Running on sand is good for your heart and legs. Here’s how to do it right
As a seasonal alternative to pounding pavements or gym treadmills, running on sandy seashores is a good way to train while on vacation while also boosting motivation with a change of scenery. Here’s a look at some of the advantages of running on the beach and how to get ready to hit the sand.
What are the benefits?
Running on sand is an excellent way of diversifying your running experience or workout regime while keeping injury risk and impact to a minimum. Unlike concrete and hard surfaces, sand cushions the foot’s impact on the ground, creating fewer shockwaves that can damage the body’s musculoskeletal structure. It’s therefore easier on joints in the knee and foot, as well as tendons, making them less vulnerable to injury or tendonitis.
Wet or dry sand also creates an unstable surface, which helps to naturally strengthen the muscles that support and stabilise ankles. The muscles will have to work harder to help you gain speed, using more energy.
Running barefoot on the beach or in the sea – up to mid-calf depth – also helps improve the flow of blood back to the heart, as well as blood circulation, and reduces feelings of heavy legs.
Running up dunes or hills is an excellent way of making muscles and ligaments work harder while also increasing cardiovascular intensity. Just be careful not to strain knees and ankles.
How to prepare
Stick to the same warm-up you use all year round when running in the park, in town or the woods, for example. Build up progressively, starting with gentle sessions on flat terrain and increasing the intensity and the distance little by little.
Running barefoot is perfectly possible and pleasant, so long as the beach is clean and doesn’t have too many pebbles or shells. You can also alternate sessions, with some runs barefoot in water or along the shore, and others wearing running shoes.
For beginners, it is better to run on wet sand, which is more compact and requires less intense effort than running on soft, dry sand. Note that running on sand is quite different to running in a city or park. Don’t expect to keep the same pace. Steps feel harder and become more tiring more quickly on sand. Make sure you stretch after each session too.
Watch out for high temperatures and the lack of shade when running on the beach. Make sure you stay hydrated, drinking enough water to avoid heatstroke. Protect your skin with a suitable sunscreen and head out wearing a t-shirt, a hat and sunglasses. It’s better to run in the morning or at sunset when it’s less hot and the beach is quieter.