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Is sand running good for you?

Is it better than running on grass?

Is it less impact on your joints?

Is it bad for your knees?

By Em Batger – Active RX Physio

· Event

These are all common questions that I often get asked by my clients, particularly in the summer months when people eagerly flock to Sydney beaches for sunrise soft sand sessions.

As with every form of exercise there should be a little moderation involved. Without question the first soft sand session is going to hurt, not necessarily at the time, although that being said it’s a solid workout for the ticker too, but the next day.. in your calves. It’s very different to road running, the motion of running is altered and the stresses on certain muscles are different when running on sand.

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Is there a downside?

Not really. Aside from the risk of blisters and sand rash which both seem a little insignificant when you look at all the benefits!

There are however a few considerations to be aware of if your starting sand running for the first time.

Sand running isn’t the perfect form of exercise for everyone. Our bodies are all designed differently and what works for one person may not be great for the next. Just because your best mate runs the sand every morning doesn’t mean your body will be cut out for the same loads.

So what exactly are the benefits of sand running?

  • It’s great for your fitness, said to be twice as intense as running on the road, so it makes for a pretty intense workout.
  • It’s a useful form of exercise for developing our proprioception or perception of support. Running soft sand requires a much higher level of focus than jogging on a flat path. Pretty much everything works harder, particularly your core, pelvic stabilisers and lower leg stabilisers
  • In terms of the surface, sand is actually more forgiving than road running, so less pressure through your weight bearing joints like your knees.
  • Want great legs? Sand running can definitely help in this department!

I’m specifically referring here to people who may be either carrying an injury, or prone to developing certain injuries. A handful of the lower limb overuse injuries that we see such as Achilles tendinitis, ITB friction syndrome, patellofemoral maltracking, superior tibio-fibular dysfunction (to name a few) are often manifestations of poor biomechanics. These clients usually have a typical presentation whereby they have poor pelvic stability, weakness in their glutes and sometimes a dysfunction lower down in the ankle/calf. These factors can lead to a lack of control from the pelvis down resulting in a higher risk of either developing one of the aforementioned issues or further aggravating a pre-existing condition

If you’re unsure as to whether this is a suitable form of exercise for you, make sure you check with your physiotherapist or trainer before starting out to avoid unnecessary injuries!

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Some useful tips.

  1. If you are new to sand running start closer to the water’s edge where the sand is a little firmer. As your body adjusts to the demands of sand running move further up the beach to the softer more uneven terrain.
  2. You need to stay light on your feet, you don’t get the same push off from sand that you do from harder surfaces so your calf complex has to work harder to drive you forward. Try and focus on slightly shorter strides.
  3. Don’t do too much too soon – moderation is best. Remember it’s more strenuous than running on other surfaces, go by time as opposed to distance covered.
  4. Mix it up: make sure you compliment your training on soft sand with running sessions on harder surfaces. This will allow you to develop your running technique more effectively.
  5. Sand running is a lot of work for your calves. Make sure you give them the TLC they need regularly. Remember a tight, overactive muscle doesn’t work as efficiently so spending just 5-10 minutes a day working on your mobility can ensure that your body is ready to go.
  6. If you really want a CHALLENGE add some backwards running efforts into your session. That coupled with some in, outs (yes that means getting into the water) or some shuttles can turn really turn up the intensity of your session!

Don't forget to start training today and register now for the Bondi Barefoot Soft Sand Race.


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