How Tos

What is a mantra – and how can it help you achieve your swim goals?

Think positive words. Repeat over and over. Achieve your swim goals.

What is a mantra?

A mantra is an idea, concentrated in a short word or phrase to focus your mind and help keep you goal focused. Whenever you are finding something difficult or wanting to change your thinking to be more helpful, repeating a mantra over and over again will immerse you in the idea, helping keep you focused. It works best when it is really personal to you and resonates with you in some way.

Why is it useful for open water swimmers?

A mantra can be particularly useful for open water swimmers who swim long distances where there is a lot of time to think and talk yourself out of something, for example putting in required effort to complete a distance. Research evidence shows an increased perseverance in athletes who use mantras. A mantra can help you achieve your goal or help push you towards an action. It reminds you of what you want to achieve.

A mantra I use a lot is “If not now, when” – particularly useful at the end of a 100m freestyle race! OS editor Jonny uses “Strong and smooth” to keep going and keep form.

When can I use it?

A mantra can be used before you enter the water, mid swim, when you are needing a boost or in training if you are finding something difficult.

How do I do it?

First, decide what you want to use your mantra for, for example it might be to keep you focused on a goal or for motivation. Next, write a list of words or short phrases that you would want someone to say to you if you were starting to struggle. Write down lots of ideas. Look over your list and choose the ones that resonate the most. Aim for your mantras to be short and snappy, memorable and positive.



Helen Davis is a swimmer and chartered Sport Psychologist who works with individuals, teams and coaches on their sporting performance.

You can read more about Helen’s work on her website thinkbelieveperform.co.uk.