In my field, you will hear about athletes doing sand training as way to improve speed and conditioning.  I don’t live around much sand, so I don’t get to experiment with this a whole lot.

Until this past week.

My family was down in Florida for spring break.  With my daughters smack dab in the middle of track and club soccer, this wasn’t the time to take a week off.  Much to their chagrin.

The trick is finding some place to do running in this area of Florida.  There really isn’t a track around.  Not a lot of grassy parks within a short driving distance.  I’m not big on the athletes running on the concrete walking paths for fear of developing shin splints.

So this year we tried out the beach.  I’d done some sand training before with my daughter in Hawaii, but this particular beach we are close to is kind of sloped and a little shelly.  We tried it anyways.

The first workout I marked off about 150M – 200M of beach.  It was later in the day so not that crowded.  The people that were around ended up cheering the kids on.  Which I’m sure they loved.

The workout consisted of running the length of the path I made at about 75% speed.  We would rest for 30 seconds and then sprint back with everything you got for about 50M – 75M.  We did 4 of those with about 6 minute rests.

Their legs were toast and they were pretty fatigued by the end.

The next day to allow their legs to recover from the sand, they did a treadmill workout at a lesser intensity speed geared more towards recovery.

The following day, we did a workout geared more towards speed development.  I marked off a pathway of about 75M – 100M on the beach.  After warming up and doing some buildups, we started off doing 3x50M as fast as they could with about 6 minutes rest inbetween each set.

Once that was completed, we then did 3x75M as fast as they could with 7 minutes rest inbetween each set.  Upon completing that last triple, we cooled down and did some active recovery.

Here is what I have seen with the benefits of sand training and also what I’ve researched:

  • Doing sand training (especially barefoot) can help strengthen all the little muscles in your feet, ankles, and surrounding muscles a lot better than running on grass or a flat surface. The feet sink in the sand a few inches thus other muscles have to be called in to stabilize and generate the power needed to exert the same type of force.  I feel this will reduce the chances of injuries happening.
  • Because more muscles are recruited to generate the same output, you are working your muscles harder than what you typically would be working them yet not adding any more fatigue or pressure on your joints or muscles. Thus the recovery would be the same as if you were running on a regular surface, but you are working harder.  Typically, to work harder you have to put more pressure on the joints and muscles.
  • The theory is that by working harder, but not doing any extra damage to your body you can get in better shape and perform better when running on your normal surface. Some will argue that because the sand is a giving surface running mechanics might be compromised when trying to run at a high velocity.  So there is some debate whether training on sand over a period of time will help improve your max speed or slow you down.  I can see both sides of the argument, but believe if you do sand training for a short period there should be a positive effect in your speed development when going back to the normal surface you run on.

I don’t think you need to put a sand pit in your training area, but if you do have access to one it could be a good change in your training development.  Feel free to leave your questions or comments in the box below.