11 Beach Running Tips to Stay Safe and Boost Fitness

Vacation often means, sun, sand and a few too many hours relaxing near a table of drinks and eats. But of course you’re a runner and you’ve seen some many photos of people beach running…you’ve gotta do it.

It’s fun and hard, but are you getting any additional benefits out of running in sand??

Easy is just about the only way to go when you hit the beach for a longer run.

According to a study in Experimental Biology “running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy expenditure than does running on a hard surface.”

In layman’s terms that means it is harder and burns more calories!

Who doesn’t want their run to burn a few more calories, especially while on vacation?! But of course all that extra effort means we need to know a few things to prevent injury and serious muscle soreness.

As a running coach, I encourage our athletes to enjoy vacation, run new places, have new experiences. But remember not to overdo the sand if it’s new to you.

Is running on the beach bad for you?

No. Running in the sand is a great way to build leg strength and improve your runs when you use it correctly as part of training.

Running on the sand can make you faster, just not while running on the sand!

Below I’ll provide some workouts and ideas to maximize the benefits. Along with what you need to know to do your runs safely.

11 Beach Running Benefits

In fact, let’s talk about some of the reasons you should absolutely enjoy your beach runs! Whether you have access all the time or once in awhile, it’s something to add to your training routine for some pretty stellar benefits.

  • The view <
  • It’s like running with ankle weights, but safer
  • Building strength in small unused muscles
  • It’s a strength workout, which leads to more leg power
  • Higher calorie burn than running on roads
  • Increase strength in ankles for those who have ankle pain while running
  • Chance to improve your stride (you tend to do less overstriding)
  • Reduces impact stress of running on joints
  • Faster running later!
  • Free post run bath – the salt and cold are perfect for recovery

Here’s how it makes you faster long term:

“There’s more drag on your feet as you’re doing that training, so when you’re in an environment where there’s not that drag, your legs will not fatigue as easily,” according to Dr. R. Amadeus Mason, a team physician for USA Track and Field.

10 Beach Running Tips

No one wants to come back from vacation injured, so take a few minutes to recognize that this is a DIFFERENT run and you may need to make adjustments.

1. Time Your Runs

Not like with your watch, but time your runs to the changes in the water.

Running when the tide has gone out on the slightly firm, but wet sand can feel really forgiving to the joints and not as hard to run in as running in dry loose sand. Soft sand is going to force your ankles, feet, knees and even hips to perform a lot more work than normal.

That could mean you fatigue faster or simply feel more delayed muscle soreness the next day.

Hard packed sand is going to feel more like running on pavement, but remember you’ll still be working extra stabilizer muscles.

2. Don’t Always Go Barefoot

It’s fantastic to take of the shoes and run sometimes! Your body gets to really make that connection with your feet, it’s a great way to work on your running form and it just feels nice.

But it’s also important to remember that sand is going to clear skin off your feet, just like a loofah!

This can actually make them tender in your shoes later. So if you’ll be doing multiple days, try mixing it up between barefoot and shod. Especially if you’re trying to do any kind of longer run where your body is used to the support of a shoe.

3. Protect Your Skin and Eyes

Having lived in Florida I can tell you that we tend to forget sun reflects off the water and makes it much easier to get burned or for it to really hurt your eyes.

I’ve got a list of my favorite natural sunscreens for runners, so you have something that won’t burn your eyes when you sweat! And when you want to take a quick post run dip, will still keep you covered.

It’s no fun to have a great run, followed by a sunburn you have to deal with for the rest of the trip. Pack the sunblock, the running hat and the running sunglasses.

4. Account for Heat and Humidity

Remember that running in hot and humid conditions doesn’t just feel harder, it ist physically harder for your body.

Because it’s harder for your body to cool itself when the perspiration can’t evaporate, your HR may rise more quickly than normal runs.

So remind yourself that an easy run is mean to be easy, slow it down and really focus on why you’re enjoying this new run! OR checkout a specific workout below to get in that high intensity workout with recovery breaks.

As said by Benita Williams a 2014 World Champion “it forces you to run on feel so you’re not relying on a watch or obsessing about particular paces.”

5. Pay Attention to the Slope

If you’re doing a short run this likely won’t bother you, but for multiple days or a longer run you need to be aware of running on a slant.

This is one of the ways many runners develop IT Band Syndrome issues. We run on the same side of the street with a slight slant day after day, which doesn’t allow one leg to extend as far as the other leg.

You can mitigate this a few ways:

  • Running out and back along the same line
  • Doing little bit of zig zag style so your are running up and down the slant to keep changing muscles
  • Do part of the run near the water and most of the run closer to the vegetation where it’s likely to be flat

6. Start Small And Build

The main principle in all things running is avoiding the injury triad of too much, too soon, too fast.

