It’s sunny and warm outside and the beach is calling out for you, but you’re determined to stick to a running routine. Or maybe you’re sick of running on hard surfaces and want something easier on your legs, yet still challenging. Either way beach running is a great way to get a workout in with little time and plenty of benefits.
It’s no secret that running in sand is more difficult than running on a hard surface. Less rebound on sandy surfaces forces your quadriceps, hip flexors, and gluteus muscles to work harder than they would on a hard surface, using more energy and burning more calories. This makes beach running much more effective at weight loss than running on a treadmill or pavement. Running on sand is also easier on your legs as the increase in collision time—the time in which your foot sinks into the sand—reduces the overall stress of pounding on your legs. Plus, if you decide to run barefoot on the sand, stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankles, and legs will kick into overdrive, working to keep you upright and moving forward. The muscles will eventually build up over time, making barefoot beach running easier to do.
It’s best to run on the beach during low tide, as the falling water level leaves behind a hard-packed surface for running similar to that of a soft trail, which is more forgiving on the body. When running during low tide, it’s best to run within an hour or two around the lowest point and to stay close to the edge of the water without getting your feet wet.
This doesn’t mean running at high tide is a no go, however. High tides leave soft, dry sand, which is the kindest on your legs. It’s also much harder to power through the drier sand, helping to strengthen your arches, ankles, and other below-the-knee muscles.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Be cautious. Running on sand when you’re more accustomed to running on harder surfaces gives your lower legs quite the shock. If you’re thinking about starting to include beach running into your routine, don’t push the intensity during your first workout. Instead keep the mileage low and slow your normal pace until you feel comfortable enough to rev up your beach running.
- Don’t forget about the sun! A combination of little shade and the ocean being a great reflector, you’re going to come into great contact with the sun, so don’t skimp on the sunscreen and try to wear a hat and sunglasses to keep your skin and eyes healthy.
- Stay hydrated. The increased time in the sun without shade also requires greater hydration, so remember to bring along a water bottle with your workout drink of choice.