If you’re looking to improve your Park Run, 10k, or marathon times, there’s something you’ve probably not thought about doing.
Weird idea, right? Well, maybe not…
Top athletes already know that smiling helps them run faster, longer, and harder. Olympian Eliud Kipchoge is one of them. The marathon gold medallist breaks into a smile during his races as a technique to help him relax into his running and cope with the pressure of the race and achieve world-beating times.
So why would smiling have such a big effect on runners?
Here’s the science bit explained…Ready, set, go!
It’s all about perceived effort.
You’re probably thinking: what on earth is that? It’s the perception in your brain about how much energy your body’s using.
You know the difference that feeling can make. On some days, you can feel good about your running, the run can feel easy, and you make great time. It feels like a breeze.
On other days, it feels like your body’s working hard, it’s a slog, and your run-time is affected. In reality, you’re doing the same mileage at the same time of day, you had the same breakfast, and you’re drinking the same amount of water.
There should be no difference in time, but that feeling of it being an effort HAS made that difference. Perceived effort is a powerful thing.
The lower the perceived effort, the more your body can do. If you smile, you’re giving your body the message that everything’s fine and what you’re doing isn’t too much of an effort.
The physical act of smiling lowers that perceived effort.
There’s also an idea called ‘embodied emotion’. If you decide to have a facial expression, it will affect how you experience emotions.
So, if you decide to smile, you’ll improve your experience.
So, what kind of difference does smiling make?
A study by academics at Ulster and Swansea Universities found runners used their energy more economically when they smiled – 2.2% more than those without a smile, in fact.
That means during a race, those marginal gains could make a big impact.
For professional athletes, making marginal gains is the difference between standing on the podium at a championship and failing to win a medal.
For the rest of us, it could mean reaching our goals faster. If you want to run a sub-three-hour marathon or shave a few minutes off your 10k time, for example, smiling could help you get there.
Scientists recommend smiling as much as you can during a run, thinking about happy memories, and interacting with people you see.
They recommend saying hello to the people you meet and cracking a smile when you achieve every mile.
Of course, that means ensuring your smile is white and bright!
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