Training Centre, Triathlon, Adventure Racing, Run / Trail Running

Footprints in the sand

Clock Posted Jan 25, 2019

By Jock Campbell 

Key components of being a good soft sand runner

The attributes I have found successful at the elite level of sand running are pretty clear and don’t involve too much rocket science. Whilst not all of you are wanting to become elite, these facets can all be improved upon in all of you which will make events like the Bondi Barefoot and the Jock Athletic Running Festival far more enjoyable and make you faster. Let’s not forget that summer is around the corner and this will also help you get closer to that summer body that pehaps you desire.

Below are some key points I work on with my athletes to help them achieve their best:

Light– the lighter the athlete, the better! As sand is a soft surface and a big part of the technique is to get out of the sand, the lighter runners find it far easier. This means low body fat levels and lean but powerful physiques work best. For you at home the intense training for sand running will help reduce some of this bodyfat, and far better if you combine this with a healthy eating plan. For best results you may need to see a dietitian.

Work with the sand– Running technique is slightly different technique on the sand; the foot lift out of the sand should be a major part of technique training. This is easy to say, but harder to do, the more you run in soft sand, just like swimming, the more efficient you will become.

Tracks– running in other people’s footprints or car tracks is a smart option if you’re not out in front. Why? The sand is compressed down and provides a firmer surface to push off from. Don’t rely on this for your entire run though, make sure you practice both running in your own sand and running in others’ footprints, both are learned skills!

Conditioning – like any race you need to be conditioned to be strong throughout the entire race distance. In your training you should be aiming towards this. Some of you may just want to complete the run without stopping, others to smash a PB and a few of you will be wanting to win. Your training should reflect this with a gradual build up, specific training that includes at least 1-2 sand runs per week in an overall plan which includes 4 running sessions per week. Research has shown a large improvement in performance from 3-4 conditioning sessions per week, but not a great deal between 4-5. For the majority of the weekend warriors out there 4 sessions per week is a great option and for those wanting to be the best 6 days a week training is what you require.

 Tactics– this is an interesting one, if you don’t have the right condition, forget about tactics. Get in the best physical shape you can, with consistent and specific training, with a well-trained soft sand technique and then you can work on some tactics. Without this you are hoping for the best. You need to be on the start line knowing that you’ve done all the hard work you can, feeling fit, fast and confident and that the training you have done has prepared you for how you wish to run the race. If you’re not fit enough to keep up with the front guys, no tactics are going to save you. You want to be on that start line knowing your plan, having practiced every facet of it in training and having the physical weapons to be able to pull it off.

We’ve all done it, standing on that start line and being unsure of how we’re going to go, it’s not a great feeling to have.  Prepare well, no matter what your level and you’ll enjoy the day and your result.

Take home messages:

  1. Get lean
  2. Practice on the sand regularly and focus on the technique
  3. Practice running in footprints and car tracks
  4. Get fit for the race with specific training: 4-6 sessions per week if you want to do your best
  5. Practice your race tactics in training
  6. You don’t get what you want in a race, you get what you deserve

About the author:Jock Campbell is a Level 4 IAAF Athletics Coach, the first ever SLSA Performance Coach (Beach Events), Coach of over 12 Australian Champion Beach Runners and 5 World Champions, 2017 SLSNSW – Coach of the Year and is the current International Surf Lifesaving Masters 2km World Champion

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