“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
When it comes to fitness, motivation is everything. And for nearly as long as humans have been moving, we’ve been using words to inspire us to achieve our goals—whether they come in the form of a quote, a mantra or even a lyric in your favorite workout song.
If you’re looking to break through your next fitness plateau or commit to a new routine, try using a good quote to motivate you. But not all quotes are created equal. Dive into our list of fitness quotes, and our survey of what actually inspires us about quotes in the first place, to help find the mantra that truly motivates your fitness.
The qualities of quotes that motivate us
For thousands of years, yogis and other spiritual leaders have been using mantras to help them achieve their physical, spiritual and mental goals. In today’s Western world, many people practice mantras—and if they don’t, they most certainly have a favorite quote designed to serve a similar purpose.
Research shows that quotes that inspire us usually have three hallmarks: good wordsmithing, motivational psychology and a measure of self-selection. Psychologist and motivational expert Jonathan Fader says that those who feel more enthused by inspirational quotes will take them more to heart. What does this mean? It’s crucial to find the mantra that resonates with you.
But which quotes inspire us, and how? Fader says that the “coaching factor,” the language itself and biology are all factors that affect the way we get motivated by quotes and mantras. In a Fast Company article on the topic, psychology expert Scott Sobel summed up the biology effect of quotes this way. “Humans are aspirational. We want to look up to role models and leaders and follow what they ask. Leaders and their words—inspirational quotes—affect us on a primal level.”
Often, the most effective quotes seem to coach us along, such as the favorite phrase of two-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh. “‘Breathe, believe, and battle,’” she said when asked what mantra inspires her most. “My former coach, Troy Tanner, told us that before each match. Breathe—be in the moment. Believe—have faith that you can rise above it. Battle—you gotta be prepared to go for as long as it takes.” For others, the language itself can be the determining factor in which quotes resonate most. Muhammad Ali, perhaps one of the most growth-minded athletes in history, had a mantra that sums up aspiration, coaching and language into one knockout quote that has inspired generations of boxers: “Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee.”
Our favorite fitness quotes
The coaching factor. Aspiration. Undeniable wordsmithing. No matter what inspires you most, using a meaningful mantra or quote can help you overcome your mental block and smash your next fitness goal. Here are some of our favorite quotes of all time, perfect for any moment when you need a burst of fitness motivation. Find the one that resonates with you, connect with its meaning, and repeat it whenever you’re feeling like sitting on the couch instead of hitting the gym.
- “Success isn’t always about ‘greatness;’ it’s about consistency. Consistent, hard work gains success. Greatness will come.” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
- “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” — Jillian Michaels
- “There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.” — Tom Krause
- “Nothing will work unless you do.”— Maya Angelou
- Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire.”
— Oprah Winfrey
- “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” — Tony Robbins
- “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” — Jerry Rice
- “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” — Mahatma Gandhi
- “There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.” – Michael Phelps
- “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
And if none of those resonate with you, there’s always this mantra from The Rock, which has now become the theme of perhaps the most memorable Under Armour partnership of all time: Always be the hardest worker in the room