2013 at a training camp, and it immediately resonated with him. He finds it useful when he starts to feel distracted or if negative vibes creep into his workout. “It’s simple, but has a lot of meaning in fitness and in life,” he says. “Life can be distracting, but when it comes to training, I need to turn everything off: Head down, stop the mental talk, mouth shut, put my best effort forward, work.”
Fitness Pro: Kristin Traskie, ACSM-certified personal trainer
Mantra: "I am capable. I am strong. I believe in myself.”
The story: “I Am” statements allow Traskie to identify who she is and who she wants to be. “Especially during this past year, being a working mom, trying to provide family structure during a time of chaos, throwing in the never-ending pivots of remote working, remote school, stress of the unknown, mental health and trying to keep it all together, my mantra was needed more than ever,” she adds. “It definitely helped motivate me and allowed me to express the power of my thoughts and intent.”
Sometimes, Traskie switches things up with other motivational “I Am” statements. “On days I am questioning myself or my confidence is shaken, it might simply come down to ‘I Am Enough,’” she says.
Fitness Pro: Chris Vitek, fitness specialist and wellness coach
Mantra: “Movement is medicine.”
The story: When the pandemic and stay-at-home orders hit, Vitek, a fitness specialist at Athletico Physical Therapy in Oak Brook, IL, began to look outside the gym for exercise—for himself and his clients. “Movement is medicine” became his mantra, he says, because it provided a reminder that exercise was more necessary than ever, given people’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and that fitness habits can be created “at any time and any moment.”
Vitek advocates taking breaks to stretch, do yoga, walk or run during your workday—or getting in daily steps by walking your dog. “Or park in the farthest spot at the grocery store or opt to walk the golf course,” he suggests. The most important thing is to seize opportunities to move.
Fitness pro: Delmas Bolin, M.D., Ph.D., professor of sports and family medicine
The story: “The keys to happiness are having someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to,” says Bolin, who teaches at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, VA, and serves as the head team physician/medical director for Radford University in Radford, VA. For him, “something to look forward to” usually involves running a 5 or 10K with his wife or taking a challenging hike. When preparing for these activities, “MOVE!” is his motivator. “Having a race or an event scheduled is key in motivating me to move,” he says.
The most effective mantras are “ones that have meaning only for you,” Bolin says. “I counsel people to find a phrase or philosophy that is theirs, and then keep it to yourself—just for you. It is yours alone and each time you reach success with it, use it to build on for the next challenge.”
Fitness pro: Nicole Thompson, ACE-certified personal trainer
Mantras: “I believe in you,” “You can do this” and “I can stop anytime.”
The story: San Diego-based Thompson, who has a master’s degree in sport and performance psychology and is a long-distance runner, believes in the power of affirmative self-talk—in everyday life and while exercising. “Telling myself I believe in my abilities is not only encouraging but confidence-boosting as well,” she says. The message that she “can stop anytime” motivates her because “I know quitting is always an option, but I am choosing to push forward—proving to myself that while I can stop, I won’t, nor do I want to.”
She has found her go-to mantras to be especially useful during long, challenging runs. “Having a mantra pushes me through physical—and sometimes mental—walls,” she says. “I also repeat ‘You can do this’ or ‘I believe in you’ at the start line of a race to help get me energized, excited and confident.”
To find a mantra that works for you, think about a phrase that you believe in. “It doesn’t need to be complicated,” Thompson says. “It’s a few inspirational words to tell yourself to help you keep going when you feel like quitting.” Bottom line: There’s no right or wrong here. Whatever helps you commit to your workout is great. Remember, you got this.