Just because you haven’t taken your running shoes with you on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t run. A short barefoot run in the sand between two dips in the sea will do you a world of good.
As you emerge gently from your siesta under the parasol, reach out and grab that little cloud of motivation as it floats by to go for a twenty to thirty-minute run. It’ll not only make you look good but also feel good. First off, your muscles will benefit. Sand is a moving surface, and your leg muscles will have to work harder for each stride. Calves, quadriceps, buttocks and hamstrings will be under greater pressure, and you’ll feel the benefit when you return to your usual runs.
Alain Duhamel, coach at the Touquet Trail Nature Club, knows all about running on sand. He lives next to some long sandy beaches where he sometimes takes club members for specific sessions: “Running on sand is good exercise for a general physical preparation session (PPG, in French).” A PPG is a whole load of muscle reinforcement exercises aimed at greater efficiency when running and at injury prevention. And the perfect way to avoid injuries is to prepare your body by running on sand: “A few heel-to-bum and knee lifts, even an invisible chair for a few seconds will help your body cope with the extra effort needed to run on sand.” Of course you’ll need to find a wall on the beach to lean against for your invisible chair.
If you are a rear-foot runner, running on sand is also a good opportunity to change where your foot strikes. Specialists advise against striking with your heel, as it can lead to joint injury in particular. While the risk of injury is reduced on sand, you tend to tire more quickly: “As the sand shifts, you need to strike harder with the foot,” says coach Alain Duhamel. “If you use your heel, you’ll sink in the sand. So it’s better to run more dynamically and use the midfoot, which requires less energy.”
Running on the sand will give you more landing stability. “Running barefoot on the sand will stimulate various muscles that are normally resting when they are in shoes, and help you land more solidly,” explains Alain Duhamel.
A few precautions
There are a few precautions you can take to avoid nasty surprises when running on the sand. Firstly, if you have never run on sand before, don’t set out to do 10 km on your first outing. This would be asking too much of the muscles mentioned above and you risk injuring yourself.
If you’re lucky enough to have long holidays, don’t try and run on the sand every day either. Over and above muscular injury, you could develop tendinitis in your big toe because it tends to provide the impetus when you’re running, and is overworked on sand. Apart from these few common-sense rules, have fun and remember that swimming in the sea is so much more pleasurable after a run.