Smiling While Running

woman with white sunvisor running

In her Substack newsletter post entitled “Just Smile and Glide,” Jamie Currie discusses one of her running friends and how he has a beautiful form when he runs, comparing it to that of the legendary Eluid Kipchoge. While I’ve never been a runner – I prefer brisk walks – I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of long-distance running. That sort of endurance has always been beyond my reach with my physical limitations, which are even worse now. But, a key to that endurance is having the right form, and also, smiling.

Yes, smiling while running isn’t just something you do because you love the act of running so much. Actually, there’s a much more practical reason to smile as you run, as Running World noted in their article about why Kipchoge runs while smiling. Smiling doesn’t just help you relax and lessen pain, it has a psychological effect, too. The article reads: “Studies have shown that when we enrich our workout with a smile, we feel that our perceived effort is far less than the effort we exert when we frown while exercising.

Researchers have proven that runners in their trials who have smiled versus those that don’t “used less oxygen, ran more economically, and had a lower perceived rate of exertion than those who frowned and those in the control group.” What’s this difference? According to the results of the studies, those who smiled were 2.8 percent more economical.

Now, you’re likely thinking, what the heck is barely even three percent going to change? In a marathon, that’s a huge difference. That’s 30 seconds to a whole minute difference in finishing, which is significant. The idea is that the effort of smiling is so minor, and it actually saves you energy.

Of course, this is an article being written on the Phoenix Desertsong, so you know that all this information is going to be applied to the rest of us that don’t run marathons as our burning passion. I’ve never thought that people smiled while they worked to be annoying or doing so to hold back tears or harsh words, even if it sometimes seemed that way. But, the old adage that says to do your work with a smile does wonders for lifting your co-workers spirits as well as your own mood.

For years, I smiled when I was truly unhappy or wanted to chew someone out for doing a poor job. I always stuck by the “fake it until you make it” idea of forcing yourself to smile helps you have a more positive outlook on what would otherwise be a drudgery. I actually started writing bits about how I wasn’t going to bother smiling any more because I wanted everyone to know how miserable I was. I didn’t feel like it made much of a difference.

But, the truth is, just as with Kipchoge has taught us, smiling while running a marathon truly does make a difference. Even if that difference is only between 2 and 3 percent, life is a marathon, not a sprint. If we learn to smile not to fake happiness, but rather to put ourselves in a positive space and reflect our desire to “glide,” as Currie talked about, then smiling will have the same effect on our daily work, play, and relaxation. Yeah, that’s not a huge number, but it’s incredible how much a 2 or 3 percent gain compounded over time adds up.

The human body only has so much to give, and I feel consistently that people are giving more than they should for little to no reward. But, if you smile – genuinely – while you go about your business, it’s not only going to help you, but those who interact and even just pass you by. Some will wonder, what’s their problem? But, many more will think, well, they’ve got something going right. Sometimes, the literal only thing going right in your life could be the fact that your heart is beating, your liver is livering, and your lungs are breathing air. Honestly, with what most of us have been through in our lives, sometimes, those facts alone are worth a smile.

Do you ever find yourself smiling as you work? I honestly tend to be far too serious when I write. Should I smile more as I write? I’ll just feel goofy, but if it means writing as many as 3 percent more words, maybe looking like a dumb idiot is worth it. After all, I work from home, so who am I going to annoy?

Honestly, if you start smiling at work, and it annoys people, maybe that alone is it’s own reward. No one can fire you for smiling, right? Right? Right?

Anyway, kudos to Jamie Currie on a great article!

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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