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

Chances are that if you’ve been running for a little while, you’ve heard the phrase “shakeout run” before, and you might want to know more about them and whether or not you should start incorporating them into your routine.

In this article, we’ll discuss just that. What is a shakeout run? What are the benefits of a shakeout run? What types of runners should be doing shakeout runs? By the end, you should definitely know if it’s something you should be doing!

What is a Shakeout Run?

There is a lot of different advice out there about the best procedures for a shakeout run. But there is broad consensus in three areas.

How Long is It?

Typically, shakeout runs last 10 – 30 minutes, and they are a very light jog. Very light. Whatever length you chose should be less than 50% of your typical daily mileage.

Often a longer time works great for a 5k or 10k. Shorter times such as 10-15 minutes work better for a half or full marathon. Either way, you’ll likely end up jogging for just a little over a mile if you do a shakeout before a longer race.

When Do I Do A Shakeout Run?

Typically shakeout runs are done in the morning a few hours before you race, right after you get up. Some experts recommend 2 to 2.5 hours before the start of the race. Others prefer to do shakeout runs just a little bit before the actual race starts.

For example, I’ve seen elite 5k runners who will do a shakeout run of the entire course and then run it again less than an hour later for the actual race! This serves an additional purpose: scout the course and learn its turns, hills, shady spots, etc.! If you’re not sure about a run or a jog, you can always do a walk just to get your blood pumping.

If you had to travel to your race location, you might want to do a shakeout run the day before your race, especially if you’ve been on a plane or in a car for a while.

Finally, you can also do a post-race shakeout run later in the day after a hard race. These are no different than pre-run shakeouts. Lightly jog for a 10-30 minutes. Very lightly. The idea for this post-race shakeout is to help stimulate blood flow and get all the stuff in your legs (like lactic acid) flushed out.

How Hard Should I Run?

Not hard at all. At all. You don’t want to wear yourself out before the race. The idea is just to move a little bit to get your leg muscles warmed up and ready to go.

Think about it as warming up your car on a cold day. For it to function optimally, it’s best if it warms up instead of starting it and leaving for your destination right away. Think about the first mile of a typical run. It takes a few minutes for your body to get itself in gear, get into breathing rhythm, and so on. A shakeout run gets this done before the starting gun, so your body is ready to work hard.

While it’s good to have a little bit of an elevated VO2 before starting your race as this will boost your performance, you shouldn’t be even in Zone 3. Even going too deeply into Zone 2 is not what a shakeout is for. Aim for a light Zone 1 and save your hard efforts for the race itself.

What are the Benefits of a Shakeout Run?

Shakeout runs can have a lot of benefits. Experiment through trial and error and figure out what works for you. Start trying shakeout runs that are on the shorter side and seeing how it impacts your performance for races.

Some people see benefits for shorter races, but not longer races. Others are completely the opposite. It’s all about figuring out what’s best for you. However, once you figure that out, here are some benefits you will likely experience:

Increases Blood Flow

The main reason to do a shakeout run is to get your blood flowing and your body warmed up so that you’re flexible and ready to go for your race. Shakeout runs will increase your VO2, which can lead to better performance if you don’t overdo it. (Note: VO2 is your current oxygen uptake; it is not the same as VO2 Max, which measures the upper limit of your oxygen uptake. Shakeout runs will not increase VO2 Max – use intervals and tempo runs during your training cycle for that)

Gets Rid of Pre-Race Jitters

No matter how many races you’ve run, pre-race jitters are a fact of the running lifestyle. Whether you’re trying to PR, or it’s the first time you’ve done this particular race, the hours before a race are always a little stressful.

We all know that exercise can help boost your mood. A light shakeout run can help you step outside of those fearful and unsure thoughts and give you something simple to focus on. This mental separation might be everything you need to get your head back in the game.

Wakes Body Up

If you’re a morning person, great! But if you’re not, shakeout runs done the morning of your race can help to wake you up. I know I’m always super groggy in the mornings and need time to wake up. There’s nothing like starting your day with a nice light jog, especially if the sun is rising!

Gives You an Opportunity to Preview the Course

If you do a shakeout run before a 5k or 10k, (especially a 5k), you have the opportunity to preview the course so you know exactly where you should be for the turns. You’ll run a better, more efficient line so that you don’t turn a 5k into a longer race!

Plus, it’s always helpful to know where it’s shaded, where the hills are, where the water stops are supposed to be, and so on.

Side note: I would definitely recommend previewing the course for a longer race, too. If it’s on the road, drive around the day before. I’ve done that several times, and it always helps me up my mental game because I know what to expect.

Helps with Your Bladder

Finally, shakeout runs can help move along the bathroom process. Typically, it can be a little challenging to get your systems going if you’re nervous, but a shakeout run will take care of that several hours before the race. Just make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get to the bathroom!

Who Should Be Doing Shakeout Runs?

Everyone! Really, anyone can do a shakeout run, but you definitely want to make sure that you know what you’re doing so it doesn’t backfire. Thus, more experienced runners are typically the people who do shakeout runs.

If you’re a novice and still interested, you might want to see if any of your friends who are more experienced runners have any tips before you try a shakeout run. Shakeout runs are especially useful before shorter races because they can get your body ready to run.

Finally, shakeout runs are great for runners at a large marathon who are unable to do a proper warm-up at the race location itself. This is especially important if you’ve traveled a long way for your race.

Concluding Thoughts

In the end, there’s a good chance that a shakeout run might be something that you want to add to your running repertoire. Try it at your next 5k and see how it goes! If you perform better than you were expecting, then maybe you might want to keep the habit.

The Wired Runner