Beach running. Is it for you? Yes.
Anyone can benefit from a jaunt in the sand. Beach running offers a soft surface making it a great choice for runners that have been told to avoid unforgiving concrete or tar. It’s easier on the joints and really works to strengthen the lower leg muscles, achilles tendons, arches, and the underutilized muscles of the foot.
Packed sand at low tide offers a flatter surface that resembles trail running. Soft sand barefoot running (my favorite!) is extremely challenging, taking much more energy and leaving your feet totally exfoliated (bonus!). If you only have 20 minutes to bang out a workout I definitely recommend a soft sand run. When I was in San Diego there was a triathlon called the SuperFrog… 13 miles through mostly soft sand! I remember my time was 1:42. That is not awesome but it was soft sand! Thats like breaking the world record for a half marathon. (Right?)
I can’t go into “things to remember when sand running” without quickly flashing back to my days in San Diego at Coronado’s Naval Amphibious Base (NAB). I used to run on the beach three to five times a week and there would always be SEAL hopefuls in the various stages of Basic Underwater Demolition (BUDS) training running around in their short shorts being tortured by the instructors (for the record I wore those shorts for five weeks at rescue swimmer school and everyone could see my underwear… that’s how short they were). I liked running on that beach. Motivating eye candy… just saying.
Things to remember when sand running:
-First timers should start with no more than a mile on sand and build up slowly. Take my word for it. Start on the wet packed sand and gradually add in soft sand intervals.
-Check the tide before your run if you’re hoping for the packed sand that only comes with low tide (CLICK HERE)
-If running on a significantly slanted surface run “out and back”. This slant can irritate the ankles, knees and hips especially badly if you don’t even out the trauma with the same action on the other side of your body. As long as you are working up your distance gradually any discomfort should disappear.
-Sunscreen sunscreen sunscreen. Sand and water reflect already strong rays. I am loving the new spray sports sun protection. Always ensure the label says “broad spectrum”. On this note, add sunglasses and a breathable cap or visor.
-If you are wearing sneakers get the tight mesh weave on a light-weight shoe. Sand in sneakers is an epic annoyance (I have three years of “sand in my shoes” running experience). If you chose to transition to barefoot, do so slowly.
-Shorten that stride. Sand running is more difficult and leaves you a little more susceptible to groin pulls. Lean the body forward and (try to) land on the balls of your foot really using your toes to push forward.
-Hydration! Don’t forget to drink! Having a lifetime of Navy-stuff and water sports under my belt has taught me that when there is water all around I tend to avoid drinking water. Tsk tsk. I am in love with my LuluLemon running pack. It is lightweight, fits snugly to me, and holds a camelback bladder so I can drink on the run.
Finish your run with a dip into the ocean (running clothes dry quickly!) I am a big fan of an ice cold beer as well; but I can’t recommend that in good conscience.
I’m doing a beach run every Saturday for a while – just a short one after my long run. It’s a great way to change it up.