Every now and again, you'll hit a mid-workout slump. It's that challenging moment when the thought of abandoning the rest of your session seems pretty tempting. But a creative string of curse words may just be the kick in the pants you need to finish your workout.
Different motivational phrases resonate with different people, especially during an intense sweat session. Whether you have a preference for profanity or want to keep it clean in the gym, finding your go-to words of affirmation may be the trick to a more productive workout.
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How Swearing Might Improve Your Workout
After testing the effect of swearing during exercise on a small group of people, researchers of a 2017 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that swearing was correlated to improved strength and power performance.
While some may see profanity as inappropriate, others find cuss words allow them to vent frustrations and cope with a tough workout, says Stephen Gonzalez, certified mental performance consultant and Association for Applied Sport Psychology executive board member.
"In essence, cussing in a workout could act like a pressure valve release and enable someone to regroup their attention and focus to get through a tough physical challenge or workout," he says.
Uttering a swear word can feel pretty BA, especially during a heavy squat or fast sprint. But the benefits go beyond the psychological. Swearing may also help increase your pain tolerance, according to a small January 2017 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain.
Researchers found that study participants who dropped an f-bomb or two during exposure to extreme cold felt their pain was less severe than those that kept their words G-rated. This is likely because swearing can create a hypoalgesic effect, meaning your body feels less pain, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain.
The research behind pain and swearing is still limited, so whether swearing truly makes you feel less pain is still up for debate. But if you find it works for you, it can be a powerful tool in helping you power through your sweat sessions.
"When I work with clients, I want them to think about what gets them to respond in the moment," Gonzalez says. "Rather than make a sweeping generalization, I think it's important for people to program into their minds the software that is going to get their hardware (bodies) moving and driving toward their goals."
Make a Mantra for Your Workouts
Not a fan of cursing in the weight room? Positive self-talk or empowering, personal mantras can also keep you motivated or engaged during exercise, Gonzalez says. These can be positive lyrics, quotes, words or phrases that feel empowering to you. A mantra is like an internal chant that you repeat when your workout gets particularly challenging.
"There is a lot of power when you realize that thoughts drive behavior," Gonzalez says. "For me, my mantra was 'relax, breath, believe' during my running and racing career. This helped me stay composed during a fast pace, focus on breathing and get my mind to continue to work with me, rather than against me."
Don't choose a mantra based on positive or negative thoughts. Instead, think about what words are effective versus ineffective (this varies from person to person, depending on what kind of motivation resonates with them).
"If cussing or being sarcastic toward yourself spawns purposeful action, then do it," Gonzalez says. "I think it's important to recognize that people are experts on themselves — they know what makes them excited or inspired."