Whether burying siblings under mounds of sand or digging for days in search of water, most of us have fond memories of the beach as kids. As we move into the summer months you may be back on the sandy shores for your summer break with family or friends, and if you’re lucky enough to live near the coast then you may just be able to grab some beach time for your workouts too.
There are many differences between running on roads and the beach, but the biggest for me is headspace. I love the freedom that a beach run gives you. The freedom that the coastline offers and the fact that you are right at the heart of nature. The landscape is ever changing and it’s this that gives me that sense of freedom.
There’s also an added benefit of running on the beach; You’re likely to burn up to 30% more calories than on the road or treadmill. So how do you get started?
As with any exercise, the first step to good beach running is preparation. The number one priority for any outdoor running is to protect yourself from UV rays. The beach offers no protection from the sun so be smart and use a good sunscreen. Use a hat and glasses to protect your neck, face, and eyes from any glare that the sun or water may cause.
It can be tempting to jump in and perform your usual running routine but you’ll have to get used to the idea that you’ll be running at a slower pace. This is all down to the fact that as the sand moves under your feet it provides extra resistance. As well as slowing your speed you may need to cut back on your usual distance too. The sand presents more of a physical challenge than say, a treadmill, so you should gradually build up your strength and stamina over time.
I always like to start the first part of every beach run on harder sands that are closer to the water’s edge. This gives time for your muscles to warm up properly and adjust to the different surface. In the same way you would perform a high-tempo interval session, you should do alternate intervals of running on the harder and softer sand. Once you have completed your warm-up you can start with 1 to 2-minute intervals on soft sand, then switch to the hard, wet sand for three to five minutes at the same pace (using the wet sand as your recovery period). Stick to shorter runs and build up gradually until you adapt to the soft sand.
I like to keep a specific pair of runners just for beach workouts. Sand can be very annoying and uncomfortable in runners when you are not on the beach. So do yourself a favour from the start and dedicate one pair of your older runners to beach workouts.
At the end of a beach session, I always run about 1km barefoot. This is another technique that needs to be built up gradually but it has great strengthening properties for the arches, bones, and muscles in your lower legs and feet and you will find it difficult to get a more efficient exercise for this sort of conditioning.
Every time you plant your foot on the ground the strength of your foot is tested. If it is weak than the immobility that is produced during the foot strike will be transferred upwards and may throw a strong body out of alignment quite easily. Your feet are your foundations for running and should be trained to provide a strong, stable platform for you to run on. Just be very careful where you run barefoot and be mindful of broken glass and sharp sea shells – it’s important to concentrate on your foot placement.
Then it’s into the water for me. Knee deep and a slow walk for about 5 minutes helps start the recovery plan. That’s followed by my post workout recovery stretches because as you well know – the best way to be ready for your next session is to repair correctly after your last session.
The repair and relaxation of the foot is very important and you can do these two simple exercises as they will greatly enhance recovery.
- Place a tennis ball under your foot and gently roll the ball all over the sole. When you locate a sore point, stop there and apply pressure with the ball into that area.
- Soak your feet in a basin of hot water with half a cup of Epsom salts dissolved in it, for ten minutes, once a week.
This foot soak is ideal after a beach run, a long run or even after a long day at work.