The magic of mantras - 11 spiritual sayings to keep you strong

The magic of mantras - 11 spiritual sayings to keep you strong


Helen Vaughan



21, centra, challenge, day, mantra, mantras, "mantras for sport", mental, "mental health', ", strength

One of the most important components of sport or training is your mental strength, and it centres around your ability to believe in yourself. Here's a list of 11 mantras used by successful athletes and adventurers. If you're taking part in the Centra Restart 21-day Challenge, we think they could really come in handy to keep you motivated. #LiveWell.

Good mental strength while you're training or working out is a choice. Many sports people have a favourite mantra that gets them through the dark mornings out training, or difficult times in a long race.

If you repeat key words or a phrase to yourself, it can help to banish negative thoughts and self doubt and keep you focussed on your best possible performance. 

This content was brought to you in association with the Centra Restart 21-day Challenge to help you get active. This month focuses on strength training, so read Pat Divilly’s training tips and you can use some of these sayings to help you get out and get moving. And let us know how you're getting on by sharing your experience using #livewell to be in with a chance to win a prize. 

1. “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche. This mantra was chosen by Mark Pollock, adventurer, pioneer of spinal cord research and motivational speaker.


Mark says that when he was training and racing for marathons and ultra marathons, including being the first blind person to run to the South Pole in 2008/2009, he thought back to Nietzsche’s words.

He believes that if you know why you are doing what you are doing, then you can put up with the tough stuff. He also bears it in mind as he fundraises through the Mark Pollock Trust to research a cure for paralysis.



2) “I don’t have to be good at running, just at going for a run.”
- Jennifer O’Connell in the Irish Times on 14 January 2017


Mum and journalist, Jennifer O’Connell, is trying hard to be more active, by joining a gym and doing for runs. She explains, “I’ll never be good at running. But I don’t have to be good at running. I just need to be good at going for a run. I just need to become someone who regularly puts on runners and moves at slightly faster than a stroll. Even I can manage that.”

Join Centra's Restart 21-day strength challenge here. #LiveWell



3) “One foot in front of the other.” 
- Teena Gates, broadcaster, climber & adventurer


This mantra is also the title of Teena Gates’s book, written about her incredible weight loss. She shed more than half her body weight five years ago and embraced a healthier and hugely active lifestyle, climbing mountains all over the world, sea swimming and doing triathlons.

Teena says when she was freaking out climbing an ice wall on Island Peak in Nepal, she used this mantra to just keep going step by step, to break down any problem into small manageable pieces and to keep at it!



4) “With courage, nothing is impossible.”
- Sir William Hillary. Chosen by walking adventurer Alex Ellis-Roswell


23 year old Alex Ellis-Roswell is in the middle of walking in the region of 16,000km around the coastlines of Ireland and the UK to raise money for RNLI Lifeboats. He’s spent the past two years walking every day, and has already been around England’s south coast, through Wales, the Isle of Man, around the whole of Ireland and is currently in north Scotland.

Alex uses the mantra above about courage to stay motivated for his challenge and it’s from the founder of the RNLI, Sir William Hillary.


When asked what keeps him going day to day, he says, “I suppose what does keep me going is a curiosity for tomorrow and what I might see or who I might meet next.”



5) “It’s not over until it’s over.”
- John O’Regan, ultra runner


John O’Regan uses this mantra in many of his long-distance running races, which include the 24-hour ultra running championships, the World Marathon Challenge (7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days) and numerous marathons, half marathons and he's a big fan of the Park Run.

John says it has proven true many times, with lead runners falling back or dropping out before a race ends, and he ends up either winning or coming second. 


He also applies this saying to his daily life if he’s late for a train or a flight, he doesn’t panic or give in. He’ll keep going because he says there’s always a chance that it’s running late and he’ll end up being on time.



6) “Breathe in the positive energy and breathe out the the toxic energy.”
- Niall Breslin, AKA Bressie, triathlete and mental health campaigner


Niall Breslin, or Bressie as he’s better known, uses this mantra to stay mindful and focussed in long-distance triathlon races. He’s a former inter-county GAA player and professional rugby player. He also campaigns for better mental health and founded the A Lust for Life social enterprise and website.


