The secret to soft sand running

Every so often I manage to wrench myself out of my cosy bed to enjoy the glorious sunrise on Bondi beach. Already amazed by the vast number of people who achieve this feat every morning, I marvel at the uber fit beings gliding through the soft sand lap after lap, without so much as a gasp or puff.

I’ve often wondered whether there was a secret to this seemingly effortless display. To date, I’ve only managed to make it from North Bondi to the Pavilion and back (does that count as a lap?). Feeling like I was wearing cement boots as I dredged one foot up after the other, the Pavilion seemed like a distant mirage on the horizon.

Peak-hour

It seems it’s worth the effort to give it another go, as there are many benefits to soft sand running:

-It burns more calories in less time than running on a hard surface due to the additional energy required to get moving
-It works your core as well as your legs 
-It’s lower impact than road running as it puts less stress on your joints
-It’s free, open 24/7 and offers the best view of any workout in the world
-It’s a lot harder than running on the pavement, so running for the bus after your workout will be a breeze!

These positives are not lost on the more experienced participants. According to sunrise regular Brendan Krone, soft sand runningmakes you a more complete runner, in that it works your foot muscles and overall stability. It’s something different and you get to have a quick swim afterwards.”

So how do guys like Brendan manage to turn up regularly, run lap after lap, and still have the energy for a quick swim afterwards?

Tips for beginners:

  1. Don’t overdo it: start by completing a few kilometers at most and build up, it’ll be a shock on your calf muscles and feet

  2. Try and adapt your running style to front foot landing (using the balls of your feet)

  3. Look for the potholes to run in (other people’s foot prints)

  4. Focus on short, quick steps

Due to running on the balls of your feet, it’s likely that you will feel your Achilles and calves tightening up. Some runners advocate stretching after every workout, while others recommend easing yourself in by taking your first lap at a slower pace, so that your muscles have time to warm up.

James Dolton, a passionate member of the North Bondi Soft Sand Harriers, admits that you do have to ‘acclimatize’ to soft sand running.

“Start slow,” he recommends. “Mix up a lap of soft sand with a lap on the hard sand closer to the shore. Just make sure you do it regularly and in a few months you’ll have calves of steel.”

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Here are a few other great tips from seasoned runners that could help turn your soft sand running session from pain to gain:

Tighten your abs and run upright, tucking your bum downwards, to keep your spine at normal curvature

Scrunch your toes up if barefoot running to avoid abrasion underneath your toes

-If running on hard sand, always wear shoes, as the impact on the hard sand is no different to that of running on concrete

Like many things in life, the best benefits to your body come from exercising moderation. Regular runners like the North Bondi Soft Sand Harriers advocate mixing sprints and muscle work into your soft sand running regime.

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I decided to try these tips out to see whether they would make a difference to my own soft sand running experience. I found that running short, quick steps on the balls of my feet did make it easier. My mind was kept so busy focusing on my posture and trying to find those little potholes to dip into that I was less obsessed with that finish line ‘mirage’ ahead of me and the distance actually seemed shorter. I’m excited to say that the tips turned out to be very helpful and will be heading back for more!

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Once you’ve taken these tips on board and become an expert at soft sand running, you may be looking for a challenge. The annual Bondi Barefoot soft sand fun run is being held on the 24th of May. That doesn’t give you much time to train for this year, but 2016 could be a realistic goal! It’s definitely worth joining a social group like the Soft Sand Harriers to keep you motivated.

As Hamish Prout of the Soft Sand Harriers says, “Give it a go – you never feel worse after a soft sand run and a swim in the ocean!”

 

Check out the North Bondi Surf Club website for more information on the Bondi Barefoot fun run at www.northbondisurfclub.com/bb

 

Some North Bondi Soft Sand Harriers terminology to get you tuned in to the lingo:

Seagulling: Running in someone’s footsteps.

Roma Highway: The nickname given to the patches of very hard sand / concrete you sometimes get right up against the sea wall.

Old skool: The term for when you add sit ups / push-ups / dips at the end of each lap.

No show: Telling everyone you’ll be there but sleeping in.

Seb Coe: Pulling out a sprint finish, usually after seagulling someone the whole lap.

Lobster: The official uniform of the North Bondi Soft Sand Harriers, a pair of bright orange Budgy Smugglers.  The Harriers do two runs a year in only lobsters.  The mid winter run (on the Friday closest to the winter solstice) in Beanies and Lobsters and the Santa Run (just before Christmas) in Lobsters and Santa Hats.

lobsters

For more information on the North Bondi Soft Sand Harriers you can find their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nbssh

Cheers,

Tracey @ What’s New Bondi xx

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