The Joys of Running on Sand

By Iffley Road. Posted: July 21, 2017

Most of us spend a lot of time running on roads

If - like many of us - you live in an urban area, you may find you do most of your training on roads.  We may not have a choice, but running on tarmac is not always pleasant and can be bad for your joints because each footfall is very similar. Running on sand can offer a very different experience.

Running on sand feels hard…

Running on sand is quite the opposite.  Each footfall is slightly different and the fact that the surface has so much give means we have to work our lower body muscles a lot harder than running on a hard surface like tarmac.

This is why it feels so hard.  Each minute on sand feels like two on the road.  But it’s worth persevering because the benefits are immense.

…but will pay off

1) The key benefit is that running on a softer surface means that you have to work the small muscles in your lower body (ankles, knees and hips) much harder.  So when you go back to the roads again, running should feel easier than before.

2) You burn a lot more calories.  Studies have shown that running on sand typically burns one-and-a –half times as many calories as running on tarmac.

3) You are much less likely to get injured if you run on a soft surface like sand.  This is because each footfall is different.  Injury often comes from a repetitive footfall.

Benefits of running on sand

Percy Cerutty – the coach behind training on sand dunes

Percy Cerutty was the father of training on sand dunes.   He pioneered “Stotan” training, embracing a holistic approach of hard training in natural surroundings, mental stimulation and a natural diet.

He would make his athletes run along beaches and up and down sand dunes often barefoot (coupled with lifting weights).

Cerutty coached Herb Elliott to a series of world record performances culminating in an Olympic gold medal a the 1960 Rome Olympics.

So, if you are going anywhere near a beach this Summer, what better idea than to try something different – a little running on sand.

Bear in mind there are different types of sand

Not all sand is the same.  Wet, compact sand is a lot easier to run on than completely dry sand.  Even running on wet compact sand is going to feel a lot harder than running on tarmac but if you want to run “Cerutty style” you’ll need to fly up dry sand dunes!

Different kinds of sand for running

Top tips for running on sand

1) If you’re running barefoot, look out for shells, pebbles, glass and other hard objects

2) Start with a short run - Remember a 20 minute run will feel like 40 minutes on the pavement 

3) Don’t expect to run as fast as you would on a hard surface

4) Run in your swimming trunks or running shorts and if it’s a hot day jump into the sea when you’ve finished.  All Iffley Road shorts are suitable for a quick dip and dry very quickly.

5) Leave your Garmin/watch/heart rate monitor at home and revel in your natural surroundings!

Running on sand beautiful landscape 


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