If you’re trying to begin, maintain or intensify a walking routine, adopting a meaningful mantra may inspire you to reach your goals. “Mantras are more than just positive words, they are imprints,” says Lisa Yee, a San Diego-based certified personal trainer. “Think of it as tattooing something powerful on your soul.”
Effective mantras inspire you with positive language and selectively chosen words. Brevity is key: A mantra communicates one idea and is easy to repeat. “The best mantras are short and evoke a visceral reaction,” says Robert Herbst, a former pro powerlifter. “They should make you think about logical conclusions for why you are doing something.”
Good mantras also have a poetic feel. “Keep words light and rhythmic, so they are easy to repeat on the move,” says Karen Shopoff Rooff, an Austin-based personal trainer. Try to avoid language that sounds judgmental. “Mantras like ‘I don’t want to be heavy anymore’ or even ‘I have to walk 5 miles today’ are ineffective,” says Eddie Johnson, a Miami-based certified personal trainer. “That’s not motivational; that’s discouraging.”
Here, seven mantras to try to encourage and support positive walking habits:
Inspire yourself to get moving by focusing on the smallest increment you’ll need to complete. “Sometimes we are overwhelmed with starting a healthy lifestyle, and if we remind ourselves to just take that first step, it can make it seem a little less intimidating,” says Amber Nash, a Kansas City-based certified group exercise instructor. “Once you get that first step out of the way you have already built momentum.”
You can will yourself into action with this catchy phrase, which refers not only to the forward walking motion, but also to your progress toward a healthier you. “If you feel yourself becoming stagnant, use this mantra as a way to push yourself to the next level,” says Caleb Backe, a New Jersey-based certified personal trainer. “Everybody runs the risk of reaching a plateau, but not everyone is able to overcome it, and this mantra puts you in the right mindset to do so.”
For some people, a rhythmic, two-word mantra is easiest to remember, concise enough to repeat often and effective enough to cause behavior change. “Things like ‘get going’ or ‘be strong’ or ‘walk fast’… cause you to act a certain way, and then the outcome becomes inevitable,” sys Herbst. “If someone were flagging, I might have them say something like ‘it’s easy’ or ‘keep going’ or ‘you can.’ For someone pushing themselves, they could say, ‘go fast’ or ‘new best.’
It’s OK if another adjective calls to you — “I am healthy, “I am active” — or even “I am getting strong.” Repeating an inspirational phrase about yourself can be powerful. It can reframe your thoughts about your attitude toward exercise or yourself.
“It starts to shift the identity we have created for ourselves, from ‘I am lazy and cannot do anything right,’ to ‘I am capable and worthy of this transformation,’” says Odelia Silva, an Austin-based nutrition and fitness coach.
This mantra’s visuals should help inspire you to maintain good form. “It helps you remember to keep the abdominals engaged and chest lifted,” says Shopoff Rooff. “As surprising as it may sound, a lot of people new to exercise are afraid they’re going to walk incorrectly. By using a mantra that focuses on walking form, it’s a continual reminder that you’re doing it right.”
“Why are you walking?” is an important question to ask yourself, says Helen Ryan, a California-based personal trainer. “For your health. For yourself. To take back control of your life and body are all great answers.” Having a mantra that helps you feel empowered and good about yourself gives you a reason to keep it up, she adds. It’s also a reminder that walking is self-care.
When you’re trying to make walking a habit, it can be helpful to remind yourself walking is natural and easy to do. “You can argue whether or not we were designed to lift dumbbells and barbells, but with walking, there is no debate,” says Dr. Alex Robles, a New York City-based physician and fitness expert.
This mantra might also inspire you to get moving if you’ve been sitting at your desk all day. “Don’t let a single day go by without getting at least 5,000 steps,” says Robles. “Let your body do what it was designed to do.”