Relaxation Exercises for Runners

Relaxation exercises can help you identify and remove tension from your body. Studies show that a tensed body uses more energy than a relaxed body. It is essential for runners to run in a relaxed state in order to achieve their maximum efficiency and to avoid injuries.

In order to relax your body during running, you need to know what it truly feels like to have your body in a relaxed state. Initially, practice relaxation exercises when you are not running. They will help you recognize the tension in your body more easily. It is only when you become aware of tension that you are able to release it.

While you are running, check that your gaze is soft and gentle. Smile softly. Notice if you are resisting anything about the run, i.e. the temperature, the distance, hills. Resistance creates tension and stress. As you increase your awareness of resistance, you will be able to recognize it and let it go. This is essential to running in a relaxed state.

"The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be."

     -- Bruce Lee

Try the following video exercise from to help you learn how it feels to totally relax your muscles. Do it as often as you feel necessary. 

Relaxation Exercises for Relaxed Strength

You want to preserve your energy for running--not to use it to hold tension in your body. You can only reach your maximum efficiency when you are totally relaxed. 

You can develop the skill to use your strength while remaining relaxed. It takes practice and awareness, but well worth the effort. You will not only become a more efficient runner, but because you are not holding tension, you greatly reduce the risk of injury and your muscles will be looser and will not require as much stretching.

Relaxation Exercises for Runners

Utilizing your relaxed strength is particularly helpful when more effort is required to run and train, such as when running uphill or doing speed work. These are also great opportunities to enhance your awareness of any tension present in your body. 

The following exercise is from Body Mind Mastery: Training For Sport and Life by Dan Millman. This exercise really helped me understand and get a feel for how to be strong and soft at the same time. There are many other great relaxation exercises and practices throughout this book that can help you discover your potential and natural athletic abilities.

Excerpt from Body Mind Mastery: Training For Sport and Life:


Test 1. Hold your right arm out in front of you, fist clenched, arm slightly bent, with your wrist on your partner's shoulder. Your partner puts one hand on the crook of your elbow and gradually begins to push down, in order to bend your arm (in the direction it normally bends, or course). You resist, tensing your arm.

Shake your arm loose before Test 2.

Test 2. Standing balanced, place your wrist on your partner's shoulder as before, this time with your fingers extended and spread.

Your partner will again begin pushing downward gradually, as if to bend your arm.

This time, however, you'll remain free of tension. Let your arm be totally relaxed, yet strong--not like a wet noodle. You do this by imagining a powerful flow of energy, like water gushing through a hose, continually flowing through your arm and out the ends of your extended fingers, shooting right through the wall for a thousand miles.

Let your awareness flow with the energy, continuing past your partner's arm. As your partner begins to push more, imagine an increase in the power of the flow balancing the pressure.

Experiment with this exercise, and see if you begin to feel a new kind of relaxed strength.

This relaxation exercise teaches you how to use your muscles more efficiently with less tension and effort. Visualizing the flow of energy helps develop effective and relaxed strength.

Throughout the day, whenever you feel tension, shake it loose and breathe deeply to relax. As your awareness of tension increases, you will be more in tune with your body and quickly notice when it is feeling tense. 

You may mistake this as an increase in tension, but it is not. You are just becoming more sensitive to it, which is the first step to having a more relaxed and tension-free body. You are getting ready to use your relaxed strength to run efficiently and injury free!

Related articles:

How to Relax While Running

Body Awareness

Running Psychology 

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