What Is a Shakeout Run? And Should You Be Doing Them?

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When you’ve been training for a long race like a half or full marathon, it’s common for training plans to include a rest day right before the big race.

But some coaches suggest bucking that trend and doing a “shakeout run” the day before. For experienced runners, it might be just the thing you need to loosen up your muscles to help you run faster and with more energy.

But they’re not ALWAYS the right thing. So, how do you know when a shakeout run is a good idea and when it’s a bad idea?

Here’s our everything-you-need-to-know guide to these training runs and why you might want to add them to your pre-race training.

What is a Shakeout Run?

A shakeout run is a short, easy run just before a race. It’s meant to loosen up the muscles, get the blood flowing, and “shake out” any nerves or stiffness.

Shakeout runs can be done the day before or the morning of your race. This is usually down to the race distance and your experience. If you’re a new-ish runner doing a long race, you probably want to do a shakeout run the day before. For shorter races, more experienced runners might do one the morning of.

It might also be influenced by travel—a shakeout run can be a great way to loosen you up after being cramped in a car or plane!

Why Should You Do a Shakeout Run?

A shakeout run can help you physically and mentally prepare for a race. It’s less of a workout and more of a way to sharpen your focus to get race-ready. Here’s why:

Wakes You Up

If you’re not a morning person, a shakeout run can help clear your head. If possible, you can do your shakeout run on part of the course to get a feel for what the race will be like.

Mental Reset

A quick and easy shakeout run can be a great opportunity to clear your mind and run out some pre-race nerves. Runners who get nervous before races can use it as a mental shakeout—a time to relax, focus, and loosen up physically and mentally.

Not only does it burn off some jittery energy, but it’s also the perfect time to be mindful, and remind yourself of your goals and abilities.

Loosening Up Muscles

With good blood flow, a bit of a warm-up, and an easy run, your muscles will release any stiffness that may have been lingering.

Stiff muscles can lead to injury, but loose muscles can move naturally through their range of motion, lowering your chance of injury and improving your performance.

A Shakeout Run Can Aid Digestion

If you’ve got a bit of a nervous stomach, a shakeout run can get your digestive system moving nice and early, so there’s less chance of you having to run to the toilet moments before the race.

When Should You Do a Shakeout Run?

If you’ve had to travel to your race, do your shakeout run roughly 24 hours before the start. This will ease up stiff muscles from traveling and give you plenty of time to rest and recover before your race.

Most running coaches recommend a shakeout run the day before a marathon or half-marathon for experienced runners, as you’ll have plenty of time to recover before hitting the starting line. For shorter races, you could do a shakeout run the day before or the morning of.

You could also do a shakeout run the morning of a half or full marathon but keep it very short. And it should be at least 2 hours before the start of your race to give you plenty of time to rest.

Keep in mind that if you’ve never done a shakeout run before, you might want to do your first one before a shorter, less important race. While it can be beneficial, it’s probably best not to try it for the first time right before your bucket list marathon.

How Long Should a Shakeout Run Be?

Shakeout runs are short. The day before your race, run up to 30 minutes, but don’t go longer, even if you feel great! On the other hand, if you’re doing our run on the morning of race day, stick strictly to 10 or 15 minutes, no more.

What Pace Should You Run At?

As easy as you can go! You aren’t competing against anything here. Take it as easy as you possibly can in terms of pace—this should be like a recovery run. Your perceived effort should feel like you’re not doing anything at all.

Example of a Shakeout Run Routine

Ready to start doing shakeout runs? Here’s how to structure them so you can get the best results.

Get Up Early

Whether you’re doing your run the day before or on race day, get up early and get out the door. The earlier you can get the blood pumping, the better. This will also give you plenty of time to recover.

For shakeout runs the morning of the race, the earlier you’re up, the less rushed your pre-race routine will be, so you’ll be able to ease yourself into the race without panic.

