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December 19, 2006

Why are we going back to this topic? Well, the importance of it comes from several points: First of all, this is a useful exercise for developing our perception of support. Second, this is a very good, specific to running, strength exercise. Third, it is a very good workout for our cardio-vascular system.

There are obviously pros and cons for the use of running on sand, as anywhere else, and we need to understand the positive and negative sides of it in order to make the most of it for our training in running. If we start from the negative side, which is very small compared to its merits, then we need to mention about possible skin problems on your feet such as blisters developed by friction with sand. There are possibilities to have some skin cuts and bruises from small stones hidden in sand as well.

If you just a novice sand runner, inevitably you are going to have some calves soreness after running on sand, and may be not only that, if your technique and muscular system is not well enough prepared for this "journey". So, does it mean that you shouldn't run on sand? Certainly not! But keeping these things in your mind is always useful to make this run enjoyable and safe. There is a necessity to adapt your muscular, ligament and tendon system to run on sand, which means that you need to start from shorter runs, with some shoes on and using less depth of sand.

Now about merits of sand running, which go well beyond the above-mentioned. And we start from the most important premise of running on sand - developing perception of support. Barefoot running on sand is extremely useful for this purpose, but it doesn't mean that it works automatically as soon as you do the first step on sand. I am trying to prevent you from any kind of illusions on this matter. Barefoot sand running is just a tool, a good tool, but no further than this.

In order to get a full positive effect of running barefoot on sand we have to start in the same way, as in our normal running. We have to be aware of several major premises:
  • It is about the body weight location on a foot during the support time
  • No push off from the ground, and particularly forward. This one could cost you extra muscular tension and soreness later on with no positive impact onto your running
  • Move forward by leaning, not by pushing
  • Pull the foot from the ground
  • Keep high cadence and do not worry about stride length
Certainly sand will be very deceptive for all things mentioned above; nevertheless it would force you to keep your perception clear by sharpening your focus. It's your choice which sand to run on at the beginning - soft or dense, deep or shallow, it depends on your goals and preparedness. But at the end, we are looking for increasing the difficulty of our performance, so it will be about deeper sand and longer runs.

Sand running, if we are using foot prints picture as a feedback, could be a good indicator of our running technique. Just look at your foot print, how deep is it and where the main pressure is located and you'll be able to clearly define some errors of your running technique, such as a push off, an overstriding, etc. Particularly, it could be seen very well on wet sand, where your foot prints are very visible. Check these prints at the beginning of your running on sand and then repeat this check during your training to compare the change and correct, if it's necessary.

Running on sand could be used on a weekly basis or on a daily basis during specific time of your training (camping, for example) devoted to development of your strength, running skill and aerobic system. Better to combine this kind of training with running drills and normal running in order to transfer your new development into new running skill. In order to have full benefits of use of sand I would highly recommend to do barefoot sprint running and jumps on sand. All of these together will give you an incredible possibility to increase your potential in training and racing in running.


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