Although running requires concentration like many physical activities, a degree of relaxation is also required for optimal success. While a tense facial expression reflects the physical and mental energy you’re channeling into your form, the expression may actually be doing more harm than good. “Tension in the facial region can often translate down into the shoulders, upper back and arms … [so] there’s a good chance your shoulders are up by your ears, and your arms are held in a stiff, tight alignment as well,” Janet Hamilton, clinical exercise physiologist, told Livestrong. She explains that running with tense muscles can actually slow your pace rather than quicken it.
To achieve relaxation while jogging, runners should consider donning a smile while exercising. A 2018 study published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal examined the levels of exertion in 24 skilled runners after they were asked to complete a series of running tasks while displaying different facial expressions. The research indicated that the smiling runners ran more efficiently and with lower rates of fatigue than runners who wore a frown. Next time you hit the pavement, throw on your favorite pair of sneakers along with a smile, and you may just find yourself running like the wind.