Stop Pressure From Sabotaging Your Running: RELAX

Let’s talk about runners, pressure, stress, and how to be faster by just relaxing. I recently wrote an article for “Run Relaxed to Your Next Personal Best”.

running fortune cookie

Keep the circle running on the track, not the ruminating doubts.

The thing is, it’s often times that runners WANT to run faster so badly that they end up shooting themselves in the foot. The stress of TRYING so hard is the very thing that winds up slowing them down. A runner then gets even more frustrated, TRIES harder, and usually gets slower. It’s a vicious cycle but typically one that every runner at some point gets stuck in.

Getting unstuck is a lot harder, because telling someone to ‘try less’ isn’t quite right; more correctly you need to ‘strain less’. But learning how to ‘try’ without the ‘strain’ is a complicated matter…it all comes back to that runner brain and the mindset you’re running with.


What a runner in angst WANTING to run faster has to do is, basically, stop wanting it so freaking hard. Crazy, right? Let me explain the chain of events:

1) Runner is worried about a tough workout. They take those nerves into overdrive and cross the line into ruminating about paces, splits, etc.
2) Rumination turns into STRESS. They’re so wound up about the workout or race, they doubt if they’re capable, they worry they’ll fail.
3) Nerves, turn to stress, and then to PRESSURE. They load themselves up with so much pressure, it’s kind of like they are putting a weight-vest on themselves.

Being so worried and stressed is the kiss of death. It’s hard to describe WHERE the line is between enough nerves to propel your performances forward and then too much so that it kills your performances, so we often look for external cues.

runner on track

Think of cake if that makes you relax!

Get Relaxed

1) Run Relaxed: This applies to form and physically ensuring that you’re not harboring extra tension. The article describes those four major points and how to relieve that tension. Often time, shaking out your tight shoulders or jaw acts as a ‘reset’ button and can get you back on track.

2) Mentally Relax: Usually it’s a build-up of stress that leads to over-thinking and stressing over every workout or run. If you get to that point think of ways to get back to having fun with your running, suggestions HERE.

3) Stay in Check: Before you get to the point of freaking out before each workout catch yourself early. Practice running where your mind is on keeping good form, staying smooth and strong, repeating mantras [I am strong], and staying confident in yourself as a runner. This line of thinking sets you up to ‘try’ the right amount because you’re not consciously telling yourself to TRY.

It sounds so backwards, but next time you start berating yourself over a missed split STOP. Take a deep breathe, try a ‘reset’ technique, and don’t try so flipping hard. RELAX and RUN.

1) When was a time when you were trying so hard you got in your own way?

2) How did you get yourself back on track and ‘try’ the right amount?

3) How do you catch yourself if you notice you’re starting to over-think things and put too much stress and pressure into running?
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23 thoughts on “Stop Pressure From Sabotaging Your Running: RELAX

  1. OK – my comment isn’t really about this post. I clicked over to the publication where you had this published and saw the note at the bottom about the author (you). Dang – I’m beyond impressed!!!! National record in the 5K?!?! You are a running rockstar (the best kind!!!)!

  2. Love it. Don’t I always say that?! Stupid brain. Why can’t we just run, really fast, and enjoy it?

    If I’m starting to over-think it, I try to bring it back to what I really want – to get to run, have fun, and look at how much I can do that I couldn’t before.

    When I start getting into my own head too much, I usually ease off the running a little and do some cross-training that I like – until I’m ready to get back into it.

    • ya, it’s the blessing/curse of a distance runner mentality. riding the fine line between thinking enough and then not ruining it for ourselves! 😛

  3. Yep I’m with Kate – Stupid Brain.

    Great post. Funny how the thing that often relaxes us (running!) often can work us up in to a tizz. I think this happened at that last 5km race I did when it was quite hot. I never relaxed into that run (which I know 5km aren’t about chilling out) but I think I ripped my performance off by over-stressing it when the conditions didn’t go my way. Defnitely can’t let that happen for the next race – One chilled out runner coming up! ;=)

    • so true!! there are a few running contradictions (if that’s the right word) and this is certainly one…where running can be the thing to release the tension, unless we take it too far. 😛 and YES for a chillaxing runner. 😉

  4. When I start overthinking things, the result is usually worry. It’s the worry/stress over the workout that I start to notice. I combat this by threatening myself, more or less: Running is supposed to be a release/relaxation. If it’s causing you stress, you’re going to have to stop running.

    I basically make the conscious decision NOT to think/worry/obsess about my workouts. I’ll deal with them once I lace up my sneakers, but not before then. Usually, this helps keep the over-thinking at bay (for awhile!). 🙂

  5. There was a period in my “running life” were all I though about was beating everyone in the races I took part in! I started to dread my runs and the whole time I was definitely not running relaxed. I had forgotten the joys of running and why I started! I stopped racing and began running for the love of it! I now run to help RELAX. It clears my mind and allows me to sort things out. Its great.

    • yea, i think many runners have gone thru periods where they suck the fun out of their running…i’m always so happy to hear when runners are able to turn that around BEFORE they ruin the sport for themselves…great job!

  6. This is so true! It is the times I over-think things that I end up running really badly – this morning for example I was super conscious of running on my forefront or my heel and as a result I couldn’t hit any sort of stride! I think there’s a place for focusing on form and speed, of course, but having it the only thing you’re thinking about when doing a long run is a recipe for a poor run in my experience!

  7. This is a great post. Now I am a “run with the pack” runner, no big competitions for me except the ones I have with myself. But I do find that in the middle of a training cycle I will totally over think things and it completely affects my runs. I have to remind myself that I don’t want to get injured and that it’s all about having fun and being healthy, the mental side is so tough sometimes.

    • hey, no matter where u are in the pack of a race u’re always out there and putting the effort in. running is often times a race with yourself…a BIG part of that is mental. keep up the great work!

  8. Pingback: How to run "relaxed" | Teach to Run

  9. So I am looking into another topic on running I’ve been exploring. Visualization. Just came across your Competitor article on the topic but for some reason I am unable to post the link in here. You are really on top of these underexplored areas!

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