As a track runner who grew up near the ocean, there were few things you dreaded hearing more than the words “beach practice.” Running on sand is hard. Especially soft sand. But switching it up and taking your workout from the land to the sea can have several distinct advantages.
We sat down with Olivia Eaton, the current Australia, New Zealand, and World Women’s Beach Sprint Champion, to talk the benefits of beach running and get her top tips for training on the sand.
“Sand creates an unstable surface, making it harder for you to plant your foot,” says Olivia. In order to stabilize, your lower body must engage smaller muscles, particularly those in your foot and ankle, which can be weak in runners who typically train on solid ground. Running barefoot on the beach can strengthen these muscles, ultimately helping to protect against imbalances and injury. Additionally, because the sand absorbs your force, your lower body has to work harder to propel itself forward. “It’s an amazing strength [workout] for your legs,” she says.
Some research shows that running on sand requires about one-and-a-half times more energy compared to running on a hard surface.
Another benefit of this extra effort is that you can get the same amount of work done, faster. Conversely, when you’re back on the road, you could find that you’re able to cover the same distance more easily.
Lastly, while running on sand may be harder in terms of exertion, it’s actually much easier on your joints. Running on sand is lower in impact and ground reaction forces. This means it can be an ideal training track for those looking to give their bones a break from pounding pavement.
KEEP IT LIGHT
When running on the sand, you need to have a ‘light as a feather,’ mentality says Oliva. “It’s not about pushing into the sand and getting power – it’s about staying on top of the sand,” she says. Olivia stays light by focusing on the top half of her body. Rather than changing her leg movement, Olivia concentrates on lifting her arms higher. “Your arms control your legs, so if you lift your arms higher, you’ll lift up from the sand, gain more ground, and run faster.” She also recommends keeping your face as relaxed as possible. “You always see pictures of runners all tensed up in the face and in their shoulders, but if you focus on your breathing, and keep your face relaxed, your body will follow suit.”
HOW TO PREPARE
Beach running is quite different from road running, so warming up is crucial, says Olivia. In fact, sometimes Olivia’s warmups will be longer than her actual workout, lasting about 20 minutes. If you’re short on time, you can cut this down considerably, but she recommends spending no less than five minutes warming up.
Start with a light, five-minute jog. Follow that with five to fifteen minutes of dynamic stretching, or, movements that stretch your muscles, but you don’t hold in an end position. The opposite of dynamic stretching is static stretching – where you hold a certain position – save this kind of stretching for after your workout, says Olivia.
Try these five dynamic stretches, with about 10 reps per side:
To build fitness: Sprint as hard as you can for 200 meters, five times, with 30 seconds of rest in between.
To build speed: Try 30/60/90s. Sprint for 30, 60, and 90 meters, walking back to your original starting point after each sprint. Do four sets of these three sprints, resting for five minutes in between.
THE COOL DOWN
Walk for at least five minutes. Beach running puts an incredible amount of strain on your calves. Walking takes the pressure off your calves by putting your weight back on your heels, says Olivia. After your walk, repeat the dynamic stretch moves you did to warm up, but hold them in a static position for at least 30 seconds, per side.
OLIVIA’S TOP TIPS
- Concentrate on staying on top of the sand – not digging down. Lift your arms, focus on your breathing, and keep your face relaxed.
- Warming up is key! Spend the majority of your workout time getting your body ready to run.
- When warming up, make sure you hit every muscle group – start at your head and work all the way down to your ankles.
- When cooling down, make sure to you don’t miss your hip flexors or calves – these will be the sorest areas the next day.
- Always remember to wear sunscreen, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
You can follow Olivia on Instagram @oliviaeaton and follow us @SmartyHealth.
Posted on June 27, 2017