In 2016, he completed Ironman Copenhagen and says he used this mantra during the 180km bike section of the race to keep himself going. He also uses meditation, visualisation and breathing exercises. 



7) “Anything is possible if you have the courage and the faith to do it.”
- Clive Guthrie, part of the Climb with John team


This mantra sums up the Climb with John project. It involved up to 60 volunteers working together to pull 29-year-old John Tobin up Croagh Patrick, making him the first wheelchair user to reach the summit. John’s Mum had been up many times and it was his dream to join her.


Roscommon-man Basil Finan engineered and built a ‘Dream Machine’ on wheels that suspended John inside and carried him up the mountain pulled along by volunteers with large ropes. The mission was the brainchild of John’s carer, Clive Guthrie.

Join Centra's Restart 21-day strength challenge here. #LiveWell

He says, “This wasn’t really about raising money but inspiring people to take on something that’s difficult. Anything is achievable if you have the courage and the faith to do it. John doesn’t usually show his emotions, but he was crying tears of joy at the top because of the enormity of the situation.”

A very happy John Tobin at the top of Croagh Patrick


8) “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. Eat the f**king bear!”
- Mark Pollock, adventurer and researcher of paralysis 


Mark was given this mantra by a friend as he set off for his South Pole race in 2009, in which his team covered 770km in Antarctica over 22 days. He also became the first blind person to reach the South Pole.


During the race, he says this mantra became more and more relevant as he faced a total of 43 days on the ice with temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius, on the go for more than 16 hours for many of them.



9) “Save nothing.”
- David Vaughan, runner, cyclist and duathlete


David is a keen runner, cyclist and duathlete (run/cycle/run) and uses this mantra to remind himself to really empty the tank at every stage of the race. He says, “Don’t worry about the next race, or the next phase of an event.

"I like to fully focus using everything I’ve got to get me over the line. If I collapse having crossed the line, then I’ve saved nothing!”


David won gold in his age group in the World Duathlon Championships in Rimini in Italy in 2008. He says when he races, he breaks the 10km run, 40km bike and 5km run down into small manageable stages and congratulates himself after completing each one. 

David Vaughan after a cyclocross race in Co Dublin 


10) “Be water.”
- Bolota Asmerom, US runner


American Olympic middle-distance runner Bolota Asmerom uses this Bruce Lee mantra to remind himself to feel smooth but full of force. 


Bruce Lee originally said, “Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my water.”



11) “Just get on with it.”
- Rob Mortell, mountaineer


Rob was the youngest Irish person to climb Mount Everest in May 2016, at 26. He’s also summited the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Denali in Alaska and Nepal’s Alma Dablam. His expeditions are hugely risky, with ice climbing, navigating crevasses, oxygen deprivation at high altitude, and they can involve sitting out a storm on the side of a mountain in a tiny tent for days on end.

All this requires exceptional mental strength. He says, “
I tend to keep my thought process extremely direct and, so long as I’m healthy and capable of continuing safely, I only tell myself to ‘Just get on with it’.


“Beyond that, once I’ve started something, I don’t allow myself to question my motivation, as it’ll only result in potentially undermining the reasons I started out in the first place. It’s not always easy to be so stubborn, especially when you have weeks on a mountainside to waver, but it works for me in the knowledge that I have considered my motivations beforehand (i.e. case closed) and I’m always open to safety considerations overruling my motivation and ambition.”



Have a read of one of the heroes of the Centra Restart Campaign, Teena Gates, who lost half her body weight after a health scare at 23 stone. She's since climbed Kilimanjaro and been to Everest Base Camp. Her battle with her weight is ongoing - but she is determined to keep up her hard work to keep her weight in check.


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The magic of mantras - 11 spiritual sayings to keep you strong

One of the most important components of sport or training is your mental strength, and it centres around your ability to believe in yourself. Here's a list of 11 mantras used by successful athletes and adventurers. If you're taking part in the Centra Restart 21-day Challenge, we think they could really come in handy to keep you motivated. #LiveWell.