The beach is a great workout location; fresh air, lots of space, plenty of free vitamin D (research suggests lack of vitamin D is linked with weight gain), unstable and constantly shifting sand to make your workout more demanding and the sea for yet more workout opportunities and somewhere to cool off when you’re done.
Follow these tips to make your beach workout as safe and effective as possible.
Check the sand for hazards. Before you start your workout, do some beach combing and look for any potential dangers. Look for hazards such as sharp shells, broken glass, tin cans, driftwood. If you are in any doubt, move to a different part of the beach and keep your shoes on.
Tide times and sea conditions. It’s tempting to skip the simple stuff, but check out what time the tide is coming in and sea conditions before you head out. It’ll not just save you the hassle of setting up your circuit workout markers too close to the water, but it’s the safe and sensible thing to do. A fast outgoing tide can mean that water-based activities are not a good idea as there is a danger of being washed out to sea. Even if you are a strong swimmer, make sure you consult local tide times and any on-duty lifeguards so that you know exactly what the sea is going to be doing during your workout. What’s more, after your workout you’re likely to be pretty tired, so don’t take any risks in your post-workout swim.
Wear the right clothes. Wear your old beaten up workout gear. Beach workout gear is exposed to heaps more wear and tear than regular workout clothes. Sand can stain light colored clothing a yellow. Sun and salt water can bleach your clothes and leave them hard and rough. Not cool. As for your kicks, shock-absorbing running shoes aren’t ideal because the yielding sand is already massively shock-absorbing – it’s partly what makes exercising on sand so challenging. Working out barefoot at the beach is seriously effective – it activates more muscles in your feet and improves proprioception. However, if you’re not 100-percent certain that the sand is clear of potentially injurious hazards, or you need extra support, wear shoes.
Watch out for the sun. Working out on the beach usually means that you’ll be exposed to a bucket load of sun from a variety of angles. You need to take extra care, because you’ll probably be too into your workout to realize that you are getting burnt. Once you have sunburn it’s too late to do much about it – the damage is done. Sunburn isn’t just uncomfortable, ugly and inconvenient; it can also increase the risk of skin cancer. To prevent sunburn, make sure you cover up as much skin as is practical, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, a hat to keep the sun off your head and apply a good layer of waterproof high factor sun block 30-minutes or so before your workout. Don’t forget that sweating will wash away some of your sun block so look for products made specifically for exercisers and also reapply as regularly.
Hydrate and avoid overheating. Working out on the beach in the sunshine and fresh air can make you dehydrated. Again, you might not notice because you’re working out hard and the sea breeze is keeping you cool. Exercising in the sun also means you risk becoming overheated. If possible, base your workout in spot with some shade and make sure you take periodic breaks from the sun so you can rehydrate; keep a supply of chilled hydrating fluids in a cooler and out of the sun.
Time of day. Beaches can get very busy so if you need plenty of space or just prefer a more peaceful workout, make sure you exercise before or after the crowds turn up. The time of day also plays a role in the risk of suffering sunburn or heat stroke. Steer clear of exercising between 10am and 4pm, especially on sand as it is a UV-reflective surface, to avoid the hottest part of the day when ultraviolet light is at its peak.
Take extra care. Some activities work better on the beach than others. Because the sand shifts as you walk or run on it, very technical movements can become difficult and even potentially dangerous, so keep your workout relatively simple. If you’re running on the sand, remember that the camber of the beach. Running on a left to right slope places a lot of stress on the body, so be sure to pick a stretch of beach that is as flat as possible. Running on sand is way more challenging than running on a firmer surface, so when you return to running on roads or a treadmill it will feel seriously easy.
Travel light. You can get a great workout at the beach without any equipment by going for bodyweight exercises, running, and of course swimming. If you want to include some exercise equipment such as weights in your workout remember that you need to carry it from your car to the beach and back again. Schlepping all that heavy equipment under the glare of the sun, might just leave you tired and demotivated before you even start working out. Also, salt water, sand and ultraviolet light can play havoc with the condition of exercise equipment that was designed to be used indoors; weights can get rusty, medicine balls can become brittle and split, and resistance bands can degrade and break.
Instead of risking your exercise equipment, utilize nature’s bounty. Rather than weights, take a couple of buckets and fill them with sand or water. Instead of a medicine ball, use rocks or chunks of driftwood. Rather than use a gym mat, lie on a towel; the sand will be soft enough anyway. By using resources that are naturally available, you can save yourself a lot of effort carrying heavy kit to and from the beach to your car.