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Snow, sand, and grass: the benefits of running on different surfaces

We’re a nation of sports lovers, but we’re also sharing our hearts with athletics. In fact, our passion for athletics and working out is certainly on the rise, with the UK’s running population hitting 10.5 million! That’s a lot of people jumping onto the treadmills or jogging through the streets. But what about other terrains? Could runners benefit from swapping up their usual tarmac route for pastures new?

sand, beach, surface

To explore the different surfaces and grounds that can offer a change up to your running routine, play bark supplier Compost Direct takes a run through snow, sand, and grass…

The sand between your toes

Heading to the beach as a kid, the best part was splashing in the sea, right? Waiting for your parents to finish setting up the parasol and towels so one of them could come with you to splash in the ocean, it’s no wonder many of us took off running through the sand to get into the cool water as soon as possible!

Do you remember the sensation of running on the sand, with the ground slipping and pushing underfoot? It’s certainly difficult to say the least. And you can channel that added difficulty into your running training.

Running on the beach through sand will burn around 30% more calories than running on a path, according to The Running Bug. This is because you have to compensate for the sand sinking beneath your feet! Plus, the beach terrain can be a little unpredictable; get ready to jump over whatever the tide has pulled ashore, or push yourself up against the sand dunes! The site also recommends running barefoot in the sand, because you not only reduce the pressure on your lower joints, but you improve your foot muscles and calf strength.

It’s important to approach a new terrain carefully! Run Britain advises any wannabe-beach runners to add sand-running to their regime gradually or risk an Achilles tendon injury.

The grass beneath your feet

Change up the scenery with a detour through a grassy field and reduce the impact on your joints. The turf will offer a softer surface than concrete or tarmac, which means your joints aren’t going to be hit had hard. Plus, it’s great for improving your balance, says Triathlete.

Like sand, the grass is a difficult terrain to run on as it is uneven. As a result, you’ll be giving your smaller foot muscles a good workout.

With new terrain, always be sure to go slow when starting out. Incorporate it gently and gradually into your regime. Also, don’t expect to hit the same times on grass that you would on the roads — running on the uneven ground will impact your speed and times, so don’t let it dishearten you. This is about building strength, not speed.

The snow underfoot

There’s no reason to put a halt to your running schedule just because the weather turns colder. The snow is just another terrain to change up your training, and when approached carefully, it can offer great benefits. Plus, as Athletics Weekly rightly points out, if your running regime is more than a hobby, you might be taking part in some cross-country races. Cross country season for the UK is usually in the colder months, so it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality.

It’ll be slower going, running in the snow, but that’s the goal according to Training Peaks. Your body has a chance to rest, without losing strength. Running on snow is a challenge and requires more strength and effort than running on a clear path. You have to slow down to build that strength, and also to avoid slipping!

Your body will need to work harder to maintain your temperature too. So, you’re getting an extra burn just for being outside! Make sure you are wearing the right kit for snow-running, stay safe, and embrace the benefits of the cold.

The forest trail before you

A run through the forest can do wonders for your health! Like sand and grass-running, the uneven ground will force you to use different muscle groups than regular tarmac-running. And, like on the beach, the elements of nature will add an unpredictable spin to your route, meaning you’ll have to overcome surprise obstacles along the path.

Simply being among nature is said to bring health benefits. In Japan, the act of “forest bathing”, or shinrin-yoku, is very popular as a wellness activity. The idea is that being out in nature, breathing in fresh forest air, and simply being away from concrete, cars, and city noises help to reduce stress and lower your blood pressure. Trail running is also hugely popular, as it not only makes for a better mood, it can also benefit your balance. You’ll also encounter a few different terrains, such as mud, grass, or sand, which will force your legs to work harder. Running through the forest has so many benefits, you’ll want to give it a try!

Will you be changing up some of your running routes? Do you fancy a sun-bathed beach run or a nature-empowered sprint through the forest?

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1 Comment

  • RugKnots Area Rugs

    You have some great thoughts for each one! 🙂 Never even thought about how running on sand can burn more calories… it’s a definite truth, though, and definitely takes more effort.

    October 18, 2018 at 2:12 pm Reply
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