By: Val Zeps
We often see runners during races, who have such an intense, pained expression that you swear they’ll burst a blood vessel any minute. They are trying hard, and it shows. But all that extra energy is probably not getting them to the finish line any faster. In fact, it may be slowing them down. The extra energy expended in keeping these non-essential muscles taut does not translate into improved performance. The great coach, Arthur Lydiard, put it this way:
When I start to train athletes, the first thing I teach them is to run relaxed. When we go for long runs, we learn to run relaxed. Always relax, relax, relax, teach them to relax.
–from a talk he gave in Osaka, Japan in 1990.
The next question then is "how do you learn to run relaxed?" In part, the answer lies in paying attention to your body, feeling where the forces are needed and where they are not. A simple example is in the face and hands. There is never a reason to run with a clenched jaw or fist. Learning to control these tendencies will help you to loosen up in other areas, as well. Hunched shoulders are another prime example. Here are a few more links to help you think about how to run looser and, hopefully, faster.
A final note: running relaxed also stems from running with confidence. And confidence, in turn, comes from having control and sure-footedness. These point back to previous tips on paying attention to your core and to improving your balance. All these aspects are interrelated.
So relax! There's nothing worth getting uptight about here.