Believe it or not, sometimes even fitness trainers have trouble motivating themselves to work out. Many factors can hold you back from getting your workout in on any given day: you may not have slept well the night before, you may have a to-do list so long it makes you want to cry, or you may just plain not feel like it. On days like that, it helps to adopt a personal mantra that will motivate you to exercise harder. The brain has an incredibly powerful effect on the body, and just repeating a phrase out loud or in your head one or two times can help you cultivate the mind-body connection you need to achieve your goals. We asked some of our favorite fitness trainers and group workout instructors what they focus on when they need to challenge themselves to go that extra mile or ramp up the energy in the room when they’re teaching. Try out their personal mantras on days when you need a little push to get the most out of your workout, or use them as inspiration to create your own.
"You can feel sore tomorrow or you can feel sorry tomorrow."
There’s no motivation quite like regret. Do you remember that one time you thought it'd be fine to eat an entire tub of ice cream for dinner, and then felt incredibly sick afterwards? Yeah, us too, but hopefully you didn't make that same mistake twice. Similarly, if you’ve ever skipped a workout and felt less than spectacular about yourself afterwards as a result, then this mantra may be the one that will help you commit to powering through your favorite exercise class. Jenna Smith, a Pilates and cycling instructor at Pilates Plus La Jolla and Core40, says this phrase during her classes to help students increase their resistance and ensure they don't slack during their workout. Exercise can boost your self-confidence, and it's a fantastic way to improve your body image. Think of exercise as giving yourself a gift instead of letting yourself down. Nothing makes you feel quite as powerful as conquering an especially difficult workout, which makes tolerating a little soreness totally worth it.
"You are resilient."
Samantha Harper, a Los Angeles yoga instructor at CorePower Yoga, tells this to her clients to encourage them through difficult poses. Yes, sometimes exercise really hurts: your muscles burn, your heart pounds, your lungs feel like they're on fire. While these descriptions may lead you to believe you're on the verge of dying, you're actually on the edge of glory, to quote super-fit singer Lady Gaga. Physical strength actually comes from creating microscopic tears in your muscles, which then repair themselves to become more powerful. Similarly, accomplishing little fitness goals, such as holding a plank for a solid minute, also rebuilds your mind. You learn what you are capable of so you can push yourself to do more the next time you work out. Remember that no matter what you've experienced in the past (we’ve all had days where we’ve struggled during our workout), you have the resilience to bounce back and be stronger than ever today.
“You are stronger than you know.”
Speaking of being strong, Shawna Whitlock, a Los Angeles Master Instructor at Pop Physique, a popular barre studio, likes to use this mantra in class. It applies both in and out of the gym; just as you have the resilience to bounce back from a difficult workout and push onwards, you have the strength to challenge yourself to do more than you think you are capable of accomplishing. We often shortchange ourselves when our bodies are actually able to do so much more than we believe. Some of what your parents told you is true: when it comes to fitness, nothing can hold you back from achieving whatever you want! Whether you want to run a seven-minute mile or just survive through a hot yoga class without coming out of the poses, you can do it. Set aside whatever beliefs you may be holding onto ("I'll always be overweight" or "I'm going to suck at this class" or "I hate running") and remind yourself that whatever you tell yourself is true.
"If it's not challenging you, it isn't changing you."
Jenna Smith uses this quote as well to remind clients that a little discomfort goes a long way. Yes, a new move or a higher level class may be intimidating, but you have to resolve to try. That decision to get out of your comfort zone (and oh, the couch is such a comfortable zone) is half the battle when it comes to exercise. Whether you succeed or fall short, you've already accomplished so much by trying. Each time you work out, consider it another chance to do more, to see what else you're capable of. It's okay if you can't do as many kettlebell reps as the girl next to you or if you can't quite match the beat of the Zumba instructor. You're already succeeding by just exercising and pushing your body as well as your mind. Nothing happens in your comfort zone; it's a static holding place. You'll only find change in the places that challenge you, so consider each challenge an opportunity to grow.
“Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
Stephanie Cochrane, owner of the La Jolla cycling studio SparkCycle, uses this mantra during class to remind everyone just exactly what all their sweat and effort is for. Making the decision to exercise on any given day is half the battle, but it’s only half. You also have to make the decision to see it through and give the workout your maximum effort. Whether your goals are to lose weight, get stronger, or just to become more healthy, you have to put the work in. Walk the walk and embrace the challenge. It will be uncomfortable (and yes, maybe slightly painful), and it will be messy. A difficult workout will leave you tired, sore, and maybe looking like you haven’t showered in weeks. But it will also leave you energized, feeling proud, and glowing like the vibrant, sexy powerhouse you just proved yourself to be. Those sounds like benefits that are worth a little work to us.