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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Fun...Is Sprinting and Running On Sand Really Better or Worse For You?

With summer being here, and so many of you going on vacation, I decided to add some insight on a big topic that I am sure you think of.

SAND SPRINTS.("short" tempo runs also)



Yes, we all have done it. You go to the beach, and the first thing you want to do is head to the ocean.  While you are there, well, if you're like me, you will want to run also!

You get tired of running on pavement. I hope none of you still run on sidewalks, but when you get to the beach you just want to get that great feeling of the sand between your toes. The nice cushioning you get with every step and the great view right by your side mile after mile.  You feel at peace, and it's so easy to just escape and let everything go while you get some great mileage in!

THEN....the next morning....it hits you...the extreme soreness in the calves, Achilles, and even the hips! You then are thinking to yourself....well maybe this sand running isn't so good for you after all....

OR IS IT........

Compared to concrete, sand it like gold! Believe it or not, sand is the best surfaces to choose to do HIIT or sprints.....I even do SAQ! Sand surfaces are harder to walk and run on than other surfaces because the feet slip and sink, which requires the leg muscles to stabilize the feet during the application of force. I promise that you won’t be disappointed with how grueling and tough sprinting on sand surfaces is. Oh, and your joints will thank you in the long run, with the ease of impact that your knees and ankles will take.

“Where’s the proof in all this mumbo-jumbo sprinting in sand talk?” you ask. Before we discuss the study, we’d like to give researcher Chris Beardsley a round of applause for discovering this study. A 2012 study conducted in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport tested the bio-mechanics and predicted energetics of sprinting on sand surfaces. Previous researchers have observed that the energy cost of walking on sand is 1.8–2.7 times that of walking on firm ground, while the energy cost of running on sand is 1.2–1.6 times that of running on firm ground. If you think about it, that’s a pretty significant difference and could really be beneficial in everyone’s favor, especially athletes training in pre-season or possibly for rehabilitation purposes.

So what did the researchers do? They wanted to compare short sprints with or without changes in direction on sand, grass, and artificial turf, so they recruited 29 male professional soccer players (seven defenders, fifteen mid-fielders, and seven forwards). After a standardized twelve-minute warm up, the researchers asked the athletes to perform a 12-meter maximum speed sprint and a 24-meter maximum speed shuttle sprint (with a 180-degree change of direction). The athletes performed both of these sprints on sand, grass, and artificial turf, not concrete surfaces as we mentioned earlier.

So what happened?

Measurement decreases on sand: The researchers observed significant decreases in average speed, maximum speed, average acceleration, maximum acceleration, average stride length, flight time, mechanical power, and stiffness on sand compared with grass or artificial turf.

Measurement increases on sand: The researchers also noted that average energy cost, average metabolic power, and contact time were highest during sprinting on sand.

Changes in efficiency in sand: The researchers found that efficiency values (i.e., the ratio between mechanical power and metabolic power) of the sprints were 0.17 on natural grass and artificial turf while the ratio was only 0.12 for sand.

Similarity in stride frequency across all surfaces: The researchers were surprised by the lack of variation in stride frequency between the various surfaces.

So what did the researchers conclude in all of this?    

They proved that running on sand was excellent for training, injury prevention, and recovery.  I don't know about you, but that sounds GREAT to me! I am all about preventing injuries from happening. The main reasons they came to this conclusion was due to the stiffness values and how maximal speeds become lower on sand surfaces. Not to mention, as we said earlier, this could serve your body well over time from possible joint issues or even the famous “shin splints,” which can be pretty painful. The researchers also noted that “It is possible to carry out maximal intensity sprints on sand without reaching maximum speed with lower stiffness while also maintaining the same stride frequency but by reducing stride length, which represent less injury risk.”



Now, I am not here to say sprinting on a track, grass, turf, etc. is BAD, but I am just boosting the validity of sprinting on sand because it surely has its benefits! Overall, you can’t go wrong with sprinting on sand. It’s great on your body and great for rehabilitation and offers some great scenery. Whether you’re an athlete or not, just get out there and do some sprints! It beats ANY exercise for fat loss and overall conditioning!

Just remember, watch for curved dunes if going for longer runs. Angled runs can severely affect gait and develop postural imbalances. Also, make sure you gradually build up your distance if you are endurance training on the sand! Don't head out for 5 miles if it's your first time running on the sand. Take it as your first time running on pavement. You wouldn't jump right into that kind of mileage if you never ran.

One last thing....DON'T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!  :)

References:
  • Gaudino, Gaudino, Albertia, Minetti (2012) Biomechanics and predicted energetic of sprinting on sand. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

There You have it! Next time you head to the beach, remember, you only get the opportunity a couple times a year....SO GET YOUR RUN ON!!! Vacation isn't an excuse to lay around and eat all day if your serious about your health!

Keep on Fighting, and push closer towards your goals! You can do it!

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