Want to Run Faster? Learn to Relax

One of the keys to optimal running performance is relaxation. A relaxed mind produces a relaxed body—an efficient body, a fast body.

Relaxation has been an important factor in the success of some of the greatest runners in history.

The secret to smoother, faster running is to focus on being relaxed, rather than "efforting" more power. Efforting causes muscles to tighten. Athletes who stay loose run best.

Make some time every day to get into a relaxed mind-body state. Sit in a hot tub, sauna or steam room. Listen to restful music. Practice yoga, meditation or visualization. This will make it easier to relax during a run or race.

Relaxing while you're running seems incongruous to most runners, but it's easily accomplished. Here's what to do when you begin feeling tight and tense.

  • Let your jaw slacken and your eyes soften and droop. Facial muscles control the degree of tension in the entire body. Relax the face and you'll relax the body.
  • Keep your upper body perpendicular to the running surface--shoulders back, buttocks forward.
  • Make sure your hands are not clenched but closed softly, as if you are holding eggs.
  • Focus on a smooth stride. Avoid over- and understriding, as they waste energy.
  • Shake out your arms, relax your shoulders, and carry your arms low with elbows firm but not locked.
  • Try this: As you run, repeat the word "calm" or "relax."
  • Don't apply power; float with strength.


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