Steveo was all smiles as he takes the win at Hyattsville. © Keith Hower
Whether it’s struggling up a steep hill or pushing through the final leg of a race, muscle fatigue can take its toll when you’re trying to perform. Pain and fatigue are signals your muscles send to the rest of your body, the idea that you should stop or give up is a natural response. Really pushing yourself is an unpleasant experience, but it turns out, a quick smile can make things just a little bit better.
Way back in Issue 10, we interviewed Josh Horowitz, a licensed coach and founder of Broken Bones Garage, for a piece on training your brain. In one of his latest podcasts, he says that smiling can give you just that little bit of an edge to help you push through the next hard section of a ride. From a psychological standpoint, a smile (even a forced one) can counter the negative signals your body sends out to get you to stop. You don’t normally smile when something negative is happening to you.
The body’s natural response to negative stimuli (pain, danger, etc.) is to get the source to stop, but when you’re racing for position, stopping or slowing down just isn’t an option. Though it may only give you a small boost, the physical act of smiling has a positive association that the brain has formed over time. Though your body might disagree with the idea, a dumb smile can tell your brain that it’s not all that bad, that you can make it up that next climb—or over that next set of barriers.
When you think about it, laughing in the face of adversity or danger isn’t something new. Just keeping a positive attitude can help make any situation more bearable, and this tip keeps this concept at its core. In an extreme version of this concept, the military actually trains against torture and interrogation by encouraging soldiers to laugh it off (among other things, of course).
So the next time you find yourself struggling against yourself telling you to stop when you can’t afford to, just try smiling.
Have a time where that helped? Let us know below in the comments!