Sand running for strength and speed, by David Holt

Running on packed sand or running in deep sand, both improve your pump and your bellows.

A Transition Times readers asks:

Steve a triathlete / biathlete asks:

It is difficult for me to continue training on concrete and pavement. 
As a result, I try to train on sand or grass. 
Should I run on soft sand or hard pack? 
Are there shoes I can buy that would help?

Sand running for speed and strength

You only need to run about 10 % of your mileage on asphalt to practice
running form on the hard surface, ready for racing. Try your 4 miles of tempo
running on the road once a week; avoid concrete at all cost because it's about
six times harder than tarmac or normal road. 
You title your question "knees and legs". I suspect you've got aches from
increasing your training too fast, or doing too much high intensity running on
hard surfaces. 
Sand, mud, dirt, grass and trails are excellent training surfaces. They force
you to run slower for the same heartrate, giving you the main benefit of
altitude training. i.e. lower risk of injury...high running intensity is the second
best predictor of injury. Remember that half the purpose of 80 % of your
running is to develop a big pump and to maximize your bellows. The heart
and lungs don't care if you are swimming, biking, or running at 10 minute
miles in 6 inches of mud. However, your running and biking muscles do need
some training at 1-2 minutes per mile (for running) slower than race pace, at
race pace and also at faster than race pace 
The trouble with deep sand is that it gets in your shoes. It can also mess with
your running form. But oh boy, the advantages: 
It gives you a tough workout with very low mileage; 
Your back and shoulders get a workout because you have to maintain
balance; 
You can wear very old running shoes...you are only protecting those feet from
an occasional stone or cutting object. 
Packed sand can be so packed that it has minimal give. Mostly though, you'll
see your shoe imprints and you can run with your very best economical form. 
Soft or packed, make sure the slope, or camber is minimal. The low tide bar
and the high tide bar are usually the best areas, but many yards shoreside can
be good for really deep sand. Sand dunes will give your quads a great test of
course. 
On steady run days, try a mixture of surfaces. For quality days, deep sand is
for strength or resistance training. It could include bounding for 20 seconds at
a time, or reps of 1-5 minutes at 2 mile to 15K intensity depending upon
which training phase you are in. 
Packed sand can also be used for long reps at 15K effort, but is more
typically used for VO2 maximizing sessions at 5K to 2 mile race pace with
1-3 minute efforts, or however long it takes you to run 400-1,000 meters on
the track. 
As to shoes, you don't need anything special for sand or grass. Wet grass
would be best done wearing non-road racing shoes because you'll need some
decent gripping from the soles. Trail shoes can be very specialized. Few
runners use trails rough enough to warrant the expense. 


Weight training
10K training week 5 of 20 moderately intensive hill training and weight training
Go here if you're running 40-60 miles per week
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This page is sand running for strength and speed, adapted from Running Dialogue, by David Holt