For year round runners, summer provides the opportunity to mix up the daily grind with various outdoor, cross training activities. From sailing and swimming to biking and tennis, the warm weather allows for endless modes of exercise. Yet not enough people take advantage of the benefits of running on sand.
While running along the beach at midday in the thick July heat doesn’t sound very appealing, the cooler evenings and crisp air of late summer and early fall create the perfect time to do so. And if that off shore breeze, setting sun and picturesque landscape aren’t enough to convince you to get your sneakers a little sandy, then these benefits should do the trick.
According to Tyler Pake’s article Beach Running Tips and Sand Workouts, running on sand consumes more energy than running on pavement. Several studies have found that it can burn up to 1.6 more calories per mile than running on solid surfaces.
Beach runs are also great full body, strength-enhancing workouts. Because running along the shore requires more power than running on solid ground, there is more mobility throughout the body. From your legs all the way up to your arms, every part of your body is getting a workout. Running through sand helps to strengthen many of the muscles below the knee including your arches and ankles.
“In order to stabilize yourself during your beach run, your body is forced to use the smaller muscles in your lower body, particularly in your foot and ankle,” wrote Christine Yu in her article The 5 Benefits of Beach Running. These muscles tend to be weak because they are not typically used as much when running on paved roads. In making these “stabilizing” muscles stronger on the beach, injury and muscle imbalances are prevented.
Sandy beaches provide that favored low impact surface, putting less stress on the joints. The softer, dryer sand found farthest from the water’s edge is the easiest on the legs but also proves for a much more strenuous run than the compact sand. Either way, there is far less pounding on the body than results from running on the road.
Before setting out on a beach run it is important to be aware of the tides. To avoid the slant of the beach, which can be detrimental to the knees and hips, it is best to run at low tide when the sand is the most level and compact. The beach typically tends to be more angled during high tides but no matter what the water level is, you will never get a perfectly flat surface on a beach.
“Make sure you run out and back,” recommends Lisa Jhung in her Runner’s World article Beach Running. “The unevenness isn’t good for either leg, but it’s better to put both legs through the paces than just one.”
Soak up the last few weeks of summer by getting out there and getting a little sandy. If the health benefits and beautiful views aren’t enough, the best thing about a beach run is the refreshing jump in the ocean once you’ve finished.