One of my favourite things to do is run on the beach.
That fresh salty air; isn’t there just something about being by the ocean that’s good for the soul??
Running alone is a wonderful choice of cardio conditioning that works the entire body; the legs, the abdominals, all the muscles of your back up into the shoulders and arms; and of course, the heart & lungs.
Opting for sand over regular road running is a nice change up that adds diversity to your training and requires a different kind of focus. The soft, looser packed sand challenges your balance and requires some muscles to work much harder to propel us forward. The unevenness of the sand stimulates increased activity in the hip and knee stabilisers as your weight shifts from side to side with each stride. This can assist with strength gains in important muscle groups that then has the potential to improve running performance on firmer surfaces.
If you have ever tried some soft sand running you will discover pretty quickly that it’s significantly harder than road running; with some studies showing energy expenditure can be almost twice as high.
There’s also less stress through the weight bearing joints such as hips, knees and ankles with research suggesting that there is almost four times less impact force when compared to a firmer surface such as grass. The upside of this being reduced risk of overuse impact injuries such as stress fractures.
So it’s harder to do. Less impact for your joints. Can lead to stronger legs.
Sand running sounds like a pretty great training tool to me!!
However, like most styles of training there are of course some downsides.
The softer surfaces that create so many of the above-mentioned benefits can also actually be the cause of other injuries including ankle sprains and lower limb tendinopathy due to the unstable nature of the surface. This can often be avoided by being smart with the way you incorporate sand running into your program. If you haven’t done much on sand before maybe start on the firmly packed hard sand before progressing onto the softer stuff.
What about shoes? Me personally I prefer to ditch them because I love the feeling of the sand between my toes but there are many that would suggest wearing shoes to provide a little extra support for the foot and ankle may be beneficial. There’s no right or wrong here in my opinion, so go with your preference.
My other little piece of advice. Run the beach in both directions. Lots of beaches are slanted in one direction thanks to the tide, running on a slant can cause issues with your hips and knees so by running both directions you are balancing out both sides.
Don’t forget to slip, slop, slap if you are heading out in the summer sun & packing your swimmers for a post run ocean dip is an absolute must.