How to use the beach to maximise training performance

Beach training incorporates shuttle runs, ball games, circuit training and swimming

by James Marshall

It's 7am in the morning and to avoid the Bahamian heat, a group of dedicated sports people are training on the beach for an hour. Shuttle runs, ball games, circuits, all followed by a refreshing dip in the sea.

To many of you this may sound like the sort of thing a sports team on tour would do as part of their holiday workout? Wrong! It was me and the guests at my wedding taking part in our “fit club” training on the morning I was to tie the knot.

Having lived in two countries with extensive beaches- the Bahamas and the United Arab Emirates, and currently living in Devon (UK) which has some pretty nice beaches, I like the versatility and variety the beach offers for training.  It isn’t the answer to everything, and in the winter it can be pretty miserable, but it is a good change up from the norm.

The best thing about having a series of beach based workouts is that you can then take that to any beach in the world. I have tried prescribing exercises to beach volleyball players and sailors in the gym, but when they travel the quality of the gym is variable, and they may not be able to get access. We have all been to hotels with a “gym” to find a defunct rowing machine, 2 mismatched dumbbells and an air stepper. But the beach is always there.

Here are some ideas that I have found have worked for me, my athletes and even my wedding guests:

Train early- get there early to avoid the crowds and the heat. If you are on holiday, the last thing you will feel like doing is training after being in the heat all day- it can be dangerous if you are dehydrated and been exposed to the sun. There will be more people there in the late afternoon/evening too, so space could be limited.

Check the tide times- Woolacoombe beach in Devon has about 200-300metres of beach at low tide and about 2-3 metres at high tide- that has a massive effect on what you can or can’t do!

Take an empty Hessian bag or rubble sack (less than £1 from your builders merchants) and fill it up with sand on the beach. Hey presto- your own weight training implement. Depending on the size and robustness of your sandbag you can use it for complexes of exercises, or for throwing. Any exercise you can do with a barbell, you can do with a sandbag.

Try running on hard sand, but jumping and landing on soft sand. There are two different effects of working on soft/hard surfaces, by combining the two you can help get better results and save your joints from taking a pounding. Running on the soft sand just messes up your mechanics.

Take a pack of cards- we did this one day on the week before my wedding- each suit of cards is a type of exercise, and aces and jokers can be something different. If you draw a 3 of spades then you might do 3 burpees for example. The joker might be a run to the top of the dunes and back.

Wear your swimming kit- the best thing is the swim at the end- a great recovery tool as it is mentally and physically relaxing.

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