Why Beach Workouts Are The Perfect Way To Take A Vacation From Your Exercise Routine

Being on vacation doesn’t mean your workout stays home. A beach circuit workout is a perfect way to start your day.

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There are plenty of perks to vacationing near the beach: an extra dose of sunshine, playing in the water, and, of course, exercising on the sand. If you’re looking for a beach workout you can do with just your body weight, we’ve got you covered. From running and HIIT to circuit training and yoga, you can do just about any form of exercise on the sand. But before you head for the shore, check out the workout wisdom and beach tips the experts share with their clients to help them stay in shape—even on vacation.

What are the benefits of working out on the beach?

Whether you’re jogging or doing a quick circuit training workout, [linkbuilder id=”6719″ text=”running on the beach”] is perfect for challenging your body. Here are a few reasons you should consider hitting the beach on your next vacation.

There’s less impact on your body.

Running on the sand has less impact on your body, which makes it easier on your joints.

The sand makes for more resistance.

You know those tiny little grains of sand you sift through your toes? Well, certified personal trainer Corey Phelps says those grains create an unstable surface and add resistance to any workout. In other words, sand creates an increase in muscle recruitment and provides a higher calorie burn.

Variety is the spice of life.

Like Phelps says, “You can do virtually any workout on the beach, barring the ones that include complex equipment. The beach is perfect for running, yoga, Pilates, Zumba or HIIT.”

It’s fun and functional.

According to certified personal trainer Lyuda Bouzinova, the beach offers a more functional workout because exercising on the sand incorporates the element of balance into every motion. “In real life, you must balance your body as you move around, push, pull, and lift things, and traditional gym exercises isolate those movements to focus on just one at a time instead of the holistic way we use our bodies,” she explains. That’s why the sand is such a diverse surface to challenge your body.

Your core will thank you.

“No matter what exercises you do, you will also be working your core as well as all the smaller stabilizing muscles which normally wouldn’t be engaged if you are just doing the exercise inside of a gym,” explains Bouzinova. She says the smaller muscles are crucial to strengthen but usually take a long time because it’s so hard to engage them in a typical gym workout.

You can make every minute count.

The sand provides an added resistance that allows you to have a more intense workout in a shorter period of time.

You’ll get a nice vitamin D boost.

You get a healthy dose of vitamin D when you work out at the beach. But make sure to wear sunscreen, even if you exercise in the morning.

What are some different types of beach workouts you can do?

One of the top benefits of working out on the beach is the variety it offers, which can help you stay motivated and excited about staying active while on vacation. If you’re looking for a pure cardio workout, you can run or sprint. Bouzinova says to run closer to the water where the sand is sturdier. This allows you to go faster without having to worry about twisting your ankle on an uneven surface. The beach also offers the perfect venue for doing a HIIT or bodyweight workout. Consider going through a full-body circuit that incorporates bodyweight exercises for your arms, legs, shoulders, back, and core (more on this later). If you want to make it a HIIT workout, you can add cardio bursts of running or sprinting down the beach in between the bodyweight exercises. The beach is also an ideal location for doing an early morning yoga workout or Pilates routine before the sun comes up. Bouzinova says to just be aware of the uneven and changing surface every time you move because that can make the moves more challenging.

What are the best conditions for working out on the beach?

Wet sand or dry sand? Barefoot or shoes? Knowing the best conditions for working out on the beach can mean the difference between a supercharged workout and one that you walk away from halfway through. As a professional volleyball player who took her skills from the court to the sand, Fitbit Ambassador Nicole Branagh knows exactly how these conditions can affect your workout. Branagh says that hard sand creates a dense, stable surface, whereas soft sand creates a higher level of instability, which makes you work harder. And when it comes to shoes, she doesn’t wear any. “Being barefoot allows me to use my whole foot and strengthen all the different muscles I didn’t know I have,” she explains. Running barefoot allows your feet to move through their natural range of motion. This can help strengthen your feet and ankles. That said, pay attention to any unusual aches or pains you may experience while working out. If you have plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries, or any lower leg problems, you may want to ask your doctor or physical therapist for their recommendation. And remember to start slow. If you’re new to running barefoot on the beach, try a shorter distance for your first run, and then add five minutes to each workout.

Tips for Working Out on the Beach

Advice from a pro always come in handy when working out on the beach, and Branagh knows exactly how to perfect fitness and form for beach exercise. Here, she shares her three top tips for beach workouts in the sand:

Always warm up.

One dynamic way to warm-up is to start off down by the water (at the edge of the ocean) and sprint uphill. You need to give your muscles time to adjust to the sand. Consider doing a longer warm-up the first couple of times you exercise on the beach.

Track your heart rate.

Branagh uses her Fitbit to track her heart rate, which helps her maintain a high level of training. A heart rate monitor will help you stay in the training zone that is appropriate for you. For example, a 30-year-old female who wants to exercise at a vigorous intensity level at 70 to 85 percent of her maximum heart rate should aim for 133 beats per minute (70 percent) to 161 beats per minute (85 percent). There are several tools online that can help you determine your target heart rate zone.  

Utilize the lifeguard towers or other landmarks at the beach.

If you don’t have time to do a total body workout, you can mix 10 sprints in between lifeguard towers or other markers on the beach, such as umbrellas.

Sample Beach Workout

Now that you know all the benefits of taking your workout to the sand, it’s time to hit the beach and get your sweat on. Here is Branagh’s go-to beach workout for the summer. Perform each exercise back-to-back with no rest until you get to the end of the round. Take a 30-second break and repeat the entire circuit two more times (three times total).

  • 10 lifeguard tower sprints (sprint to one tower and jog back)
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 block jumps
  • 20 bicycle crunches (on an incline coming up from the water)
  • 20 skater jumps (10 on each side)
  • 25 regular crunches

For a little variety, try Branagh’s beach workout the first morning of your vacation and Bouzinova’s beach circuit workout on the second morning. You can alternate these two workouts for the remainder of your vacation, taking a day off after two consecutive workouts. Bouzinova’s beach circuit workout is intermediate, but you can make it easier by doing the following:

  • Replace the explosive moves (snap jumps and frog jumps) with just raising your knees (like marching in place).
  • Only do two to four reps of the explosive moves.
  • Instead of side plank with twist, do a regular side plank or traditional plank.
  • Instead of platypus walk, hold the platypus walk position in place and don’t walk.
  • For glute bridge kicks, instead of doing the move one leg at a time, raise your hips with both feet on the ground.
Sara Lindberg
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Sara Lindberg, MEd, is a fitness expert and full-time freelance writer with 20+ years of experience. She holds a BS in exercise science and a master's degree in counseling. She has spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind–body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health. When she’s not interviewing experts, researching the latest trends in health and fitness, or working away at her computer, Sara can be found at the gym lifting weights, running the back roads and trails to train for her next half-marathon, and spending time with her husband and two children.