Ah, summer. The best time of year to take your workouts outdoors. One place you shouldn’t pass up to burn through calories and build muscle is the beach. Taking your run to the shoreline is a beneficial way to change up your routine, keep your body working hard, and target new muscle groups. Research says beach running could even reduce the inflammation and muscle damage you experience from running on harder surfaces. And another study says it can improve your sprint speed.
Before you head to the beach for a jog, Aaptiv Trainer Benjamin Green has a few pointers for your first time out there. Read on to learn what to expect when you take your steps from the street to the sand.
Keep it short.
For your first time striding on the sand, you’ll want to keep it short, so you get more familiar with what you’re up against. Green suggests starting with ten to 20 minutes, depending on your fitness level. After that, reassess how you’re feeling and if you want to keep going. “With anything new, beach running included, you don’t want to start out too fast or aggressively,” Green says. “You have the potential of injuring your ankle, Achilles, and all surrounding body parts.” So ease into it before going full speed ahead.
Choose your footwear.
The beach is probably the only place you have the choice to go barefoot (not the minimalist shoes, but zero footwear) or wear regular sneakers. “When running on the beach barefoot, you force smaller muscles to engage that are somewhat protective or nonactivated with a running shoe on,” Green says. “Now your foot needs more ‘grip’ with the sand.” That grip activates more muscles. That said, tread lightly here. A few miles on the sand may irritate your soles. Keep your barefoot runs short until the skin on your feet adjusts to the texture.
Sprinkle in beach sessions.
Adding one to two beach runs to your weekly schedule is a solid goal. As always, you want to mix up your typical routine to keep challenging your body and recruiting those new muscle groups. So whenever you get to the beach this summer, sneak in a run. You won’t regret it. This will also help your body acclimate to the vast differences between the sand and the sidewalk. After a beach run, you might realize that you’re sore in different places than usual or that your ankles or feet are a bit cut up from the granular sand texture. Make sure to include weekly beach runs in your running routine if you’re able. This will help your lower body get more comfortable on new terrain.
Know you’ll feel it all over.
Green says you’ll work smaller muscle groups when you run on the beach. This includes more muscles in your feet, calves, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Research confirms this, saying the movement requires a bigger range of motion from your hips and knees. This makes your muscles work harder. Another place you’ll feel the burn: your core, which has to keep you stable on an unsteady surface. Alternate your beach runs with rest days or days full of yoga and stretching to release tension in your newly sore muscles. Don’t push yourself too hard while you’re experiencing soreness in new areas. Give your body time to heal and grow stronger.
Don’t let the difficulty intimidate you.
You’ve probably heard that running on the beach is tough—and research says you will exert more energy than running on a firm surface—but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. Go into each mile with an open mind and pay attention to how your body reacts. Green says it’ll probably feel more demanding. But that’s because you’re exercising underutilized muscles, so keep trekking forward.
Have your beach and run it, too, this summer. Be mindful of how your body responds to the new terrain and the weather conditions. Balance your sand running with your usual sidewalk running and you’ll be a regular beach running—climate permitting—in no time.