Running training on the beach
When the sun rises and bathes the beach in a golden light and the waves gently spill over the sand, endurance athletes are motivated by an irrepressible desire to go running. For enthusiastic runners, beach runs are just as much part of the perfect holiday by the sea as homemade gelato in the piazza in the evening. However, what is true for ice cream is also true for running training on sand: too much of a good thing can be bad for you. It is therefore worthwhile planning your training carefully and in moderation, so that it doesn’t get thrown out the window.
Really quite strenuous
Important to know: there are various types of sand. There is a decisive difference between running in soft sand or on firm (and sloping) sand near the water. Soft sand absorbs the active forces generated during running. For a similar propulsion on asphalt, you therefore need to expend almost twice as much energy. If you normally almost only go running on tar roads in cushioned shoes, you will really start to feel your feet and calf muscles when running in ankle-deep sand. And even more so if you go running barefoot in sand, as the running style quite naturally shifts to the fore- or midfoot.
The flip side of the coin: if you have insufficiently trained feet and calf muscles, frequent running in sand will very quickly lead to overloading the musculoskeletal system. Heel spurs, shin splints or Achilles tendon problems can result from excessive running in sand.
Firm sand is harder than you think and therefore the impact on the muscles is similar to running on asphalt. Those who euphorically go for a one-hour barefoot run on firm sand at the beginning of the holiday will most certainly be punished the next day with sore calf muscles. On these grounds, here are the most important rules of thumb for sand running in brief:
- Start with short units and cautiously increase them.
- The looser the ground, the shorter (and better quality!) the running unit should be.
- The longer the training, the more essential it is to wear shoes.
Running with shoes on the beach
If you wear shoes when doing your running training on sand, you will find you have many possibilities when it comes to structuring your training:
- Warm up: To train your coordination skills, alternate between walking and jog-trotting through loose sand at a slow leisurely tempo for 10-15 minutes. The deeper the shoes sink into the sand, the more challenging it is. Experienced runners can also choose to run sideways or backwards, incorporate small hop-jumps, or kick their buttocks with their heels.
- Strength training: To strengthen the ankle joints and leg muscles, run through the sand for 5-20 minutes. Start on firm sand at a slow tempo, then vary the ground and possibly the duration. Don’t overdo it, slowly work your way round to getting used to the load!
- Continuous run: Do a relaxed continuous run of 45-70 minutes (depending on your training condition!), ideally along the water line where the damp sand is firm, and sinking is minimal. If the beach slopes steeply, abstain from doing longer units and change direction on a regular basis. The risk of injury and overloading is high on sloping beaches!
Barefoot in the sand
When you go running bare foot through the sand, you will not only do something good for your muscles but will also pamper your soles with a soothing massage. It is most pleasant when you run barefoot in soft sand. Here you need to keep in mind that, depending on the speed and nature of the sand, the skin on the soles of the feet can get stressed and will quickly become chafed on coarse-grained sand. It is therefore advisable to incorporate the following exercises into a “sand program”:
- Gait training: Walk on either your tip toes or heels and load or cross the inner and outer edges. Occasionally make figures or letters in the sand.
- Strength training: To strengthen the ankle joints and leg muscles, run through the sand for 5-20 minutes. Start on firm sand at a slow tempo, then vary the ground and possibly the duration. Don’t overdo it, slowly work your way round to getting used to the load! Incorporate hops or long jumps now and again and repeatedly walk for a few metres at a leisurely pace to relieve the strain. If you feel pain, stop immediately.
- Foot exercises: It’s best to do these for 5-15 minutes before your running training. Bury your feet in the sand and rotate them inwards and outwards against the resistance and flex and point your toes. Pick up small stones, shells or branches that are lying around on the beach with your toes. Run along a virtual straight line, placing one foot in front of the other. There are no limits to the imagination.
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