How & Why to Run at the Beach

Running on the beach can serve several purposes. Several times as I have walked away from the beach after a run I have thought to myself, “I need to do this more.” Today I’ll share a few reasons you may want to consider incorporating running at the beach into your plan and a few tips if you do.

Saturday in the Tampa Bay area brought us quite the mix of rain and wind throughout the day. I was keeping an eye on the weather forecast and radar Friday night and as soon as I woke up early Saturday morning as I had a few activities planned on Clearwater Beach. First I was meeting good friend Elia for a run at 5:30 before the team group run  at 6:30. At 8:00 I was meeting two more, Chris and Dan, to do a practice triathlon in preparation for the Chicago Triathlon they are competing at this upcoming weekend.

Everything I was gathering regarding the weather forecast wasn’t clear. It looked like we would have opportunities to workout but most likely we were going to get rained on at some point and depending on how things developed it could be light or quite hard. Once I got out to Clearwater Beach, what I experienced was different than what the weather applications were showing on my phone. Although the radar and lightning detection (no lightning warnings) were playing out correctly the wind was not. The phone displayed wind to be between 10-11 miles per hour (mph) and it had to be 25 mph sustained with gusts over 30 mph.

Before Elia and I started our run, I reviewed the forecast one last time and chose to move the practice triathlon with Dan and Chris to Sunday as the wind and currents were going to make the purpose of their simulation miserable and potentially not safe.

Elia and I started running south from Lifeguard Station 7, under the pier, and to the rocks separating Clearwater and Sand Key Beach. The wind was so hard it was difficult to hear each other speak and it slowed our pace considerably. We weren’t concerned about our pace as we were simply warming up but wow, it was dramatic. We ran a few miles and met our group at 6:30. Altogether, I discussed why we were running at the beach along with considerations depending on what they planned to do on the sand. This was our first formal meet up on the beach for a Saturday morning practice. It served a few purposes:

Why/Purpose

  • Strengthens leg muscles – from your feet to your hip flexors. Running through sand requires you to work hard engaging these muscles.
  • Lessens impact on joints – compare this to running on concrete or asphalt…what a relief…
  • Helps prepare for off road races and multi-sport events – ex. simulate the feel of running on the beach through transitions in a triathlon or a 5k beach race
  • Enjoy nature – what a great way to connect with nature and unwind hearing the surf and taking in the beauty of the water

Running on Soft Sand Tips

  • Shorten stride – strive for a quick cadence to move through the sand quicker and landing softer
  • Land on the balls of your feet – avoid landing on your toes and heels as that results in digging into the sand requiring more work and being less efficient
  • Lift knees high – more than your normal stride as this will engage your arms to drive forward and back generating additional power
  • Ease into runs – if you are not used to running on the beach and especially soft sand start with small efforts and build your way up over time to avoid injury and feeling excessively sore

Running on Hard Sand Tips

  • Run equal distance both directions – most likely you will be running at an angle as the sand gets closer to the water so it’s best if you run equal distances each way
  • Check the tides – most likely low tide creates the least amount of angle on the beach to run flat

Additional Tips

  • Run with your shoes on – unless you are experienced running with no shoes run with your shoes on or consult with a coach for additional insight and ease into this over time
  • Watch your pace – running on sand will slow you down. That’s obvious running on the soft sand but running on the hard sand will slow you down as well so don’t let that stress you out. Know that the work you put in on the sand will translate well to your overall fitness and paces when you head back out on hard surfaces.

After I covered this information with the group we all started our run together. At this point the wind settled down considerably and it was quite pleasant for a mid-August morning in Florida. Elia and I incorporated speed intervals on the soft sand near the end of our run and although it was difficult it felt fantastic.

The group finished the workout and I had a few more miles to go so I headed north on the beach. As I got further into the run I loosened up more and felt great as I was soaking up the beauty of the beach and lessened impact on my joints running on the sand.

I again left the beach thinking to myself, “I gotta do this more…”

If you are interested in examples of workouts to do on the beach send me a note and come join our fantastic group runs.

– Add Health to Your Life

 

 

 

 

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