4 Benefits and Tips of Beach Running
Harry Pino, PhD
Running on a nice quiet beach makes for a terrific workout, but did you also know it can lower your risk of injuries? Here are 4 benefits of running in the sand and tips for staying safe out there!
Running on sand puts less stress on joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles, which can help decrease impact-associated injuries. Running on soft, dry sand farther away from the water’s edge can be even more beneficial. With every foot strike, there’s about four times less impact force on soft sand compared to grass.
Strengthens Underworked Areas
If you’ve ever run in the sand, you will probably recall a burning sensation in your calves with each stride. The unstable surface of sand forces you to work the smaller muscles in your lower body, especially your feet and ankles. Switching up your routine and transitioning to sand keeps your body guessing and builds muscles that aren’t as heavily worked when running on pavement.
Burns More Calories
Who doesn’t want to burn as many calories as possible during a workout? The unstable surface of the sand requires extra effort and muscle engagement, which means a higher calorie burn. Studies show that sand requires about one and a half times more energy than running on a hard surface.
Change of Scenery
Same road. Same view. Same old thing. You should continue challenging yourself by running various routes that have different inclines, surfaces and distances. Even if you don’t have direct access to a beach, sometimes nearby parks will have sand adjacent to a lake or pond that you can run on. If you live near the ocean, even better, you have the benefit of exercising while enjoying the scenic views. Taking a beach vacation? There’s something special about running on the beach while traveling, probably because it’s a rare treat for land-locked visitors.
Keep In Mind
While your chances of impact-related injuries decrease when running in sand, the chances of other injuries, such a sprained ankle, can rise. The constant shifting on the uneven surface of the sand is to blame. The good news is as long as you exercise caution and work to stay balanced, it will result in an even better workout.
As mentioned earlier, you’re working harder when you run on sand, therefore it’s advised to start out slow. Ease into a new training routine and always warm up your calves, hamstrings and glutes.
If you’re on vacation, shoot for a much shorter distance than you’re accustomed to at home. If you plan to train regularly on the beach, give yourself about a two-week adjustment period before increasing distance and intensity.
Wear a hat, sunglasses, and a water-resistant, sweat-wicking shirt. Always apply sunscreen on exposed skin! The sun reflects off the water, which puts you at a higher risk for sunburn.
Shoes or no shoes?
Choosing to wear shoes can depend on personal preference or where you’re actually running. For example, if you run near the shore, you may prefer shoes to protect your feet from broken shells and other debris.
Keeping your shoes on decreases your chances of foot or ankle injuries. Shoes stabilize your ankles, and provide heel and arch support for your feet.
A downside of wearing shoes is getting sand and potentially water in them. Set aside a pair of shoes that are strictly for running at the beach. You’ll thank us later.