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There’s no doubt running on the beach provides a different feel than road running. Beach running could easily be put in the category of cross-training because it’s a softer surface yet still uneven and less predictable for balance.
It has a lot of benefits not to mention the intangibles of being in a beautiful environment with fresh air.
You’ll get a different type of workout depending on where you run on the beach. For example, running near the water should provide a harder surface but might also have a slope.
Running higher on the beach will usually be flat, however it will likely have a softer surface and make the run more challenging.
Running on the beach has other benefits too. You can easily mix up workouts with new ideas. These include sprints, circuit training, and sports.
Have you ever tried playing beach volleyball? Your legs will hate you the following day! The following are a few reasons why beaches are the perfect place for running and exercise.
No. 1 Beach Running for Muscles, Knees, and Ligaments
Consider the act of running as small collisions between your feet/legs and the earth’s surface. You can easily recall that the beach is softer than a paved road, but you probably can’t imagine the long-term health implications of one versus the other.
These small collisions between your feet and the earth’s surface add up over time so if you’re running on a road you’ll definitely have more wear and tear in the long run.
Running on sand provides a cushiony feel for our feet – this is what makes it a great low impact activity for exercise. Unless you have prior injuries, you likely won’t notice the relief it provides your joints but over time it will help your body.
One of the great things about running on the beach is the sand is never level. Legs will constantly adjust to its topography.
A slightly uneven surface will be great for muscles and ligaments that support joints because it engages them at a higher level than a hard flat surface.
Strong ligaments result in better balance and stability for your joints and a reduced chance of injury!
Related: Helpful Beach Hacks for Summer
No 2. Fewer Injuries on the Beach
We move quickly when running and the last thing we want is to fall, twist an ankle, or damage a knee. One of the benefits of running on the beach is the reduced chance of injury.
We learned earlier that running on the beach is much better for our joints, but it’s also comforting to know that if we fall we won’t have to worry about breaking skin.
There might be a bruise or two, but the chances on serious injury are greatly reduced compared to road running. For small children or senior citizens that have challenges with balance, beach running can be an insurance policy for an unexpected fall.
No 3 Plenty To See While Running on the Beach
One of the best things I like about running on the beach is that it provides great scenery. I can run and watch at the same time. Better yet, I’ll be thinking less about my run and more about the beauty around me.
Think about the alternatives to the beach. Mine are 1) running in my neighborhood, 2) running on a treadmill, or 3) running at a track.
Running at the beach allows us to see so much that we can forget about the pain of the run and enjoy the moment. Here’s a list of the distractions you can see while running at the beach.
- Beautiful coastline
- Surfers and Bodyboarders
- Sunrise or Sunset
- Whales and Dolphins
- Message in a Bottle
- Families building sand castles
- Kids Flying Kites
- Beautiful men and ladies wearing next to nothing!
No. 4 Peers All Around You
While running it’s always good to be around other like-minded people. If you run alone, chances are you’ll be bored and might not push yourself as much if you were around others.
Human nature works in a way where other people can inspire us to do more and work harder. At the beach you’ll see people at all levels, some trying to lose weight while others trying to stay at peak athletic performance.
Observing people at different levels helps us know where we’ve been and where we are going!
No. 5 Invite Your Dog for a Beach Run
It seems like everyone in the U.S. has a dog now so chances are you have one too. Dogs love wide open spaces to run and play. So there isn’t a better place than the beach (these breeds really love the beach).
If running around your neighborhood with your dog sounds better to you, then think about your dog’s body instead. Dogs have much thinner legs and feet than humans.
This means they put a lot of pressure on them while running. We know that sand provides more of a cushion so do your dog a favor and let it run on the soft sand. Your dog’s feet will thank you!
Related: Best Beach Gear for Dogs
No. 6 Increase Core Strength
When a running surface isn’t level it requires our core to adjust and react for balance. Running on sand requires a little more effort than on the road and as a result, our core will get a better workout.
When running on sand our feet won’t “stick” to the surface, it will actually twist when pushing off.
The twisting movement of your feet in the sand will slightly change the alignment of knees, hips, and shoulders and thus engage internal and external obliques, abdominals, serratus anterior and posterior, as well as erector spinae muscles – you won’t even notice it!
Why should we care about our core? Well, the core is your center and how your limbs function depends a lot on the health and strength of your core. Your core helps with posture, balance, strength and mobility. In No. 7 (below) we’ll discuss specific exercises to engage the core.
