When we talk about running, the mind usually jumps to circular stadium tracks, verdant trails, or winding pavement paths. Beach running offers an alternative to these usual sights while providing a slew of benefits sure to broaden its appeal. If you ever find yourself in a coastal setting, you’ll want to be aware of how beach running differs from regular running. Discover why this underrated place to take your next jog provides unique benefits compared to your local hiking trail.
The Beach Itself
The differences between beach paths and any other space you may use for running are more extensive than just the view. Sand provides a comfortable, albeit unsteady material to run along that reacts differently depending on whether or not it’s dry or wet.
The ever-changing motion of the tides also means that an extra bit of moisture on the path in your routine is available, whether you want to lean into it or avoid it. Also, a major distinction: When you run, you’re totally exposed to the elements, meaning you’ll have a great source of vitamin D in the sun (while also potentially needing to lather on the sunscreen to avoid a nasty burn).
Sand as a Running Surface
The most immediate difference between running on the beach versus anywhere else is the way the surface reacts to your natural movement as a runner. Sand challenges your body in a way traditional flat surfaces simply can’t. The uneven surface shifts as you land, requiring your body to engage core muscles among many others in a bid to stabilize your balance. By interlacing core training with a regular run in this way, runners can improve their overall endurance.
While running on sand is highly intensive, in some ways, it is easier than running elsewhere. Though sand requires much more muscle engagement, it is a physically softer material to run on compared to the pavement, resulting in less joint strain.
Running on sand also offers different experiences depending on the constitution of the material. While both wet and dry sand challenges the ligaments and tendons of the leg to keep your feet planted, they each provide different kinds of workouts.
Dry sand is more loosely packed on a base level than wet sand, making it more difficult for runners to gain speed and traction. However, this type of sand is kinder on joints and muscles. Wet sand, on the other hand, is a harder and denser material than dry sand. With wet sand, you will not sink into the beach as much.
Dry sand fits the bill if you want the material that will best help you become a better runner. If you want an easier workout, wet sand will meet that need. The cross-training presented by either type of sand will still result in a higher calorie-burning workout.
The Benefits of Running on the Beach
Some great benefits provided by beach running have already been discussed, though they need to be examined in-depth for their ultimate appraisal.
Sand training forces the body’s core and other stability muscles to work harder than on regular surfaces, working out the core and some difficult-to-train stability muscles around the ankle.
In general, we already know that running on sand places less strain on joints. In 2013, a wide study reviewed sand training and conducted original research on this type of exercise. It found that training in sand surfaces may reduce soreness and injuries from regular heavy training.
Similarly, because running on the beach challenges you in a brand new way, the benefits gained from running in the sand can improve your overall performance once you return to regular tracks.
One last benefit, and probably the most significant one at that, exists in the beach itself.
Additional Benefit: The Beach
This last benefit is less a single benefit than a whole host of benefits conferred by a change in scenery. Running on the beach offers a wide variety of physical benefits for your workout, but the change of scenery can be a massive bonus on a personal level. Waterside views create beautiful, pleasant, productive places to exist and work out, and there is scientific backing to support this.
Starting from the top: Exposure to sunlight increases vitamin D levels, which can lead to improved mental health and body function. Being at the beach with bright sunlight and fresh ocean air provides a wide-open, relaxing space, which can reduce stress and improve your overall mood.
Additionally, being out at the beach gives us the opportunity to do a tech detox from the constant stream of information fed to us by phones, TVs, tablets, and smartwatches in a unique and picturesque location.
Tips for Beach Running
There you have it: Beach running is a wonderful additional workout, both for results and the context it gives you. As with any sort of workout, though, there’s a few key elements to keep in mind when starting out. Beach running presents unique obstacles and a unique dress code.
Obstacles To Avoid When Beach Running
Running on the beach can be an amazing way to change up your exercise routine. However, there are still some dangers and precautions to take with beach running. Make sure to consider physical hazards on the field itself and protective measures to keep you going strong.
The first concern is exacerbation. While sand provides a softer surface which may benefit joints, existing ankle and knee injuries may be exacerbated by the uneven surface level of dry sand or the extra effort required to run through wet sand. Stick to harder surfaces if you’re still in recovery.
The second concern is high tide. High tide will erase patches of safe, dry sand. This will force you to run through water and potentially climb through tide pools or more rocky areas. While this doesn’t eliminate your ability to run completely, it will slow you down while increasing the energy needed to complete your workout. Be prepared to get your feet wet, and if wearing shoes and socks, choose a combination that won’t be badly affected by water.
Third, remember to be wary of sharp objects. Some beaches may have objects that are dangerous to step on normally, let alone while running barefoot. These can include both seashells and litter. If you’re at a beachfront where you know this to be an issue, keep your shoes on and have an exit strategy in case of injury.
Lastly, be mindful of heat exposure. High temperatures and swaths of sunlight at the beach can lead to a number of issues, most obviously sunburn, sunstroke, and heatstroke in case of improper hydration. If you’re running barefoot, heat can add an extra complication in the form of blisters and burns on the skin of your feet. If the heat is high and you still want to run, take protective measures and either wear shoes, run in the water, or both.
What To Wear When Running on the Beach
Choosing the right gear to match the conditions and setting of your workout is important, and beachside workouts offer special challenges and bonuses to be had. Read suggestions of what to bring below to ensure optimal performance.
Make sure to protect yourself from moisture as beaches are located around lakes and oceans. You’ll want a material that wicks moisture but also reacts well when it gets wet. Ditch the cotton, as it’ll soak up every bit of moisture that you encounter. Material with a high saturation point like merino wool or moisture-resistant, quick-drying synthetic fabrics are your best bet.
Swimsuits are normal beach attire, so feel free to strip down and feel the wind with your favorite running shorts. Avoid pants, as they can weigh you down if they get wet and get caked with sand even if they stay dry.
You can keep your shoes and socks on if they are waterproof or you plan on running far enough inland from the tide, but otherwise, the unique sensation of running barefoot with the sand and water underneath you is yours to enjoy.
Running on the beach may be scenic, but it also takes more energy than running on normal pavement and exposes you more intensely to the rays of the sun. Be sure to bring your water bottle, wear a hat to protect your face, and pack on your sunscreen.
Running in Hindsight
We hope by now you appreciate the benefits of running on the beach. Whether you’re looking for a beachside workout for the health benefits or as a way to add an exciting change-up to avoid possible stagnation, there are plenty of reasons to try switching your run to this beautiful locale.