At the Beach — March 6, 2014 at 5:00 am

7 Tips for Running on the Beach

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Just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean that you need to put your workout regimen on hold. In fact, heading to the beach can amp up your workout routine: why not trade in asphalt for sand!

Running on sand is a great way for road or trail runners to mix it up: your muscles will be challenged in a totally new way, and the change of scenery certainly doesn’t hurt. Here are 7 tips to get the most out of running on the beach.

Beware of the Sun
Running along the shore typically means total exposure to the sun. While most runners are used to exercising under the sun’s hot rays, running on the beach will take it to the next level. With no shade whatsoever, sunscreen is absolutely crucial. Consider wearing a hat and even a UV-blocking t-shirt to avoid a nasty sunburn on your shoulders. Running earlier or later in the day when the sun is not as strong will further help prevent sun damage. As a bonus, the beach will likely be quieter (less people-dodging).

Work With the Sand
No matter how you cut it, running on the sand is tough! Sand is soft and uneven: in short, not the easiest surface to run on. Having said that, there is one variable that you can work with: the tide. Familiarize yourself with the tide schedule and plan your run around low tide, when sand will be firmer and easier to run on.

Get Used to Bare Feet
There are no rules saying that you can’t run along the beach in your regular running shoes, but running barefoot is part of the fun! If you’re used to running with shoes on, give yourself some time to get used to running in the buff (your feet, that is!). Start out with shorter runs, gradually increasing the distance you cover on each run. Be mindful of items that might be hiding in the sand, like shells and rocks. If your beach isn’t as soft and sandy as it could be, some light trail running shoes will help keep you comfortable.

Suit Up
A string bikini might be perfect for lounging in a beach chair, good book in hand—but for a beach run, you’ll want something a little more sturdy. If your swimsuit can stand up to a strong surf, it will probably be fine for run along the beach. Otherwise, pack a change of clothes to wear on your run.

One more unpleasant thing to consider: swimsuits can cause some seriously annoying chafing. Don’t forget to pack some lubricating balm into your beach bag.

Keep it Level (If You Can)
Running along the shore usually means running on a slanted surface, as the sand slopes down towards the water. This can be a little rough on your knees. Running out and back will allow you to “even” things out, but if your knees or hips start bothering you, you might need to return to flatter surfaces.

The Entertainment Factor
A run along the ocean’s shore offers endless views of blue skies and water, and the soothing sound of lapping water and chirping shorebirds. What more can you want? The reality is that on a long run, the view–despite being a beautiful one–can get a little repetitive. You won’t necessarily have a lot of variety, so you might have to work a little harder to engage your mind. If it’s safe to do so, plug in some music (but beware of getting your phone or iPod wet!). Scan the beach for any interesting rocks or shells. Keep your eye on the water to catch a glimpse of a seal. Make the most of the new sights!

Don’t Get Discouraged!
Running on sand requires you to expand much more energy than when you’re running on harder surfaces. Studies have estimated that a mile running on sand feels like running 1.6 miles on pavement, so don’t feel discouraged if your usual mileage feels much more difficult than you’re used to. Take the time to enjoy the new experience, and if you cut your runs a little short, don’t worry–after all, you’re on vacation!

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