No. 7 Beach is the Perfect Place to Add Circuit Training
With all the space on the beach we can do more than just a run. Circuit training allows us to do a variety of shorter, more intense workouts. This is actually what I prefer to do on the beach. My workout usually involves the following exercises:
- Warm up jog
- Jump Squats
- Russian Twists
- Medicine ball throws
Some of the exercises mentioned above might seem basic. They are, however exercises like jump squats and sprints can be brutally difficult in the sand. Sprints are notoriously difficult to do in the sand.
Our feet can easily push sand so it’s harder to push off. Sprints in the sand also provide a stretch for our legs that is unattainable on harder surfaces. Just be careful to start slowly with sand sprints because you can pull a muscle when starting out.
Russian twists are great for ab and core strength and as you sit in the sand to begin this exercise you’ll notice the dent your bum makes in the sand actually helps with stability. Sometimes I do Russian Twists with a medicine ball too.
Wondering why handstands are on my list? Handstands are great for upper body strength, core strength, and balance. I never try handstands away from the beach because I don’t like the fall – at the beach falling never hurts!
No. 8 Refresh in the Water Post Run
There’s no better way to cool off after a beach run than a post-workout dip in the ocean. It’s so close so there’s no excuse not to go in. Even if the water is cold it’s refreshing to jump in, similar to an ice bath that athletes use to reduce inflammation.
Most beaches also have outside showers to rinse off in, so if you prefer shower with fresh water rather than salt water. It’s perfect for morning exercise before work.
No. 9 Beach Run – Shoes Not Required
If you run on the road or in a gym, you must have shoes. This isn’t the case at the beach, and not having shoes is preferred for a beach workout.
Some research has shown that wearing shoes isn’t good for the strength of our feet. Obviously, shoes do help with cleanliness and a softer landing for our joints.
A beach run without shoes should be tried at least once to experience the difference! Some people can get blisters on their feet from running on the sand. If so, consider sand socks that act like another layer of skin.
Related: Essential Beach Items You’ll Need
No. 10 Fresh Air for a Beach Run
Honestly, it’s hard to find fresh air! Pollution caused by cars, industry, chemicals, agriculture have really messed up air quality in the U.S. Some initiatives are beginning to help improve air quality but they’ve got a long way to go.
Allergies and asthma are on the rise, big time! Beach running should be considered for people who suffer from allergies and asthma. Beaches have some of the best air in the U.S. when the breeze comes in from the ocean.
I have bad allergies and love running at the beach. It’s one of the few places I can run without experiencing symptoms.
No. 11 Beach is a Muscle Builder
We’ve mentioned this briefly in a few of the benefits above, but beach running will build muscle better than road running. Why, you ask? It takes more effort to run on sand and takes better balance.
When running on a road you don’t have to think about your next step – you know that the next step will be similar to the first. Beach running, however, is a bit more unpredictable.
The subtle ups and downs of the sand keep the body guessing and readjusting. This is healthy for balance and muscles. If you’re going for power workouts for muscle building. Stick to the short, intense workouts I mentioned in the circuit training section.
No. 12 Bigger Beach Equals More Safety
It’s understandable to be concerned about safety when running. By safety, I mean personal safety from oneself and others.
Maybe you’re recovering from surgery and worried about an unexpected fall, or maybe you’re uncertain about running in your neighborhood because of strangers.
Running at the beach (during daylight hours) is a very safe place to be, especially if it’s a well-known beach. At popular beaches, there are lifeguards who watch over beach-goers and they can help if there’s an accident.
People engaged in nefarious activities might hang around the beach, but rarely on the beach. You can feel safe running on the beach, plus there are no cars to avoid like you’d find on the road.
Related: Women Must-Haves for the Beach
No. 13 Beach Running Might Make You Faster
If you’re an aspiring athlete or serious one, you should consider running on the beach. While I think long distance runners could benefit from long runs on the beach, I think athletes that play fast-paced sports could benefit more.
Football players, basketball players, baseball players, wrestlers, and tennis players are all good candidates for not only beach running, but a beach workout.
As we mentioned earlier, beach sprints in deep sand will stretch and strengthen leg and hip muscles. The stretching could increase running stride and thereby increase speed.
Other speed drills like ladder drills can further improve footwork and speed.
Based on the above benefits, we should all be running on the beach. Considering the alternatives (road, gym, track), the decision is clear. You can get fresh air, leg strength and agility, power, be around like-minded people, and it’s better for your joints.
I quit my gym membership years ago and continue to work out at the beach whenever I can. If you live near a beach consider using it as your training base because it could improve your health and reduce wear and tear on your body. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out more of our articles on Beach Life Expert!