Running On The Beach: Our Easy Guide To Beach Running
Everyone loves the beach!
The combination of miles and miles of pristine sand, calm waves lapping the shore, and a cool breeze to temper the hot sun is a fantastic oasis for runners.
You’re getting excited just thinking about it, right?
We’ve got good news. Beach running has even more benefits than the incredible experience. Sand surfaces offer higher energy costs and lower impact training, which can positively impact performance on harder surfaces.
Benefits of Running On The Beach
1. Less Impact
Sand has far less impact on your feet, ankles, and knees. This means there will be less strain on your lower body and back as you run on the beach.
Running on sand also gives your calf muscles an effective workout without the risk of impact injuries, and can also reduce the risk of shin splints.
You’ll want to test barefoot running as well as a normal run with your shoes to see which variation offers your leg muscles a better workout.
2. Strengthens Muscles
There are small muscles in your lower body, particularly in your foot and ankle which we are not used to using when we run on a road or trail.
On the beach, your body is forced to use these small muscles for stability. By strengthening these muscles, you are guarding yourself against muscle imbalances as well as injury.
Plus, running on the beach forces the quadriceps, glutes, and hip flexors to engage more than they do during your normal run.
3. Limits Muscle Damage & Soreness
Research has shown that sand training may in fact limit muscle damage and soreness when compared to hard surface training.
This isn’t to say you won’t be sore after a beach run though.
For best outcomes, sand workouts should be used during structured training sessions with predefined workloads. Also, sand should be considered for periods of intensified training since training intensity can be achieved without additional detriment to next-day performance.
4. Burns More Calories
Studies suggest running on a beach requires 1.15X more mechanical work than running on a hard surface. It may not be much, but the added exertion can add up to a lot.
5. Change the space, change the feeling
Changing running surfaces or running routes is not only good for you physically, but it’s good for you mentally, too. Instead of running the same roads all the time, you can enjoy the sun, ocean breeze, and sound of waves crashing, offering a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.
6. Builds More Power
According to a study from the University of Western Australia, when running on the beach, a runner has to push into the sand with more force; therefore building more power than he would when running on other surfaces.
7. Immediately Cool Off
You’re not going to run on the beach and then skip the jump into the ocean, right?
Running on sand often means an easy cool-down spot, just a few feet away. Take advantage of it when you can!
Precautions While Running On The Beach
- Uneven surfaces mean more pressure on the foot muscles, ankles, knees, and hamstrings, leading to an increased risk of injury. Take precautions like additional stretches and be aware of what your body is telling you.
- Because the sand allows increased pronation, the risk of posterior shin pain is much higher. You may want to consider wearing your shoes for support if you’re susceptible to overpronation or under-pronation.
- Feet have a tendency to grasp the sand and stretch in strange ways, so if you run too often in this way, it can potentially lead to plantar fasciitis. Once again, consider wearing shoes for extra support.
- If you’re going to run on packed sand, which is closer to the water, you may have to pay attention to the inclined shoreline as one-foot lands faster than the other. Try to run on an even surface.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It will be hot and dry, so anticipate your body needing more water than normal.
- The dry sand will often dry your feet out, sometimes causing blisters. Take note of any early signs of irritation and of course use running shoes if you have concerns.
- Beaches are often hot. Duh. So take precautions when running in the sun by applying sunscreen. Or take the extra step and wear a visor or running hat.
Extra Beach Running Tips
- Beginner beach runners should start on the hard, wet sand which is typically next to the water. The deeper the sand the harder the run.
- Run during low tide. The water will have created that compressed sand that is ideal for beach running.
- Allow your body some time to adapt to running on the sand. Muscle soreness is inevitable for beginners but the last thing you need is muscle damage.
- Scope out the beach or read about it online ahead of your run. You may find that the beach is littered with shells and trash, which could be risky to run on. When in doubt, wear a pair of running shoes.
- A lightweight trail running shoe is the best choice for beach running. But there are also other options to consider like minimalist running sandals.
- Leave the headphones at home. We mentioned the calming sound of waves earlier. Take the entire experience in without the distraction of music or podcasts.
- If you happen to be around sand dunes, take advantage of them with sand-hill assents. Run up until it gets too hard to continue and then jog down to catch your breath. A set of 15 will be a fantastic hill workout.
A Training Plan For Your Next Beach Run
Here’s a simple sand running workout to try the next time you’re at the beach.
Warm-Up – 10 minutes on the hard-packed sand – accelerate over the span of that 10 minutes to reach a training pace where you can comfortably talk out loud
For the next 10 minutes, maintain your pace but go from the hard-packed sand to the softer sand every 2 minutes.
Turn back around but stay on the soft sand for 5 minutes, transitioning to the hard sand for the next 5 minutes.
Finish the run with a cooldown on the soft sand.
Final Thoughts On Beach Running
Like any unstable surface, you’re going to need extra time to acquaint yourself with new training surfaces and recover after the run.
When in doubt, consult with your running coach or personal trainer to assess your ability and devise a training plan that includes beach running.
If you don’t have a running coach, join RunnerClick Pro today to get access to top running coaches, race prep guides, expert interviews, and a global network of passionate runners. We’ve got a lot of beach running experience in the community.
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