Beach Running Benefits and Tips

While my IT Band disrupted my planned 18 mile long run a few weeks ago, I refused to let it ruin all of my running plans for our vacation. Monday morning I headed barefoot to Jacksonville Beach to enjoy a nice easy 5 mile run.

Easy is just about the only way to go when you hit the beach for a longer run. Luckily in Jacksonville Beach the sand is well packed and eliminates a lot of the extra umph needed for soft sand running. According to an article in Experimental Biology “running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy expenditure than does running on a hard surface”. In layman’s terms that means it is harder and burns more calories!

People frequently asked me about beach running during our time in Miami, so here are a few reason to hit the beach for a run and a few tips to make it more enjoyable.Beach Running Benefits and Tips

Why beach run?

  • The view <<obvious right?!
  • It’s like running with ankle weights
  • Chance to improve your stride
  • Reduces impact stress of running on joints
  • Free post run bath – the salt and cold are perfect for recovery!

Baywatch Babe Time?
The first question is should you try for the Baywatch look running barefoot in your swimsuit? Or play it safe by sticking to your regular gear? If you have been anxious to test out barefoot running, the beach is one of the best places to do it. The surface is soft, you can take it easy by enjoying the view, and with the right surface there is nothing to puncture your foot. Plus you get to avoid that whole weird sand in my running shoe feel!

However if you are doing a longer run, start with your shoes and only do the last 15-20 minutes without shoes to ensure you don’t overtax new muscles. Even in your shoes the sand will require an additional amount of stability from your core to your knees to your ankles.

Quickie or the long haul?
Just as those who are transitioning to barefoot running are cautioned not to over do it, the same can be said for beach running. If you are lucky to find a hard packed beach you can do a fairly long run without any extreme soreness the following day. However the loose sand will work small muscles in your knee and ankle that are often unneeded in road running. Do we want to use those muscles? Yes. Do we want to be so sore you risk injury? No. For a loose sand run where you have not spent any time on trails, keep it short and easy.

DOMS {delayed onset of muscle soreness} creator or endurance enhancer?
Deciding what type of workout you want will impact how you use the sand. If you are looking for a recovery run, then plan to go at a pace slower than normal focusing on just stabilizing your body in the uneven surface.

If you are looking for a more intense session, stay away from focusing on speed and instead use the softer sand as a resistance workout. Just like running hills this will build more power in your legs. It’s also the perfect time to throw in running drills like skips and jumps because it will cushion your landing and force you to contract your abs for stabilization.

Buddy up to your beach
A few extra minutes of scoping out the area can make big difference in your workout. It will help you decide on shoes, route and added opportunities for working out.Tide: Checkout the tides in advance to find out when low tide arrives because that will provide you with the best hard packed surface for running.

Slope: Additionally it may provide more of a flat area to run on as opposed to a slanted run which just like a slanted road can aggravate injuries.

Shells: If a quick walk of the beach shows lots of shells or rough surfaces, it may answer the barefoot question for you!

Wind: If you hit the beach on strong wind day like we did remember to start running IN to the wind. It’s going to slow you down adding more resistance {strength training} to your workout. You want to do this when you have the most energy, so that wind can help propel you on the way back!

Are you a beach runner???
What’s your best ever beach run?  My most memorable beach run will always be the morning of our wedding!
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