Now that the weather is warmer, it’s time to ditch the treadmill and take your running workout to the beach. In addition to sweet views, vitamin D-soaked rays and energizing fresh air, running on the sand will give your body a whole new wave of challenges.
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Meagan Fulps and Devin Wiggins, certified personal trainers and founders of A Couple of Trainers, say your body works 1.5 times harder on sand than it does on concrete. Why? “When running on the beach, your foot displaces the sand and recruits other muscles that you normally wouldn’t on pavement,” Fulps says. “It also greatly challenges and strengthens the arches of your feet, ankles and calves.”
And because you’re targeting muscles you don’t normally train when pounding pavement, you’ll also help prevent injuries. Studies have also shown that running on sand versus hard surfaces aids range of motion too, particularly in the hips and knees. What’s more is that the soft texture of sand helps protect your joints and improves your ankle, knee and hip stability, Fulps says.
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Going Against the Grain: Running on Sand
Just like climbing up hills or stairs, hitting sandy beaches and trails tests the boundaries of your cardiorespiratory system, resulting in improved VO2 max and endurance. So if you’re training for a half-marathon or marathon this summer, mixing in softer terrain is a win.
“The uneven surface and extra weight of sand also provides resistance. Run up a sand dune for an incline, and you’ve got yourself an intense challenge,” Fulps explains.
Because running on sand feels stickier, a few form tips are key. Pick your knees up higher, pump your arms and lean forward (but not too forward) to help propel you, Fulps says. “If you’re sprinting, you should stay on the balls of your feet. Even though sand is softer than concrete, you still want to maintain good form and run with heel strike and full hip extension,” she says.
For a more consistent stride on long runs, Fulps recommends running on wet sand instead of dry. If a shorter-distance stability workout is on tap: Stick with soft, dry sand. That said, there are no hard-and-fast rules to running with or without shoes on the beach. Wearing sneakers on the beach will give you more support on uneven terrain. But running barefoot on wet sand can help strengthen your calves and feet muscles since you’re gripping your toes, Fulp says.
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HIIT the Sand! Your 20-Minute Beach Workout
Ready to give sandy trails a try? Lace up your sneakers and hit the beach running with this 20-minute workout.
All done? Get your next beach workout here.