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Face Relaxation

Fun, silly-seeming exercises to help young runners relax their facial muscles and in turn, relax their running.

Objective and overview: Face Relaxation helps students learn to relax their jaw and face muscles, and teaches them that relaxed muscles are better to run with than tensed muscles.

National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standard 1

New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standard 1

Time Required: 10 minutes
Materials: None required

Prepare for the Activity

Watch Face Relaxation below to learn the keys to implementing this activity.


Events Play
Face Relaxation

Teaches runners to relax their jaw and face muscles.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell the students they’re going to do an activity called Face Relaxation. Say something like, “Lots of runners naturally tighten the muscles in their faces and jaws while running—especially when they sprint or are tired. But those muscles don’t help you run, so that’s wasted energy. Today we’re going to do a funny activity to help us remember to stay relaxed and comfortable when we run.”
  • Demonstrate what you mean by tensed facial and jaw muscles: Grit your teeth together and tense your face and jaw muscles. Tell them they don’t want to do that when they run.
  • Then blow air out of your mouth, vibrating your lips and cheeks as you do, and leaving your face and jaw muscles relaxed. Tell them this is what you will call making a motorboat sound or blowing underwater bubbles. When running the jaw should be relaxed enough to make a motorboat sound or blow underwater bubbles.

Conduct the Activity

  1. As they stand in place, have students tense their facial muscles and then relax and make a motorboat sound by blowing air out of their mouths, vibrating their lips and mouths as they do. Have them imitate this sound while jogging in place, briefly making that motorboat sound and then maintaining a relaxed feeling in their faces and jaws.
  2. Do this four or five times, each time starting with the motorboat sound, which should last for just a second or two. Remind them that the focus is on maintaining that relaxed feeling, not on making the sound.
  3. Explain that when running normally, this is not how they should breathe, but that if they find themselves getting tense, they can use this trick to help them relax again.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • A relaxed facial expression with little to no tension in the jaws or face.
  • Students who are blowing air out and continuing to maintain the relaxed feeling.

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Let all the tension out!”
  • “Relax that jaw! Let it drop!”
  • “Blow out like a motorboat!”
  • “Keep that relaxed feeling!”
  • “Let your shoulders relax, too!”

Note: Only give a student one direction at a time.



When you've completed Face Relaxation, talk to your students about their experience with the activity. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • Did you feel the tension in your face when I had you tense your muscles?
  • Why do you think it's not good to run with that tension? (It wastes energy and makes running uncomfortable, and can even make breathing harder.)
  • What did you learn from this about other muscles in your body besides your face and jaw? (They should be relaxed, too, especially hands, shoulders, and neck)


  • Some students may have trouble relaxing while they make a motorboat sound. As an alternative you can use the word “zebra” to help them feel the difference between tense and relaxed facial muscles. Have the students say “ZEEEEE!” for several seconds; as they do, their facial muscles should naturally tense up. Then have them say “BRAAAAAH!” Their muscles will naturally relax as they do so. You might have them also lightly place their hands on their cheeks/jaws as they say both syllables, so they can feel the difference that way.
  • Have the students do laps in a gym or around cones outside, and when you call out “bubbles” (or “zebra” or "motorboat"), they run to you, form a circle, and make the sound, and then resume running their laps.
  • Play a game of “Tension Tag,” where students who are tagged must stand stiffly and full of tension. When someone who has not been tagged yet comes to them and does a loosey-goosey wiggle dance in front of them, they are freed and can rejoin the game. You could have the student who is freeing the tense person say “ZEEEE!” and the tense person say “BRAAAAAH!” to complete the release.

Inclusion Strategies

Classrooms are filled with learners who demonstrate a variety of needs and abilities, including ESL students, those with disabilities, and gifted/talented students. Consider these adaptations as you work to modify the lesson for student success.

  • Make sure you let the students know that the faces they are making are for fun and are not to scare anyone!
  • Tension Tag could also be considered “Freeze” tag, which may be an easier concept for students with intellectual disabilities to understand.
  • Demonstrate a tense face vs. one that is relaxed—include breathing with this activity.


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