Dynamic Warm-Up (5 to 10 minutes)

Don’t forget to warm up, even though it’s an easy run. A few minutes of brisk walking and dynamic stretching is enough.

The Run (10 to 30 minutes)

Do your run and make an effort to run slower than you feel is comfortable. Don’t go overboard by running too fast or too far—it could ruin your race instead of helping it.

Gear Check (Throughout the Run)

While you’re running, do a mental body scan to make sure there’s no rubbing, chafing, pressure, or discomfort anywhere. This is a great way to center yourself and start preparing mentally too.

Mental Prep (Throughout the Run)

Take the chance to do some mental prep work as well. Remember your goal and think about your reason for doing this race. If you feel nervous, remember the training you’ve done to get to this point. Use affirmations if they work for you.

Cool Down & Stretch (5 to 10 minutes)

Cooling down is also important, even if your run has been easy. Wak for a few minutes and do some static stretching to finish off your shakeout run.

Hydration & Nutrition

You might not need to take any hydration with you on the run, as it’s a short one. You can run on an empty stomach if you’re comfortable with it, especially early in the morning.

If you don’t enjoy running without eating first, grab a very light carby snack, like a bagel and cream cheese, before heading out the door. Make sure to refuel and rehydrate after your run.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Shakeout runs might seem straightforward, but it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are some common errors that can ruin your big race after a shakeout run.

Running Too Far or Too Fast

Your shakeout run should be short in both distance and time. 10 to 20 minutes is more than enough to warm you up, get the circulation going, and get your cardiovascular system working harder.

Going too fast is another easy mistake. You should run at a very easy pace—70 percent or less of your maximum heart rate. Running too fast can deplete too much energy, leaving you drained when you start your big race.

Skipping Your Warm-Up

A shakeout run might be easy and short, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on the warm-up. Take 5 minutes to do a bit of very light walking, something to get the heart rate up. Then, 5 minutes of dynamic stretching to warm those muscles up.

Rushing the Routine

If you’re doing your shakeout run in the morning before your race, give yourself plenty of time. You should do your shakeout at least 2 hours before your race begins.

Any later than that, and you won’t have time to prepare for your race. Rushing through your shakeout run can also have you starting your race a little more anxious and on edge than usual, thanks to the pre-race rush.

Overthinking or Overanalyzing

Your shakeout run is a great opportunity for mental preparation, especially if you’re doing it the morning of the race. But it can also be a time for overthinking, overanalyzing, and worrying.

Make an effort to relax your mind, allow nervous thoughts to float away rather than holding onto them, and focus on something like your breathing or doing a body scan.

Not Listening to Your Body

If your body just isn’t feeling good the day before your run, don’t be afraid to skip the shakeout run. The same goes for morning shakeout runs—if you’re feeling particularly tired or stiff on race day morning, adjust or skip your shakeout run altogether.

Tips for Shakeout Runs

Keep these tips in mind as you run and keep your attention on the purpose of your run. Don’t just run without a purpose, even if it is less intense.

Set Clear Intentions

Intention is underrated. Remember why you’re doing a shakeout run—to loosen up your muscles and improve blood flow. Set the intention upfront that you’re doing a relaxed, easy run and NOT an intense one. Keep your intention in mind as you run.

Keep It Short and Sweet

As tempting as it may be to keep running because you’re feeling great, don’t! Keep your shakeout runs short and sweet—just enough to get the blood flowing and the cardiovascular system working.

Avoid New Exercises

Your shakeout run should be something you’re familiar with – think of it as a shortened recovery run. Avoid trying anything new, like new stretches or warm-up strides you’ve never tried rather than just the same old shakeout run.

Factor in Weather Conditions

Remember that running in hot weather will drain your energy and dehydrate you far quicker than cool weather. You’ll also lose energy if you’re running in wind, so if the weather’s hot or very windy, consider a shorter, less intense run or opting for the treadmill instead.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.