Muhammad Ali mural in Louisville, Kentucky

Muhammad Ali was the greatest. In a pro career that spanned 1960-81, boxing’s most competitive era, he was a three-time heavyweight world champion. Before that, at only 18 and when he was still Cassius Clay, he was the 1960 Olympic light-heavy gold medalist. Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) was an activist, an entertainer, a poet, and an inspiration to people all around the world. He is frequently ranked as not just the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, but the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Throughout his career and until his death in 2016, Muhammad Ali was also the greatest at serving up motivational quotes—poetic, practical, and insightful—the sort of encouragement that can fuel your toughest workouts, whether in a ring or under a squat bar.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

muhammad ali motivational quotes
18-year-old Cassius Clay and his trainer, Joe E. Martin, 1960 / Public Domain

I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

muhammad ali motivation
Muhammad Ali watches a replay of one of his fights in 1966. / Dutch National Archives

Don’t count the days. Make the days count.

Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

Muhammad Ali motivational quotes
Muhammad Ali mural in Louisville, Kentucky

Don’t count the days. Make the days count.

If my mind can conceive it, if my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.

muhammad ali inspiration
Ali vs. Frazier promotional photo / Public Domain

A man who has no imagination has no wings.

The will must be stronger than the skill.

muhammad ali inspirational quotes
Muhammad Ali painting by John Stango / John Stango

I don’t count the sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count. That’s what makes you a champion.

See also: BRUCE LEE Workout Motivation and Workout Motivation from ANCIENT GREECE