If you plan to hit the beach as part of your regular workout or for extra training, consider these tips for running on sand. Running on sand burns extra calories, and can increase your stamina, balance, and overall endurance, making it great training for cross country and distance runners, and a wonderful way to exercise if you’re looking to lose weight and get into shape. You do have to take precautions when running on sand, however, because unlike pavement, sand gives under your feet, and running on it can physically exhaust you and cause injury.
Before you head out to the beach, you should check the tide schedule to determine low and high tide. Tide schedules can be found in local newspapers or online. During high tide, waves wash over most of the beach, which means that the only sand on which you can run is extremely soft, and not very well suited to new beach runners. Low tide creates a beachfront area of thick, moist sand that gives less than the dry, powdery sand found during high tide. The best times at which to plan your run are the few hours leading up to low tide, or the few hours after high tide. By following this schedule, you can lessen your chances of injury.
The feel of warm sand between your toes is a delightful sensation, but individuals new to running on the beach shouldn’t start out barefoot. Although there are benefits to running without shoes, if you haven’t first built up the muscles in your legs and feet, you could become injured when running barefoot. When you start running on the beach, wear comfortable, properly fitting running shoes, preferably ones with a tight mesh, to avoid getting sand in your shoes. Once you’ve trained for a few weeks, you can start incorporating barefoot running for short distances, then gradually increase the amount of time you spend running barefoot, as your body becomes acclimated.
Stretching should always be part of your regular workout routine, but if you plan to run on the beach, it becomes even more of a necessity, because sand gives under your feet, making it easier to injure your muscles. Especially important are calf and ankle stretches. In addition to stretching, you should slather on the sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy, and consider wearing sunglasses, a visor, or hat. These measures can save you from skin cancer and premature signs of aging.
When running on the sand, you should incorporate shorter strides and lean forward, or you’ll be forced to run on the balls of your feet. You’ll also need to raise your knees more, to give yourself greater leverage and propel yourself forward. You should run as close to the water as possible, without getting wet, because this is where the sand is hardest packed. It’s also important to start and end at the same place. Since the beach is usually slanted, running in only one direction can cause you to only develop the muscles on one side of your body, or lead to injury. Once you’ve become accustomed to running on the hard sand near the water, you can add an extra challenge to your workout by running further out, on the looser sand, for short distances.