The Benefits of Shakeout Runs

Plus, dos and don’ts to keep in mind ahead of race weekend.


A shakeout run a day or two before a half or full marathon is a great way to prime your body for what’s to come. It’s also a great time to make meaningful connections with other runners who trained for months to show up to the start. This is why a host of brands and running groups encourage you to join them for a few easy kilometres before you toe the line.

A shakeout run can also provide exactly what you need to calm your race-weekend nerves.

To help you get the most of your shakeout, here are the benefits you can gain, plus a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

The Benefits of Shakeout Runs
A shakeout run means clocking a few kilometres at an easy pace a day or two before a half or full marathon. With a few precautions in mind, it can benefit you both mentally and physically.

“There’s activation, there’s mobility, there’s recovery, and all those things come together to create a great performance,” says Emily Booth, member of the NASM scientific advisory board, personal trainer, marathoner, and eight-time Boston Marathon finisher. Shakeout runs fall into the activation category. They can help promote blood flow, neurological activation, and neuromuscular activation, which is really helpful for runners who’ve been tapering for a marathon, Booth explains.

In short, shakeout runs are great for improving your mind-body connection the day before a race, helping you set a rhythm that will come in handy on race day. Plus, these quick and easy runs get your muscles ready to go for your race performance. For those who’ve spent a long time sitting while traveling via car or plane before a race, it’s extremely beneficial because a shakeout run can help loosen tense muscles, Booth adds.

Shakeout runs are also known for bringing runners together and fostering a sense of community, especially the day before big races like The Two Oceans or Comrades marathon. “There’s this unspoken energy about meeting with people, sometimes it’s described as electric and that emotion can be very uplifting,” says James McKirdy, the founder and head coach of McKirdy Training. Plus, it’s an experience you likely won’t forget.

Dos and Don’ts of Shakeout Runs

Do Go Slow
Consider your body’s glycogen stores as your personal energy bank account — you can only make so many withdrawals before you have to refill your account, says Booth. While it’s important to go for a shakeout run at least the day before a marathon to activate your muscles, stay aware of your pace, so you don’t over do it and have trouble replenishing your glycogen stores before your event, she adds. This means running your shakeout at an easy pace.

“If you’re going to run with other people, you should be able to hold a full conversation without huffing and puffing at all,” says Amanda Nurse, owner and founder of Wellness and Run Coaching, and 25-time marathoner.

Booth agrees, suggesting you pay attention to your breathing rate and muscle activation, as burning muscles can also indicate you’re running too fast. Think of your shakeout run effort as no faster than your slowest long run, adds Booth, who recommends aiming for a 3 out of 10 effort on the rate of perceived exertion scale, and staying within zone 1 or 2 if you’re monitoring your heart rate.

Most importantly, remember that a group setting can bring high energy, but being a smart runner means knowing and sticking with your own pace. “Nobody wins the shakeout run, no one wins the warm-up, and that’s what you’ve got to remember,” Booth says.

Don’t Spend Too Much Time On Your Feet
Account for the time you spend walking around and attending other race-related events over the weekend, so you can limit how much time you spend on your feet. McKirdy recommends choosing at most three race weekend events, especially if you’re running in a big city marathons

“It’s really easy to walk kilometres and kilometres on your feet the two or three days leading into the race,” says McKirdy. If it’s a walkable city, you can easily add thousands of steps to your day, which can be a shock to your body if you don’t typically walk that much, he adds. And that can affect your race performance.

Do Stick With Your Training Schedule
“If you don’t typically run the day before your long run or workout and that’s more of a cross-training day or a recovery day, keep it the same,” says Nurse. That means if a shakeout run won’t feel good to you, skip it.

Walking for up to 30 minutes, cycling at a low intensity for about 10 minutes, or running a 5K at an easy pace two days before a race are great alternatives to a shakeout run the day before, Nurse says. Just make sure you take the day off the next day, she adds.

Don’t Judge Your Potential By Your Shakeout Run Performance
Remember: The shakeout run is designed to help you “shake out” your muscles, which requires an easy pace. It’s also a good time to shake out any race jitters, so you can get into a positive mindset, if you haven’t done so already, for race day. It’s not the time to see how fast you can run and use it as a race day predictor.

If you do want to get the legs turning over faster though, Nurse recommends adding a couple of 20- to 30-second strides at a quicker pace, followed by a very slow pace or even a walk to the end of your shakeout run. This can help ease your nerves around performance, she says.

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