Walking on a Beach
Let’s face it; walking on a track or treadmill day after day can get boring. If we are lucky enough to live in a nice neighborhood, walking around the streets provides some distraction, but this too can become mundane. However, if you live near a beach or visit one on vacation, you’ve hit the jackpot. A beach is a great place for your walking workout. Be careful, there are positives and negatives associated with walking in the soft sand.
Basic Guidelines for Walking on a Beach
Here are some basic guidelines for walking on a beach. As with all workouts, check with a physician before starting a walking program. Also, warm-up before starting each walk as well as cool down when you finish. When specifically walking in the sand, typically on a beach you must be aware that beaches typically slope downward toward the ocean. This has a negative effect on the body if you walk along the ocean, the typical way we walk at a beach. Whether it’s perceptible or not, one foot (the one closer to the ocean) is landing slightly lower than the other foot. This breaks the body’s natural balance and over the course of miles will strain the muscles, ligaments and tendons more than the other side. To combat this, walk half your distance in one direction and then turn around and walk back in the opposite direction. Fortunately, it is the way most of us walk when exercising at a beach.
Also be aware that walking in the sand takes extra effort, 20 to 50 percent more than walking on a paved surface or track. The softer, malleable surface requires more effort to push off and therefore increases your walking workout’s intensity and burns more calories. Like walking in water, it’s a natural way to add effort to your step. However, your footing underfoot is less sure and if you are injured the extra motion may not be ideal. So if you are nursing an injury, you want to skip the beach workout unless specifically instructed by a physician. Also, warm up walking on the firmer, wetter sand near the ocean. Once you get your body going, then switch to the more challenging, dry sand.
Correct Gear for Walking on a Beach
Wearing the right clothes and foot wear can be more important than walking on a paved surface. Often you are far more exposed to the elements than walking in a more sheltered location. The obvious threat is the sun’s rays beating down on you. So make sure you cover up with loose fitting clothing, a hat and wear sweat-proof sunscreen. What to put on your foot depends a lot on your physicality and the duration of your walk. It’s always safest to have some form of protection on your feet. I’ve suffered through the long recovery from having glass surgically removed from my foot. Take precautions, they will be worth it. Normally, I am not a big fan of minimalist walking. It may work for the biomechanically gifted (which I am not), but most of us are not biomechanically symmetrical and without muscle imbalances. The beach is the one exception. A minimalist aqua sock or shoe/sandal may be fine if you do not have stability problems. However, if you wear orthotics, you may wish to stay on the firm wet sand and wear your regular exercise walking shoes. You may also wish to do this if your feet are sensitive to the sand or heat. Sensitive feet should be kept dry and as free from sand as possible.
Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water or an electrolyte drink. In the heat you may visibly sweat a lot, however if it’s cool and windy the sweat will be whisked away from your body, so remember to drink often.
A final note of caution; please be respectful of where you are walking and avoid areas that are delicate environmental areas. Some may be labeled as fragile or sensitive, and some may not. Use common sense, if an area looks untrampled, walk along the more beaten path.
Beginning a Walking Program >