Motivating Mantras

The many ways a well-chosen phrase can boost your indoor cycling performance.

When the going gets tough in indoor cycling, the tough riders often use motivating mantras to help themselves continue pushing hard. The mind is a powerful tool and having a few well-chosen words at your disposal can inspire you to persevere when riding with heavy resistance, pick up your pace on a flat road, or kick up your effort a few notches when fatigue sets in. That’s where a mantra can come in handy: A mantra is really just an encouraging statement or saying that reinforces a positive mindset—it’s a specific form of positive self-talk, in other words.

Proof that it works: When cyclists performed a 10-km time trial using motivational self-talk, their completion times were faster and their power output was higher than when they used neutral self-talk, according to a 2015 study from the University of Northumbria in the U.K. By contrast, a 2014 study from the U.K. found that when cyclists used motivational self-talk while riding at 80 percent of their peak power output, they experienced a significant reduction in their ratings of perceived exertion, thus enhancing their endurance performance.

To be effective, a mantra needs to resonate with you and inspire you personally; it can’t be something generic. You need to come up with one that speaks to you and can fire up your energy and power and fortify your mental and emotional resolve. The message should be short (no more than a few words), and it should be catchy and memorable. To find a mantra that appeals to you, spend a few moments thinking about words that energize you and psych you up, making you feel strong and powerful.

You might even choose two or three different mantras to use for various effects during your workout; changing them up periodically will help prevent their messages from getting stale, too.

Here are a dozen examples to help you start the brainstorming process:

I’m tough; I’m strong.

Go hard or go home.

I can do this. I will do this.

Stay focused!

Keep pushing!

Getting stronger all the time.

I’m unstoppable.

Breathe through it.

Give it everything I've got.

Steady all the way.

I’ve got this!

Finish strong!

Mantras can serve many different purposes in indoor cycling. Repeating a mantra to yourself can help distract your mind from the discomfort you may feel during your cycling workout, thus helping you channel more energy into your pedal strokes. To start your ride off on a strong note, you might say a mantra out loud to yourself before your workout; repeat it silently to yourself when you need an infusion of energy or stamina or a pep talk. During the ride, you can use your mantra to help you get to the top of a steep climb or to persevere and stay focused during an endurance ride. Similarly, using a well-chosen cue phrase such as “pump it up”, “power through it” or “pour it on” can help you give a full-throttle effort during a sprint or breakaway, especially if you continue repeating it to yourself every few pedal strokes until you reach the finish line.

When it comes right down to it, using mantras and cue phrases are really healthy forms of mind control: They help you focus your attention and effort fully on the moment at hand, which in turn helps you better meet the physical challenge you’re facing. That’s a win-win proposition, if ever there was one!

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