Whether you're dragging yourself to the gym for the first time in god-knows-how-long or just pushing yourself through a tougher-than-normal workout, what's probably way more important than your lung capacity or the size of your biceps is what's going on inside your head. After all, thoughts like This sucks and I can't do this can be self-perpetuating. And anyway, experts say that psyching yourself up for something challenging can do wonders for your physical performance. Just imagine your inner cheerleader (picture “Joy” from Inside Out), holding an oversized megaphone, ready to drown out the bad noise with any of these power-finding mantras we got from a very reliable source.
In fact, positive self-talk — and optimistic thinking in general — can help reduce stress and the risk of depression, boost your immune system and overall health, and improve your confidence and coping skills.
The good news is you don't even have to say this stuff out loud. When you find a mantra you relate to, simply repeat it inside your head to keep you going. Don't take our word for it: We asked five Olympic superstars sixth annual espnW Women + Sports summit for the phrases that push them through a hard practice. Click through to steal a few ounces of their motivation. You can do it! (The Olympians' ideas are better than that one, we swear.)