Running on the Beach: You’ve Got to Try It!

Sun, the sound of waves and a marvelous sandy beach: the perfect conditions for a run on vacation! Running on the beach challenges your body in a different way than running on solid ground. If you want your training to be effective, you should be aware of the benefits and risks.

Man stretching after his run on the beach

Running on the Beach – 4 Great Benefits

1. Improves your running technique

Running on sand represents an entirely new training stimulus for your body. The sand is soft and gives way when you push off. This means that some of the elastic energy that is usually transferred to the next step is lost. In order to be able to run powerfully on sand, your body develops a smooth and efficient running technique with a midfoot strike and a stable push-off.

2. Builds your strength, stabilizing muscles and coordination

Compared to running on pavement, running on the beach is much harder but also more effective. The muscles of your feet and legs have to work much harder than usual. Plus, you have to engage the stabilizing muscles of your core to compensate for the uneven surface. This helps your body develop a natural and very efficient running form while working your core.

3. Increases your calorie burn

Running on the beach is a real fat burner! Because the muscle groups involved in running have to work harder than usual, your body requires more energy.The best thing about this is that your muscles also require more energy post-run in order to recover properly. This means that post-workout, you burn more calories than usual, which is generally known as the afterburn effect.

4. Gives you the most value for your time

Due to the higher demands on your muscles, coordination and stability, your body tires more quickly when running on sand. Therefore, it is a good idea to start off with shorter workouts. It is better to increase the intensity of your runs and use the new conditions for sprints, intervals and speed training. You can also split your training into two workouts per day. This allows your body to recover more effectively in between.

Interesting fact:

Jogging on sand has a long history in competitive sports. Top runners have made running on sand an integral part of their pre-race preparations.

Eine Frau läuft am Strand

Running on the Beach: 4 Risks & Tips

1. Unusual stress on your muscles

Running on sand works the muscles of your soles, calves and hamstrings. You should do some muscle activation exercises before working out to reduce the risk of injury. Plus, warming up helps you run with proper form right from the beginning. After your workout, you should do some cool-down stretches. Also, a refreshing dip in the ocean is the perfect way to jumpstart your recovery.

2. Extra work for your foot muscles with barefoot running

Naturally, the beach is ideal for barefoot running. It may feel strange at first, but it encourages a better running stride. When you wear shoes, you tend to land more on your heel and roll forward. This creates a sudden impact on your heels, which is then transferred up to the hips and can lead to knee or shin injuries. Running without shoes can be especially helpful for heel runners who want to improve their technique. When you run barefoot, you are automatically more careful when you land and you strike the forefoot and midfoot first. 

In order to avoid converting too quickly, try barefoot running at home or in a gym first until you get used to it. As soon as you want to start running outside, look for natural surfaces, like beaches, fields, or forest floors.

Be careful…

…when you run barefoot on the beach. The soft surface requires more balance and joint stability. Start by running on harder sand close to the water, so your feet don’t sink in as deep.

Benefits: When you don’t have your shoes supporting you, your natural sense of balance improves and you build leg muscles. This helps your posture, which prevents back pain. Barefoot running also stimulates circulation and sensorimotor skills. Over time the soles of your feet will develop calluses for protection, but always look out for glass or other hazards that could cause injuries. As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to leave your running shoes at home. The big difference with barefoot running is how you run.

3. Hard on your back and hips

The beach often slopes down to the ocean which can present something of a challenge for the stabilizing muscles of your core. This can lead to pain and muscle soreness in your hips and back. You can avoid this by regularly changing the direction you are running in. If you run at low tide, the surface is usually more level.

4. Strength of the sun

The cool ocean breeze often leads you to underestimate the impact of the temperature and UV radiation on your body. Therefore, don’t run in the blazing midday sun. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Wear a hat or a visor when running and don’t forget to apply plenty of sunscreen. The best times for running are generally in the morning or in the evening.

Takeaway: There are lots of benefits to jogging on the beach. It’s great for strengthening your muscles and it can help improve your running form. If you ease into it slowly, you will be happily surprised by the performance gains on your next run at home.

Enjoy your vacation and experience the thrill of running on the beach!

We asked our users about their favorite places to run:

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Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »

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