Yes, you read that post title right. Tonight’s edition of largely pointless and meandering thoughts will indeed be dedicated to running on the beach. And yes, I am posting this in the dead of winter.
Ok, I realize that a more intelligent or macro thinking “blogger” would in all likelihood pen such a themed post in the summer time, or at the very least in the spring when anticipating the arrival of summer (such a post would probably be seen as “timely”). Well, not this guy! I ran on the beach today, and thus the topic is on my mind. Plus as an added bonus, I hope that such a post about running on the beach (which is inherently thought of as a warm weather activity) can bring some hope and spiritual warmth to any readers that are stuck in more Arctic like conditions currently. Conversely, this post may also fuel hatred and scorn in those readers for yours truly. Let us see, shall we?
While out for my beach run this afternoon, I was thinking about the pros and cons (at least in my mind) of using the sand and the ocean as your running backdrop. As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy running on either the beach, road, greenways, or really any surface that wasn’t my beloved trails upon first moving to the Lowcountry. Luckily, I’ve gotten less stubborn with time and now definitely enjoy running on the beach when I get the opportunity. Sure, it can get monotonous like any other running route you utilize often (that’s why you have to mix it up!), but I find myself saying to myself more and more while running the beach, “Dude, you are out on a beach. How bad can things be? Seriously. Just get over it”. Such self scolding (or mindfulness to put it in gentler terms) helps me keep things in perspective.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on beach running broken down into “pros” and “cons” (as one should analyze all aspects of life).
Let’s start with the “pros” as we strive to be optimists here…
- Excellent for Barefoot Running I know that there are a lot of people out there that barefoot run on all terrains (trails, streets, treadmills, volcanic ash), but I am definitely not one of those people! In fact, I do not do any barefoot running at this point in time. However, after getting a little beach running under my belt and having heard the benefits of barefoot running for years now (and having just finally read “Born to Run” which further touts the benefits), I’m seriously considering working in some barefoot running on the beach once the weather warms up. Now unless you’re running on the Jersey shore and thus may very well risk running over broken glass or used syringes (I can say that since I’m from Jersey!), I can’t think of a better introductory terrain for barefoot running than the beach!
- No Stoplights, No Street Crossings, No Fuss! Though the beach may offer some other obstacles (as discussed in the Cons section below), it is generally a great spot to get in a run without worrying about needing to stop every 50 yards for traffic or a street crossing. This fact in and of itself has been a strong motivator for me to hit up the beach on many days!
- Decreased Stress on Joints/Utilizing Different Muscles As one would expect, running on the sand is generally less impactful and punishing than pounding away on the pavement while road running. Concurrently, you are working muscles in the knees, ankles, and feet that you do not typically target while running on other terrains. While both of these facts are most likely good things, one has to always be wary of increasing mileage or pace on a new terrain too quickly or transitioning to training solely on one type of terrain as either can increase your risk of injury (again, mixing up running terrain/routes/habits is good for your body and mind!).
- The Scenery This is probably the biggest selling point for me. Even on the worst weather day, it is still an amazingly beautiful experience to throw down some miles on the beach. Simply put, nothing compares to running with the ocean as your backdrop and the sunrises and sunsets are all that more crisp and vibrant when seen from the vantage point of a beach run. The only downside to this is you may want to spend more of your time snapping photos than you do running!
- Crowds Due to the fact that the beach is so innately and unquestioningly amazing, people tend to flock to it. Crazy, right? Thus, you can sometimes find it difficult to even spot the sand under the throngs of people, let alone run on it. In addition, you may also find yourself dodging run away toddlers, unleashed dogs, frisbees, bocce balls, and drunk undergrads as you weave your way along the beach in a twisted version of “Frogger”. My advice: Hit the beach early or later in the day for your run so as to avoid the masses.
- Not Much Variability There isn’t any elevation gain, pretty much all piers look alike, and the terrain can become monotonous to a degree overall. In the end, beaches are amazing and awesome but kinda look the same after a while. Though it is pretty neat seeing dolphins, crabs, and huge jellyfish during your runs at times…
- Gosh Darn Tarnation Overpronation Apparently in contrast to the overall positive benefits beach running can have for your joints and muscles, there are also some papers and studies out there that suggest beach running (especially when barefoot) can increase the odds of overpronation. I’m not a sports med/ortho doc or PT dude, but I’m guessing that such terrain would thus not be ideal for you if you tend to overpronate at baseline. However, I also believe that variability in terms of your training regimen can nullify this risk at least a bit.
- A Tale of Two Runs As I chronicled in a prior post, the wind is a fickle mistress while joining you on beach runs. For half the run, she’s supportive and making you feel invincible, while she berates you and tries to hold you back on the other half of the run. This fact could be flipped into a pro if you like significant resistance training built into half of your run. However, it could also be seen as a significant con when you tend to do as I do and run with the wind for the first half of your run and into the wind for the second half. When will I learn?
Enough random rambling from me, how do you feel about beach running? What have your experiences out there on the sand been like?