If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach or a sandy area, then there are some benefits of running on the beach that might be reason enough for you to take advantage of it (if the views were not already enough).
I’m sure you know it’s a little harder running on sand than it is on a flat surface. We’ve all had to run while on a beach at some point in our lives, but this is actually a good thing, as I’ll explain.
5 Awesome Benefits of Running on the Beach or Sand
You’ll Burn More Calories
If burning calories or losing weight is your main objective then you’ll be happy to hear that pounding the sand burns more calories than road or trail running.
The Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology have a complicated formula to prove this (source). You will notice the extra energy burn the first time you run on sand, it’s just more difficult than running on a flat surface like tarmac.
It’s estimated to force you to burn an additional 40-80 calories per mile. That’s a lot! This is largely due to the sand forcing you to work harder to find traction.
You’ll Develop Better Balance
Much the same as running on trails presents varying terrains and obstacles to navigate, beach running also forces you to work on your balance and focus on your footing.
You will work out a much wider range of muscles than you would just running on flat roads too. You even hit your core, shoulders, back, smaller muscles groups in your legs, and you’ll probably ache in other places you never noticed before if you’re used to running on flat surfaces.
It’s a much more dynamic workout. If you have any doubts just hit the sand hard for the same duration you’d be running on your normal terrain and let me know how you feel the next day.
You’ll Strengthen Your Running Muscles
Being loose, the sand causes your feet, ankles, and legs to work harder to generate the same force as you would running on a flat surface.
So, as I pointed out in the last point, being a more dynamic and demanding workout strengthens more muscle groups than a normal run would.
This translates over to running on flat surfaces and will help you improve your stamina and best times on the pavement.
It’s not a substitute for hard strength and conditioning days, but the diversity of the workout on your muscles will give you that added edge you’re looking for.
You Put Less Stress on Your Joints
Pounding the tarmac day in, day out, puts a lot of shock impact through your ankles, knees, and hips. If you’re not already feeling or seeing the signs of wear and tear from your body, it’s a good idea to start before it’s too late.
Running on sand puts a lot less stress and shock impact through your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Despite working your muscles harder, it’s a lot softer running on sand than tarmac or any other hard surface.
My advice is to at least mix up your runs or workouts with some beach running. There are too many other awesome benefits not too!
You’ll Have Some Awesome Views to Enjoy
Let’s be honest, no matter how focused we are on our running goals, it gets boring running the same inner-city routes.
Not all beaches are created equal, I can appreciate that. But despite the quality of your beach, the sounds of water lapping on the shore, birds overhead, and the gentle sea breeze at a minimum is a huge plus compared to running on paths around built-up areas.
It’s pretty awesome if you’re lucky enough to live near a beach and worth getting up early and taking a run if you’re on vacation.
Should You Run Barefoot on the Beach?
A lot of people run barefoot on sand. You may have noticed the trend towards a more minimalist shoe, or even barefoot running happening over recent years, and there are some advantages to doing so.
When you run in running shoes you will notice your heel tends to hit the floor first. While if you run barefoot you will land on the balls of your feet first.
This means there is less impact with barefoot running. It’s something runners have become a lot more aware of over recent years as less impact means fewer injuries and wear and tear on your joints.
Running barefoot on sand is the best way to get started with barefoot running. The sand offers more support than the hard floor while being softer.
Just don’t forget to check the sand is not too hot! Neither there are any pebbles or other objects that might hurt or cut your skin.
It’s a whole new experience running barefoot. I recommend giving it a go for sure. And, don’t worry, the skin on your feet will harden and condition to the sand, especially over the first few weeks.
Benefits of running on a beach or anywhere you can find sand include, reduced impact, improving balance, strengthening your running muscles, burning more calories, and some awesome views to enjoy – are you not convinced yet?
Don’t be surprised if you find it really tough the first few times you run on sand, but we runners love a challenge and making stuff difficult for ourselves anyway, right?
That burning or numb feeling you feel in muscles you never knew you had the following day is a sign that it was an awesome workout. Just remember that when something as simple as getting out of bed is an effort!