This blog post is provided by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE. If you’re interested in reading informative articles about running and endurance sports on a regular basis, click here (Website and content in German)
What is seldom found in everyday life, is often available in abundance during the holidays: a grainy, fine sandy beach and the desire to run on it. Let us show you the best tips for injury-free running training on sand.
When the sun bathes the beach in a golden light at dawn and the waves slosh gently over the sand, endurance athletes feel the urge to run. For enthusiastic runners, beach runs are just as much a part of a perfect holiday by the sea as homemade gelato on the piazza in the evening. But what applies to ice cream also applies to running training on sand: high quantities are rarely digestible. It is therefore worth planning your training carefully and moderately to prevent injuries.
Quite the workout
Important note: Not all sand is the same. It plays a decisive role whether you walk on soft sand or close to the water on solid (and sloping) sand. The soft sandy soil absorbs the forces actively developed during running. For a similar propulsion as on asphalt, almost twice as much energy is needed. Anyone who almost exclusively runs on tar in damped shoes in everyday life will suddenly feel his foot and calf muscles considerably when running on ankle-deep sand. All the more so when doing it barefoot, as the running style naturally shifts to the forefoot or midfoot.
The other side of the coin: Frequent running in the sand quickly leads to overloading of the locomotor system if the foot and calf muscles are insufficiently trained. Heel spur, shin split or hamstring problems can be the result of an excessive training on sand.
Hard sand is harder than expected and therefore similar to running on asphalt in terms of its effect on the muscles. Whoever euphorically completes an hour-long barefoot run on hard sand at the beginning of the holiday will certainly be punished the next day with sore muscles in the calves. The most important rules of thumb for sand running are, in brief:
- Start with short units and carefully increase.
- The looser the ground, the shorter (but more qualitative!) the running unit.
- The longer the training, the more compellingly, shoes have to be worn.
With running shoes on the beach
For those who do their running training on sand with shoes many possibilities for training design will open up:
- Warm-up: To train your coordination skills, walk and trot alternately through loose sand at a slow pace for about 10-15 minutes. The deeper the shoes sink into the sand, the more demanding. Experts can also run sideways or backwards as they like, incorporate small jumps or butt kickers.
- Strength training: Run through the sand for 5-20 minutes to strengthen the ankle joints and leg muscles. Start on firmer sand at a slow pace, then vary the surface and duration. Do not exaggerate, slowly approach the harder intensity!
- Endurance run: A relaxed endurance run of 45-70 minutes (depending on your training condition!) should ideally be carried out along the waterline. This means where the damp sand is firm and the sinking in is reduced to a minimum. If the beach slopes steeply, do without longer units and change the running direction regularly. In an inclined position the risk of injury and overstraining is high!
Barefoot in the sand
If you walk through the sand with bare feet, you not only do something good for your muscles, you also treat your soles with a soothing massage. Barefoot is the most comfortable way to walk on soft sand.
It should be noted that, depending on the walking speed and the nature of the sand, the skin of the soles of the feet is stressed and coarse-grained sand can quickly cause chafing. It is therefore advisable to incorporate the following exercises into a “sand programme”:
- Walking exercises: Walk either on the tips of your toes or on your heels, focusing on or crossing the inner and outer edges. In between, draw shapes or letters in the sand.
- Strength training: Run through the sand for 5-20 minutes to strengthen the hocks and leg muscles. Start on firmer sand at a slow pace, then vary the surface and duration. Do not exaggerate, slowly approach greater intensity! Also install skippers or long jumps and walk a few meters to relieve the strain. Stop immediately in case of pain.
- Foot gymnastics: These are done best before running training for 5-15 minutes. Dig your feet loosely into the sand and rotate against the resistance to the outside and inside as well as take flex and point positions. Pick up small stones, shells or branches lying around on the beach with your toes. Run in a straight line, one foot in front of the other. The are no limits to your imagination.
Translated by: Denise Kaufmann