Time for sandy feet and salty running kit! Nothing quite like a beach run with the sun rising over the sea, nothing but a few oyster catchers calling to each other, and a lazy gull or two circling above. But there are some risks attached to a quick shift to sand if your feet are more accustomed to the firmer of terra firma options.
In 1998, three researchers in Belgium published “Mechanics and energetics of human locomotion on sand,” and their conclusions on beach-related exercise was intriguing: running on the sand takes 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface, mainly because:
— The mechanical work required to get through the sand.
— The inefficiency of the work done by tendons and muscles due to the sand’s unpredictable surface.
Cape running coach, Jono Black, has the following advice:
"Running on sand is especially taxing on your muscles, which have to take over much of the work of tendons, because their elastic energy is absorbed. Consider quicker, shorter strides to counter this impact, and stick to harder sand as much as possible (even if this means getting a bit wet or a bit of extra distance). Keep your rhythm relaxed, and don’t try to “fight” the sand."
Here are some helpful tips and tricks when it comes to beach running and remaining injury free.
Check the Tides
www.satides.co.za - Low tide is your friend here. As the water recedes you are left with hard, runnable sand and less of a sloping camber. Running on a slope results in one leg constantly over extending, so if you can’t avoid the camber, make sure you go out and back on the same route to balance things out. Try the "Zig-Zag" beach workout as you adapt.
- Two mins on soft sand.
- Two minutes on the harder sand for recovery.
www.windguru.com Spend some time on a weather app before you head out. Wind slashing loose sand against your legs and in your face is a most unpleasant running experience. Avoid at all costs…
Take it Slow
Holidays are all about slowing the pace, and you’ll need to do just that as you transition to some beach running. Start off with short distances, and allow all the little muscles in your feet to adapt. Run for time on the feet, rather than clocking kilometres.
Warm Up Well
Do a little warm up routine before you hit the beach. Your body will work hard over the softer, uneven terrain. Go for a dynamic warm-up that targets your posterior chain. Lunges, hip rotation, high knees and butt kicks. Don’t ignore the ankles. Seated ankle rotations in both directions work perfectly.
Keep Your Shoes On
Yup, we all want to shed the shoes and dig our feet in to the sand. But it is important to keep your usual running shoes on to begin with. Keep your ankles supported, and maintain the stability that your feet are used to. You could gradually reduce your shoe time if you have enough beach running time on your holiday schedule.
And finally, running on lots of different surfaces, including sand, will make you a stronger and more resilient runner. Never be afraid of mixing it up.
- Words and Images by Kim Stephens