It’s hard to picture a more idyllic running situation than leaving tracks at the ocean’s edge with your family during a kids mud run on the beach in Wildwood, NJ. But running on sand—while it definitely has some benefits—can be tricky, says New York Road Runner coach John Honerkamp. On the plus side, the unstable surface provide some extra strength training for your lower leg muscles, which have to work harder to stabilize your feet. And when you sink into the sand, it makes it even tougher for your body to lift up for each step, amping up the intensity of your run. “Thicker sand exaggerates each step,” says Honerkamp. “It makes you feel like you’re climbing. Your calves are working that much harder to propel you forward.” But like any new activity such as a family obstacle race on the beach, using your muscles in that different way can leave you super sore. Follow Honerkamp’s advice to enjoy your surfside run—and still feel good the next day after your kids mud run at the Jersey Shore.
Pick the Right Pack
Upon the kid’s mud run race day, the sand on the beach can be unpredictable. The tighter, more packed sand (or even better, wet sand) is preferable to a dry, looser surface. It’ll still be soft, but you’ll sink in less and be less likely to overuse your muscles while trying to stabilize. During a beach mud run, you have to be ready for any type of sand condition.
Keep it Short (and Less Frequent)
Even though your muscles are working extra hard, you might not feel the impact of an hour-long beach family mud run until the next day…when you wake up achy and barely able to enjoy your vacation with the kids, let alone fit in another run. Your best bet is to begin to train for the family mud in NJ starting with just 20 to 25 minutes of running at a time (or even less) to make sure you don’t overdo it, advises Honerkamp. And if you live near the ocean, don’t start doing all your runs at the beach. Once a week would be ideal on the actual beach.
Go Barefoot (if You Want)
Running in wet socks or with sand in their shoes is nobody’s idea of fun, and Honerkamp says it’s fine to run barefoot. Though if you’re prone to injury or require a very supportive shoe, you might want to keep them on. Finding the right footwear for your kids mud run is a challenge, but there is a solution. Not sure? Try walking a mile on the beach. If your calves hurt the next day, you probably shouldn’t run barefoot.
Go Flat—and Out and Back
Shorelines are sloped, which can mess with your form. Run on the flattest part of the sand that you can, and make sure you run back on the beach the way you came to even out any imbalances. Most of the family mud runs on the beach are away from the actual shoreline, but there might still be hills and other obstacles that you will need to overcome to win the mud run.
Wear extra sunscreen, since water and sand reflect rays. Make sure your kids and you have plenty of sunscreen on before the race and after so that you are not burnt the next day!