Ramp Up Your Run By Hitting the Beach

Enjoy miles of brisk walking (even running) on our beautiful beaches in Southwest Florida! Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II.

Southwest Florida is packed with runners and beaches!

And sometimes, the beaches are packed with runners! But while navigating the streets and sidewalks has its own kind of challenges, running on sand is definitely a step up when it comes to intensity.

With all the beauty and natural resources of the beach surrounding us when we run, we might forget we're working out if it wasn't for the increased effort required.

There are three important aspects of running on the sand:

  • aerobic fitness,
  • muscular endurance, and
  • specific technique.

Obviously, you need to have a good aerobic capacity to run in the sand --

On a basic level, running requires your body to burn a lot of energy or calories, and the body functions best and can go longer when it gets plenty of oxygen into the lungs, blood stream and muscles.

So you need an aerobic fitness base to tackle the sand.

If you are unsure of your fitness, don't panic.

A quick test run on the beach will tell you if you have the aerobic endurance required for training or if you need to continue building your base.

Another important part of sand running is your local muscular endurance.

This is a fancy way of saying you need to have the muscle strength to handle the different stress that running on the sand places on the body.

Sand running requires a different running technique and posture and places greater stress on your calf muscles.

People will often get sore calves after their first sand run.

So build up your local muscle endurance — something that can only be done with consistent training.

Other areas of concern include your quads, which will be working harder on the sand, and the muscles of your lower back.

Be aware of any muscle soreness or tightness, and be sure to stretch thoroughly after each training session.

Finally, heed your technique.

Running on the sand requires a different technique from road running because of the unstable surface.

It's definitely more challenging to run the same distance on the sand as on the road, but with concentrated effort you'll master the run and reap the benefits fast.
First, point your feet slightly down into the sand. Unlike road running where the surface is stable and firm, on the sand you'll need to dig your feet down to get a grip on your surface to push off on each stride.

Also, keep a normal upright posture when running on the sand.

Too many people bend forward at the hips, placing stress on the back, closing the chest cavity and reaching fatigue prematurely. Strive to keep your shoulders back, chin in and chest up with a normal arm swing.

Active.com reports that several studies have found that running on sand consumes more energy than running on asphalt, burning as many as 1.6 more calories per mile.

There is also less impact on the joints.

Falling or low tide creates the most level, hard-packed surface for running. Hardened sand is like a soft trail.

Want to try running barefoot?

Some experts say running barefoot on the sand will strengthen your feet and ankles, but don't do it too fast or too frequently.

Start with short runs, about 15 or 20 minutes, and gradually add time each time out.

Watch out for shells and sharp objects, and remember that running on the beach might lead to or worsen some foot and ankle injuries.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers, Florida. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!  


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