Does Smiling Make You Run Faster?

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses if smiling makes you run faster during training and racing and how runners, cyclists, OCR, and other endurance athletes can utilize this technique.

Video Transcription:

Can Smiling During Training And Racing Help Runners, Cyclists, OCR, And Other Endurance Athletes Go Faster?

Happy face, sad face, happy face, sad face. Good morning family of fast, Matt Mosman, the chief endurance officer over at EndurElite. Today, we are gonna explore the psychology of the smile, more specifically if smiling periodically during the endurance training and racing can improve performance. Now, sometimes you'll see top level athletes smiling during races. For example, the Olympic gold medalist Mr. Kipchoge can be seen smiling for about 30 seconds from time to time during races. And then people like world class OCR racer Ray [inaudible 00:00:48] can be seen smiling during races. 

Science Says Smiling During Endurance Exercise Improves Performance

Now, are these people really having fun while they're suffering in the pain cave? Probably knowing the both of them, they are, but there may also be another reason behind why they decide to smile during races. And this is because it may actually improve performance. Now, how the heck do we know that, who would be crazy enough to do research on to see if smiling would improve endurance performance or racing? Well, I'm glad you asked because there actually is a study examining this. 

What Happened In The Smiling Study? 

So, here's what happened during the study. The researchers took 24 club level runners, so I'm not just run the mill average Joe runners, more, you know, highly trained runners. And they have them run on the treadmill at 70% of velocity of VO2 max during four different conditions, and here is what happens. So, first the runners ran on the treadmill for six minutes, while smiling, they rested two minutes then they ran on the treadmill again for another six minutes, while frowning, they rested two minutes. 

Then, they ran on the treadmill for another six minutes, while consciously trying to relax their arms and upper body, they rested two minutes. And then in the last six minutes, they ran just like normal, they weren't trying to do anything specific as far as smiling, frowning, relaxing or anything like that. So after they got done with this, the researchers kind of pooled all the data, crunched all the numbers and what they found was actually pretty interesting.

Smiling During Running Improved Economy And Reduced RPE

They found that during the time when the runners smiled periodically during that six minute block that their running economy was improved by 2.8% compared to the frowning group, and 2.2% improvement compared to just the regular running group. So, improved running economy by lowering oxygen consumption at that specific VO2 max or velocity of VO2 max. 

They also found that the runners who smiled periodically also had a lower rating of perceived exertion during that block, meaning the exercise felt a lot easier. Then they also found the condition who frowned actually performed much, much worse when it came to oxygen consumptions and a rating of perceived exertion.

Why Does Smiling During Exercise Improve Running Economy?

So why is this, why is it that smiling periodically during training improves running economy/lowers the oxygen cost of exercise? Well, the researchers think that the smiling promoted a sense of relaxation where the running just became more economical because the person was a lot more relaxed, and that goes the same with the rating of perceived exertion. And this makes sense, there is other studies out there that show, you know, consciously focusing on relaxation during running can improve overall endurance performance.

Smile More, Run Faster

So, what is the take home point for this video, well, it's darn easy. You know, just in general smile more especially during endurance training and racing when things get really, really tough. Don't give a grimace and like "I'm gonna fuck you up kind of stare if you cheer me on anymore," but go ahead and smile for 30 seconds from time to time when you're really suffering, and you may see an improvement in your overall endurance performance, and people will just think it more friendly anyways. 

So, that is all I have for today my endurance friends, if you have a frowny friend who is like that during races, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition, and supplementation, please subscribe to our EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and the EndurElite Facebook training and nutrition club page. And until next time family of fast stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.