Training on soft sand

There are many health benefits with training on soft sand and for runners who suffer from knee injuries like me, it could be a great alternative to hard surface running

Some 8 years ago now and while we were living in London, I had a great deal of pain in my right knee during any hard surface running activities which came on gradually after just 2 or 3kms and when it did, it felt like my knee was going to give way and I’d fall to the ground.

I made an appointment to see my physio who then referred me to an orthopedic surgeon and after an MRI and follow up consultation, I was diagnosed with a shallow trochlea with mild lateral subluxation of the patella or partial dislocation of the kneecap.  Generally speaking, it’s a design fault with my knees and the surgeon recommended physio treatment and a specific exercise programme that focused on strengthening the quadriceps which make up four muscles that straighten the knee and in my case, would prevent this partial dislocation from happening which brought on the sharp pain.

I followed through on this recommendation but also focused more on my swimming, cycling and gym work with my personal trainer, accepting that I was never going to be a runner….

It was not long after this that we relocated back to Sydney after 10 years in London and my wife and I signed up to do our Bronze Medallion at Coogee Surf Club.  There was a reasonable amount of training on soft sand and in particular, running which I seemed to be able to do without any pain at all. I found that by running on a softer surface, that it took a great deal of impact away from my knees and that I could over time, run 5 to 10kms on soft sand without an issue!

Training on soft sand provides a surface that is uneven, unstable and with no rebound so the body, especially the lower limbs have to work a lot harder than they would on a hard surface like road to maintain momentum.  And in my case, has helped tremendously to strengthen the stabilising muscles and in particular, the muscles around my knee.

Apart from training in a picturesque environment like Coogee Beach and with the sound of the ocean around you, running on soft sand can lower your odds of impact-associated overuse injuries like stress fractures for example.

Resistance training – Studies have found that running on sand requires 1.6 times as much energy as running on hard surfaces and research from the Western Australian Institute of Sport found that running on sand forces your body to work at least 10 percent harder than it does on grass.

Higher energy, better results – The great thing about training on soft sand is that you don’t have to train as long as you would on hard surfaces to achieve the same strength gain and cardiovascular fitness results.  The soft and unstable surface however does require runners to change their technique to run well and for any length of time on sand which is exactly what you’ll learn how to do at our beach sessions.