We’ve all watched runners who seem to stride effortlessly even at top speeds, like Eliud Kipchoge, the GOAT of marathoning. Intentional practices, like the ones he uses, are not just for the pros. Try these simple tips to relax during your next run.
Mentally check your form
Make a practice of doing a body scan regularly during your training runs, checking your body for tension. Our form tends to start to fall apart when we tense up as we try to hit interval splits or get fatigued. Checking in both gives you a mental break from worrying about pace and can help you loosen up any tight spots. Starting with your head, run through key tension spots like your jaw, shoulders, and arms, and note where you feel any tightness or awkwardness. Check that your arms are swinging loosely. After a bit of practice, this will become a habit and you’ll find yourself naturally adjusting your runs for ease.
Relax your face (try smiling!)
Kipchoge is famous for smiling throughout his races. Research suggests that runners who smile while exercising improve their running economy, use less oxygen, and have a lower rate of perceived exertion. You may feel silly at first, but you’ll run more smoothly and maybe even manage to pull off that elusive great race photo. Try smiling at other people out exercising as you pass by.
Take a deep breath, shake it out, and reset
Whenever you note that you’ve accidentally tensed up, take a deep breath, release your shoulders, and give your arms a shake. Focus on your breath for a few moments, trying to breathe consistently rather than in short bursts, and from your belly. If you’re still finding that you’re consistently feeling tight and uncomfortable during runs, try incorporating a short (two minutes is enough) breathing practice before or after workouts, or just before bed, making your breaths full and long. Bonus: you’ll sleep better, which in turn will help you run with less effort.