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Shakeout Run Before a Race: Yes or No?

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As an avid runner, I have heard the term “shakeout run” used in two very distinct ways. If you are traveling to a race, which often means sitting for long periods of time either in a car, airplane or airport, your coach may instruct you to go for a shakeout run when you arrive at your destination, which is often the day before your big race.

The other time this type of run refers to is the early morning of race day. The timing of the shakeout run varies by athlete, but some things remain true for most runners.

What Is a Shakeout Run?

A shakeout run is a very early, super easy run on race morning. As early mentioned you get up 3 hours or so before your race, get into some workout gear and head out for a super easy 10-15 minutes.  You don’t need to worry about eating or drinking anything before you go. You won’t be working that hard. 

Just get yourself ready (best case scenario you had all of the needed gear all laid out and ready to go) and run!

How Long Should a Shakeout Run Be?10 minute shakeout run

It can be as short as 10 – 15 minutes. Most coaches agree that a shakeout run should not be longer than 30 minutes maximum. 

If you are looking for an appropriate distance to travel, I cannot give that to you. Why? Because your “easy 10-minute run” will take you a different distance than mine will. That is just the fact of it. 

Rather than trying to run a certain distance, just set a timer. Run out for 6 minutes, then turn around and come back.

What Is The Purpose of This Type of Run?

There are many things that this type of run can help you achieve! Let’s go through them together.

  1. Nerves: Release your nervous energy. The shakeout run is a fantastic way to get that nervous ball in the pit of your stomach under control. Say goodbye to pre-race jitters!
  2. Loosen Your Body: It’s fantastic for loosening up your muscles and ligaments. When you are nervous all night, it is likely you won’t sleep the best. Also, if you traveled to the race, you might be knotted up. The shakeout run helps you work these kinks out.
  3. Blood Flow: Another positive to the shakeout run is you get your blood pumping. This increased blood flow gets your body warmed up and ready to roll. 
  4. V02: Increasing your current oxygen intake which helps you to prepare for the upcoming race. 
  5. Wake Up Call: One of the most important parts for those of us who are not morning people (raises hand) is that a shakeout run helps you to wake up. 
  6. Bathroom Help: It can help you get the pipes moving. Many of us are familiar with the “Gosh I have to poop” feeling that comes with running. It can also wake up your body and get your bladder empty. 
  7. Warm-Up: Sure, you probably have a warm-up routine (at least you should!). However, if you are at a crowded starting line of a huge race, you may not have space for all of your warm-up traditions. The shakeout run can help you in lieu of that process. 

Do Shakeout Runs Work?

Of course they work. If it lacked value, elite runners would not do them. If you read up on the traditions of elites, you may learn that some of them actually jog a part of the course for their shakeout run. That gives another added benefit of the shakeout run: course preview!

do shakepout runs work

Some elites will slowly jog the course of a 5K before they race it with their blazing speed!

Elite runners often do some gentle stretching followed by some stride-outs after their run. That helps them get their body ready. 

Pre-Race Short Run

When committing to a shakeout run on the morning of a race, you are getting up super early to make sure this happens. Ideally, it’s 2 – 2 1/2 hours before gun time. However, it is important to add that every runner is a little bit different. 

As with anything, there are norms, standards and things that work for most people. If you are looking for a personal record and stellar performance on race day, leave nothing to chance. 

What About After a Shakeout Run?

Some runners jump into a warm shower to get their blood flowing even more. Next up is pre-race eating. One of the reasons you want to get moving so early is so you have time to eat and digest the food a little. Hopefully, this also helps you work up the urge for that ever-important poop!

Whatever you do on race day morning, do NOT jump back into bed after the shakeout run. Doing that completely defeats the purpose of the run. You can watch some TV or FaceTime a family member. Stretching is a good idea if you feel like it. 

As you get ready for your race, you may feel you are much more awake and alert than on days you skip the shakeout run. Once you get to the race, you should still do some type of warm-up to get your body back into race mode. Recognizing, of course, that you could end up in a cramped corral for a while. 

Shakeout runs are a great way to get yourself ready for the race. I know to some new runners it seems counterproductive to run before a race, but it works. I promise. 

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