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The Surprising Benefits of Beach Running

Sometimes, a girl just needs some sunshine.img_1264Well, to be perfectly honest: for this girl, that’s pretty much all the time. I don’t know if it’s because I’m from Texas, I was born in the summer, or my freckles are just hungry for sunlight, but I am enamored of warm weather and sunshine. I know this partially has to do with the fact that I need at least an hour of outdoor activity to function at my best. Humans aren’t meant to stay indoors all the time! Spending time in parks, going for long walks, and…running (ding ding ding!) are my favorite outdoor activities.

I have not always enjoyed running. In fact, I used to hate it. I’m vertically challenged (read: short) and my little legs have to work extra hard to get farther distances. Middle school and high school gym class were my worst nightmare; an athletic child I was not.

Then: I got a job working in Japan. As a singer. A country western singer. Belting up and down stairs and running around the theater like a mad woman. Having been a dancer for most of my life, this felt like a gargantuan feat; I needed breath control. I’ve known singers over the years who have belted entire scores while running on the treadmill to prepare for more athletic roles, so I followed suit. I had done Couch to 5K the summer prior (on recommendation; then I ran a 5K and didn’t totally hate it) so I wasn’t starting from scratch, but I was still VERY new to running.

Kat in a former life, belting country western songs at Tokyo Disneyland.

Kat in a former life, belting country western songs at Tokyo Disneyland.

Running became training for the show, but also a means of getting to know my new neighborhood in Tokyo. I ran along the seawall of the Pacific Ocean, to the grocery store (and walked back, obviously), and throughout the streets of Tokyo. Running became interesting, meditative, and once my muscles had adjusted to the movement, I started to crave it. I have a hard time staying present, and running forces you to stay in the moment. It’s explorative. It’s adventuring. It’s a built-in me-party with awesome health benefits. Suddenly and bizarrely: I began to love it.

Fast forward through a 10K and half marathon later, and I got a job on a tour. I was living life on a bus (hours and hours a day) and desperately needed to move my body. Lunch break? Go for a run. Early morning bus call? Run before we leave. I ran in dozens of states, in all kinds of weather. Now, it’s safe to say: I love running.

But nowhere do I love running more than on the beach. After tour, the job had a sit-down (stayed put) in Florida. I began running barefoot on the beach. This sounds like a breezy cliché. It is definitely a cliché, but let me assure you: it is not a breeze. Beach running is HARD.

 

BUT It is joyous and an excellent workout because:

  1. Sunshine
  2. Water
  3. Did you know your body exercises on average 1.6X harder on a beach run than a standard run on pavement or a treadmill?
  4. You’re doing resistance training as well as cardiovascular training.
  5. You’re using a whole new set of stabilizing muscles to anchor your ankles and feet as you run on uneven surface.
  6. Free pedicure
  7. Jumping in the ocean after a workout? I mean: come on.
  8. Did I mention sunshine?
Sweaty Katharine looking at the wrong camera, per usual.

Beach run blissed out sweaty Katharine looking at the wrong camera, per usual.

Basically, it’s great bang for your buck. If you find yourself near a beach (winter escape, anyone?) in the coming weeks, lather up your SPF 70, grab your sturdiest swim top (the one I’m wearing here is specifically for water sports and it’s amazing!), take off your shoes, and hit the beach! You may not run your normal speed, but I promise it’s worth the extra effort.

I love how many Challengers have come to love running over the past year–truly, it’s amazing. I’m such an advocate of the meditative and cardiovascular benefits. Here’s one more running challenge to add to the list 🙂

Have a beautiful weekend, Challengers! Cheers from Cancun!

Captain Kat