Running on the beach can be a great workout when you’re on holiday, but it does have risks. Keep these tips in mind to lessen your chance of injury.
If running is a regular part of your fitness routine, a holiday at the beach can be a great opportunity to train on new terrain in beautiful surroundings. The fresh sea air, the sound of the crashing waves and the long ribbon of sand stretching out in front of you will have you itching to kick off your shoes and set off up the beach.
Running on the beach can be a great workout, but there are a few things you should know before you head out.
While it’s true that sand provides more cushioning than pavement, thus reducing the pounding stress on your legs, running barefoot on sand also brings the potential for different injuries, such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and Achilles problems, due to the unstable surface and lack of support for your feet.
The small stabilization muscles in your joints and feet will be called into action much more, and certain large muscles like your quads, hip flexors and glutes also work harder because of the lack of rebound provided by sand (which is part of what makes running on sand a great resistance workout).
Because the physical demands are so different, it’s best to introduce soft sand running gradually if you’ve been running almost exclusively on the road. Start out by running in shoes (wear tight-fitting moisture-wicking socks and use Vaseline or anti-chafing lubricant to help prevent blisters), and stick to the hard-packed wet sand at the water’s edge (go at low tide or when the tide is receding). Take it easy the first time or two to start building up strength in your feet and ankles and see how your legs react.
You may choose to keep running only on firm sand, or, if you don’t experience any unusual pain, you don’t have weak ankles, and there aren’t a lot of rocks or sharp seashells on the beach, you can switch to barefoot running and start adding in short stretches on soft sand.
When you’re running on soft sand, you expend about one and a half times more energy than when running on a hard surface, meaning that you can work off those big holiday meals much more quickly. Don’t expect to be able to run as far or as fast as you would on a firmer surface — just a few minutes on soft sand may be enough to wear you out.
Regardless of whether you’re running on hard or soft sand, try to run on the flattest part of the beach. Especially if you’re putting in a lot of miles, running on a slope can create imbalances; to help minimize these potential problems, run out and back along the same stretch of sand to work both sides equally.
Finally, don’t forget sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses — and be sure to stay hydrated.
Do you run on the beach? Do you like hard or soft sand better?