You’ve pictured yourself running on the beach, fresh sea breeze in your nostrils, bare feet gracefully moving across the warm sand, keeping pace with the rhythm of the waves. The reality however, is less idyllic.
Running on the beach is notoriously tough, and for good reason. Multiple studies have found that running on sand uses more energy than running on asphalt, burning as many as 1.6 times more calories per mile. Feet sinking into soft and shifting sand activates muscles and tests balance in a way that running on a solid surface does not.
We’ve put together a foolproof guide to make your next beach run as picturesque and invigorating as you imagine it to be.
1. Barefoot or wearing trainers?
Experts tell us that the answer to this question is determined by your individual running style.
Mark Klion, a New York based orthopaedic surgeon and medical director for the New York City Triathlon, says that if you run on the ball of your foot (mid to forefoot) you will have a lower incidence of injury running barefoot on the sand than those that are heel strikers. This is because the calf muscles, which take on the majority of the impact, act as shock absorbers for these forefoot strikers.
In contrast, heel strikers put more impact on their bones and joints, including hips, knees and ankles. These runners should consider keeping their trainers on, or adjusting their running style in order to avoid long term injury.
2. Wet or Dry Sand?
The hard, packed sand created by a falling tide offers the most level surface for running, and therefore, we recommend beginners to run as close as you can get to the water’s edge without getting your feet wet.
The soft, dry sand, makes your workout much more difficult, which in turn, may get you to your goals faster. However, to ensure that your workout is safe in the long term, and to avoid shin splints, arch issues and stress fractures, we encourage you to build a solid foundation on the packed sand before cranking up the heat and hitting the dry stuff.
3. Avoid the slope
The tilt in the sand as it meets the water creates an unlevel surface for running. Running on this slope throws off your body mechanics, preventing your hips from staying parallel and the work that each leg must do to power you forward, unequal. For long distance runs along the beach, it is therefore important to avoid this slope in the sand.
If training sprints, try running from the water’s edge to the top of the sand (perpendicular to the sea). The slight incline will increase the intensity, as well as keeping your hips fairly parallel.
Running on uneven, sinking sand requires your muscles to move through a fuller range of motion, and requires more muscles to activate, than running on a flat, solid surface. It is therefore even more imperative that you take the time to practice mobility, stretch properly following your workout and enjoy your surroundings.
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