Some of the best training for runners can be done on sand, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily cause injury. Even if you’re not training, it’s important to know how to run on the beach to enjoy those early morning sunrises while you get that body in shape for the rest of the day.
There’s a lot to be said for barefoot running, but unless you’re a seasoned pro running on a beach that never sees shells, you probably want some padding between your toes and the sand. They don’t have to be thick, but there should be enough there that you don’t have to worry about a stray shell embedding itself in your heel.
Choose the Right Sand
There are generally two types of sand—dry and wet. For obvious reasons, dry sand is typically soft while wet sand holds together for a more solid surface. Running on wet sand is easier on your feet and legs, but soft sand will help make you a better runner. Of course, there’s also a greater probability for injury on soft sand, so take it easy and go for short runs your first few times out.
High or Tight?
When running on sand you want to give yourself room to breathe, so always go at it when the tide is low. It’s also a great time to switch between wet and soft sand so you can give your feet a much needed break every so often.
Find Smoother Shores
The slant at which the beach tilts will have an effect on the amount of pressure you’re placing on your knees. The steeper the slant of the beach, the more pressure you’ll face and the greater the risk of injury. Start out on the smoothest, flattest beach you can find and work your way up to more hilly fare.
Like running outside anywhere else, the beach comes with the risk of getting burnt on most days. On the beach, however, the water is actually reflecting the rays back at you, so you’re getting a double dose of sunlight; it’s twice as important to douse yourself in sunscreen. You should try and run before 10 am and sometime after 4 pm to avoid the worst of the sun’s rays. On the other hand, you could always wait for a day when it’s overcast to hit the sandy shores, but that’s not really as beautiful, is it?
Switch It Up
Never do all of your running on a beach. You want to have a variety of surfaces to practice on if you’re trying to up your game, and running solely on a beach isn’t going to help you conquer any marathons. For each day you spend running on the beach, take another and run on concrete or along a wooded trail. You’ll enjoy the change of scenery and give your legs a break.
Stretch It Out
Everyone knows that stretching is vital for avoiding injuries, and that’s especially true for beach runners. The added effort of running on sand calls for a little extra precaution, so make sure you’re doing your stretches each day. A little warm-up stretch will help before you begin your run, but also include a wrap-up stretch that will really help your calves and knees.