If you only have access to the beach for a week of vacation, then you may need to just keep your time there short. Use one of the focused beach running workouts below or keep it to a few short easy runs.

Otherwise, start out with just 1 day a week at 20 minutes on the beach. As you feel less sore from that run, try adding in a second run or adding 10 minutes to the duration of your 1 weekly run.

7. Treat it Like a Workout

I know it’s vacation and it’s fun, but you’re still asking your body to work hard. In fact, potentially harder than it works on your normal every day road runs.

  • Spend time doing your dynamic warm up and really get those ankles
  • Focus on hydrating well and definitely include an electrolyte drink
  • Refuel post run with carbs, fat and PROTEIN

8. What to Wear: Should you run in a swimsuit?

The first question is should you try for the Baywatch look running barefoot in your swimsuit? Or play it safe by sticking to your regular gear?

  • Triathletes run in their swimsuits, so it’s certainly not an issue if you have enough support.
  • I prefer running in my gear and then just dunking in the water wearing full gear after.
  • Keep a change of clothes in the car and voila, dry again.
  • Here’s my favorite summer running gear (including the sunscreen you need!)

If you’ve been curious to test out barefoot running, the beach is one of the best places to do it.

The surface is soft, you can take it easy by enjoying the view, and with the right surface there is nothing to puncture your foot. Plus you get to avoid that whole weird sand in my running shoe feel!

However if you’re doing a longer run, start with your shoes and only do the last 15-20 minutes without shoes to ensure you don’t overtax new muscles. Even in your shoes the sand will require an additional amount of stability from your core to your knees to your ankles.

9. Long Runs on The Beach?

Just as those who are transitioning to barefoot running are cautioned not to over do it, the same can be said for beach running.

If you’re lucky enough to find a hard packed beach you can do a fairly long run without any extreme soreness the following day. However, the loose sand will work small muscles in your knees and ankles that are often unneeded in road running.

Do we want to use those muscles? Yes.
Do we want to be so sore you risk injury? No.

For a loose sand run where you’ve not spent much time running on trails, keep it short and easy.beach running workout

10. Post Run Stretching

You don’t need to do it the second you finish your run, but make time during the day to stretch and if possible foam roll.

Your calves, ankles and feet are going to want some extra love.

Spending even 5 minutes working on them at the end of the day could mean you feel better to try another workout the following day.

And remember that your hips did a whole lot of extra work to stabilize you pledge that run. So if you haven’t been doing the Core Challenge, they may be feeling it as well!

11. Read the Wind

Just like you need to check the tide, take a second to gauge what the wind is doing. It’s often much stronger coming off the water and that’s going to impact your run.

If you hit the beach on strong wind day remember to start running IN to the wind.

It’s going to slow you down adding more resistance {strength training} to your workout. You want to do this when you have the most energy, so that wind can help propel you on the way back!

Get more tips for running in the wind >>

5 Beach Running Workouts

Deciding what type of beach workout you want will impact how you use the sand.

Recovery Run

If you’re looking for a recovery run, then plan to go at a pace slower than normal focusing on just stabilizing your body in the uneven surface.

  • Keep the pace easy
  • Think about landing with your feet under you
  • Think about engaging your core
  • Think about landing soft and allowing your feet to move with the sand

Interval Workouts

If you’re looking for a more intense session, stay away from focusing on speed and instead use the softer sand as a resistance workout. Just like running hills this will build more power in your legs.

Start with an easy run off the beach and then try one of these in loose sand:

  • 5 x 30 second hard efforts with up to 2 minutes walk in between
  • 7 x 1 minute half marathon effort with up to 2 minutes walk in between
  • 20 minutes at marathon effort
  • Mix it up doing push ups, sprints, jump squats, tricep dips, etc

Running Drills

It’s also the perfect time to throw in running drills like skips and jumps because it will cushion your landing and force you to contract your abs for stability.

In addition to the linked drills, you can do any of these at the end of your run.

  • High Skips
  • Fast feet
  • Quick sprints
  • Butt kickers
  • high knees

Wave Fartleks

Create a little interval workout by dashing down to the water and then getting out before the waves come back! Recover by jogging easy in between your next dash to the water…

Works especially well when you don’t want to get your shoes drenched.

HIIT Workout

Easy run of 10-15 minutes to warm up, followed by this workout:

  • 10 jump squats
  • 10 bicycle crunches
  • 10 push ups
  • 10 jumping jacs
  • 5 minute easy jog
  • Repeat sequence

Heading to the #beach for vacation? Checkout these beach running tips! Click To Tweet

Hopefully these beach running tips gave you some new ideas and ways to use the sand to your advantage!

And of course while I want you to get your run on…it is vacation and we all need to learn to relax without the guilt!

Are you a beach runner???

What’s your best ever beach run? My most memorable beach run will always be the morning of our wedding!

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