Beginner’s Luck: What’s Your One-Word Mantra?

It might feel cheesy, but coming up with a mantra can have a big impact on your training and racing.

It might feel cheesy, but coming up with a mantra can have a big impact on your training and racing.

Picking a “mantra” for training and racing is not a novel concept in the realm of sports. In our westernized, modern-day society the term “mantra” has become as mainstream speak for “intention” or setting an intention. In training and racing, setting an intention is a big part of preparation for a better workout or event.

In 2013, I emceed an event with pro triathlete Andy Potts who likes to pick a “mantra word” for his entire year—a word that means something important to him that he can return to, to set an intention.  That particular year, his word was inertia. Obviously, he meant it in the movement way—that a body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another external force (not that an object at rest stays at rest.) But in a sense—both interpretations are correct: if we are moving, we are moving; if we are staying the same, we are the same, with nothing changing.

For an entire year after that interview, my husband would jump out of bed in the mornings and exclaim, “INERTIA!” After almost six months of the morning-wake-up to “inertia,” I felt inertia-tized. I felt movement, and I knew there was something to this “one word” mantra concept.

Choosing one word is a great way to add more positive enforcement to our days. These one-word mantras have proved to be easier, feel less voodoo and are easier to remember. Some great words:  relentless (my current word—going on two years, I think), unstoppable, powerful, unbreakable, fast, persistent.

In a race, I find that multiple words or phrases are helpful to use because they have a certain rhythm. I have used my trademark phrase “just keep moving forward” all over race courses and on long training days. The six-syllable phrase works nicely to the beat of swim strokes, revolutions on the bike, or footsteps on the run.

Stacking powerful words together that don’t necessarily make a sentence are amazing too. On my longer runs, I often string together four or five words for that day, and keep repeating those during the workout: fast strong calm fun. I add the word “fun” for a dash of irony—because sometimes, well, it’s ironic.

The choices are endless in mantra creation, but I do believe that mantras aren’t just for yogis anymore. As much as we might not want to admit to adopting a mantra—picking positive words to repeat over and over, especially when the times get tough in racing or training proves to be a valuable tool. After all, what we believe, we will manifest. Why not manifest some things like: power, joy and gratitude.

Some words that might help you form a mantra, or get you through a workout a little easier:

Calm Intense Powerful Strong Relentless Painless Extraordinary Persistent Valuable
Savage Amped Fire Explosive Unleashed Amazing Confident Brilliant Connected
Smooth Excited Effortless Eager Thankful Thrilled Relaxed Easy Positive
Joyful Soul Vigorous Mastery Luminous Natural Heart Freedom Gratitude

If you have a great word already—how has it impacted you?

How has that one word made a difference in who you are? And where you are going?

Share on social media and tag @Triathletemag and @Swimbikemom!

More “Beginner’s Luck”

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at