That’s where my high-school smiling trick comes in. Despite the fact that the mile is a challenging—I’d even say painful race (or miserable, depending on who you talk to)—by curling my lips into a grin, I tricked my brain into being more happy and relaxed, which helped me switch off my overthinking mind in order to more efficiently drop into the automatic one I needed to race well.
What’s more, a study out of the University of Kansas found that smiling may actually help lower your heart rate and reduce overall stress. While this is a beneficial daily-life hack, when it comes to racing, it could certainly translate to faster—and also more pleasantly memorable—finish times.
“Sometimes you just have to fake it 'til you make it,” says Darcy Piceu, an elite mountain ultrarunner who lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado. “Even if you feel terrible. It’s all about your outlook.”