Out There: @#&S!! Mantras!

When the hammer drops, cursing works for me. Who’s to say a mantra has to be so Zen?

Recently, my friend Doug of Rock Creek Runner asked me to contribute to an eBook he was creating on the power of running mantras. Of course, I obliged – it’s great to be included in projects like these.

But when the eBook came out yesterday, I felt a little like the girl who wore blue jeans to a black-tie affair. My fellow contributors all shared inspiring, eloquent mantras that would make any runner’s soul soar in the toughest of races. My contribution?

Man the F*$@ Up.

Way to keep it classy, Lacke.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read this column that I like to curse. A lot. As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t stop swearing like a sailor. This is especially true in difficult race situations. If you’re unfortunate enough to be near me at mile 18 of a marathon, you’re likely to hear me mutter creative variations of the f-bomb.

As it turns out, there’s a method to my madness. A 2009 study shows that cursing activates the parts of our brain that can relieve pain.

You see? I’ve got effin’ science on my side, y’all.

RELATED: The Magical Power of Mental Mantras

But that knowledge was little comfort as I thumbed through the mantras of my fellow contributors, who had me thinking maybe I was doing something wrong.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve certainly meditated on other words and phrases. Sometimes, in the calm, serene settings of a trail run, I’ve meditated on the meaning of “strength” as it related to my own body. And yes, admitting that makes me feel hippie-ish, like I should be eating crackers made from organic seaweed while Enya pipes in the background.

Conversely, I tried out a new mantra last weekend. While riding my bike down a mountain in 30 MPH crosswinds, I cooed “smooth and steady” as I rounded the switchbacks. But a few miles into the descent, that mantra eventually devolved into a blubbered “don’t die…don’t die…”

But when the hammer drops, cursing works for me. Who’s to say a mantra has to be so Zen?

Mantras, like fingerprints, are personal and unique to each runner. Even the same word, like “strength,” can have different subtexts from person to person. Despite the Stuart Smiley connotations that come with using mantras, it really doesn’t have to make you feel like a new-age cheeseball.

A mantra should speak to you, in your language, using your vernacular and passion and motivation. Peppy folks may turn to their internal cheerleader for motivation with zippy chants. If you’re musical person, you may not have a mantra, but instead play a song in your head. A reward-oriented runner might visualize a beer or brownie or his really hot wife. Racing for a cause can help you dig deep when your pain pales in comparison to, say, someone going through chemotherapy.

So yes, it kind of makes sense that during a race, I’d drop f-bombs like it’s my job (because, if past issues of this column are any indication, it kind of is).

Whether you’re on repeats of puppies and rainbows, cursing up a storm, or promising yourself that you’ll run for just ten minutes more, there’s really no wrong way to get your mantra on in a tough run.

Whatever gets you to the finish line, folks.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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