While you should smile when you run

Why you should smile when you run

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Want to run faster and more efficiently? Research suggests you should put a smile on your dial to improve your performance.

Running and happiness

There is a lot of focus on how exercise -such as running - can boost your happiness. 

The elevation of your energy levels, improved sleep, and feelings of general wellness and self esteem that may come with regular exercise certainly won’t do any harm. 

And don’t forget the runners' high - that state of euphoria that comes with extended workouts. 

But have you ever wondered if happiness makes you a better runner? Could something as simple as smiling while you run actually improve performance?

Smiling when running boosts your performance

Psychological strategies are important for endurance performance and can impact upon running economy. It can even help to explain differences in performance between athletes otherwise matched in technical measures of fitness. 

A study published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise compared the impact of smiling and frowning on running economy. 

While this study only used a small number of subjects, it was found that just over 58% of participants were most economical when smiling compared to frowning. 

People who frowned while running also scored higher on perceived level of effort compared to runners who were smiling and relaxed. 

The mechanism by which smiling helps to boost performance is unsure, but it’s possible that smiling helps runners to relax and reduce muscle tension, and act as a distraction to any discomfort.

How to S.M.I.L.E more while you run

  • Smile – Smiling is infectious. If people see you smiling, they may well smile back, which makes you want to smile more. Smile because you are taking action to boost your health. Smile because you are well enough to run. Smile because you are outside while others lounge around. Simply smile because you can!
  • Music – Load up your phone or music player with a playlist of feel-good songs that are up-tempo and fun to listen to while you run. Songs with a good beat and rhythm can make your run more enjoyable, giving you a reason to smile. Just make sure to keep the volume at a safe level
  • Ignore - A face that shows a frown, a grimace, or an appearance of being in pain can be a self fulfilling prophecy. Facial expression is thought to influence your emotional experience in a given situation.  Choose instead to visibly wear the inner peace that comes with running, feeling content that you are doing something positive for both body and mind. Soldier on and smile in the face of adversity, obstacles and pain. Find positives and ignore the discomfort (within reason of course)
  • Loosen up – Relaxation during running is considered responsible (in part) for a lower relative oxygen consumption amongst elite marathoners. Relaxation is also known to reduce both heart rate and muscle activation, so it is an important strategy to perfect. Feeling relaxed should be reason enough to bring a smile to your face
  • Escape – Running can be a great form of mental escape. Engage your thoughts while running, and think of things that make you smile. The benefits of smiling seem to be more effective if the smile is genuine, so use your imagination well. Positive thoughts can help drive your actions
Want more like this? Run on over to the Blackmores running hub for more tips, advice and delicious recipes to fuel your run!

Source: Brick NE et al. The effects of facial expression and relaxation cues on movement economy, physiological, and perceptual responses during running. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2018: 34; 20-28.