Athletes are trying all kinds of things to improve their performance. Whether it’s dieting or working out on the track, making more time for recovery or making better decisions, performance improves as more emphasis is placed on the planning process. Olympic medalist and body coach Mark Foster of Penguin Sequencing thinks a “mantra” can work in the same way, even if it sounds simple.
“A mantra at least prioritizes in your brain just when you are about to exert maximum effort,” Foster said. “So the more you run with the mantra — go faster, higher, stronger — the more stress you release and the better you run.”
Foster relies on a custom system to get his athletes to focus in every workout. Training is a slow burn; the weight of performance is expected to really pick up around 50 miles a week. For new athletes, this might take a while.
For adults, a “mantra” can sound pretty good too: 5 energy bars, 3 liters of water, 3/4 of a liter of milk and a steep incline. A few other realistic mantras can help too.
Think: “Are you there?” to signal when you’re feeling the burn, “Relaxation Bar” to settle a fight in your mind, “Have a smile” to smile, “Take two” to make a list, and “Skipping Stones” to take a big step.
The mantras that Foster gives his athletes take training very seriously. He encourages athletes to “complete a mantra exercise every day because it’s a form of meditation,” even if just one day a week. And the more powerful the mantra, the more satisfied his athletes are.
Research shows it helps keep us “enlivened and energized and more open-minded,” Foster said. And when people think about this work, they can’t help but hear these words: “Success is failure plus failure, plus success plus success.”