If you take your workout routine to the beach, there’s a lot of things you’re going to miss. The sharp tang of other people’s sweat. Waiting to use a piece of equipment and feeling your calves cramp up as you try to stay loose. That special fungus you can only get from a communal shower. Yep, dumping the gym is really going to suck.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, there’s really no good reason to shell out your hard-earned cash on a gym membership. The best cardio and strength equipment is literally lying right at your feet. Sand.
The Best Cardio Workout
When you walk or run on the beach, your body is constantly compensating for the ever-shifting surface beneath you. That means activating a whole set of muscles just to keep you balanced. You also have to work harder to keep moving forward because your leg muscles have to push off a softer material than paving or grass. Anything you do on sand is going to burn 50% more calories than the same exercise or activity performed on a hard surface, with less impact and stress on your joints.
Think of the beach a huge and fully equipped outdoor gym. Just as you would in a traditional gym, start by adjusting the weight and resistance levels for your workout. Hard sand is easier, so if you’re looking for a less strenuous routine, start on wet sand near the water. If you really want to push yourself, head for the dunes or a natural incline where the sand will be softer, deeper, and more challenging.
From there, stretch, warm up and get moving. Pay particular attention to your calves, ankles, and feet in your warmup routine because they’re going to be working a lot harder than ever before.
Use the Natural Setting
There are a ton of “beach exercise” routines out there, but they’re mostly nothing more than traditional exercises being performed on sand. If you really want to get the most out of the beach, use the natural equipment around you that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you want to run intervals, alternate between jogging in soft sand and sprinting on the firmer wet surface. Try some “ins-and-outs” by running into the ocean up to your waist and then jogging through the water for a measured distance parallel to the shore. Wade back out and return to your starting position by sprinting along the wet sand. It’s great for building lower-body strength and uses the resistance of the water to boost conditioning and calorie burn.
Any kind of jumping exercise will maximize the benefits of working out on a soft, moving surface. The lack of stability will make you work that much harder, but also increases the risk of strain or more serious injury. Be smart about where you start and how quickly you progress from hard sand to soft.
Be creative and think of everything you see as a new piece of equipment. Rocks, stairs, hand rails, dunes, cliffs, waves – you can lunge, pull and squat your way through all of them.
Soak in the Ambiance
Best of all, exercising at the beach caters to your mental muscles. Watching the guy beside you working his cell phone on the treadmill gets old pretty fast, as does listening to the inane chatter of fellow fitness enthusiasts who are basically bored out of their minds. At the beach, you’ll be watching the waves, listening to the birds, and constantly thinking about where to put your feet.
Watch Your Feet
On that note, make sure you’re always wearing a pair of shoes, even in the water. Broken glass or a sharp shell is going to kill your day, and it’s impossible to know what’s lurking under the surface, especially if you’re jumping high and landing deep.