Sand Running/Sprints

I’ve read alotof people like using sand sprints during their training. Anybody know why, anybody use them, how often and what type of volume and intensity?


Sand running is always tricky and is best done over very short distances, 10 to 15 meters on a beach from the water to the shore (compacted sand). This way the workload and running angle is consistent and it is possible to maintain relaxation and form, with drills and short sprints. Most sand is inconsistent, uneven, and angled to one side.

I have had success with the use of the sand in the long jump pit for early acceleration (steps 1 to 3-5).

The key is surface variance- must translate back to the track

In the LJ pit, you could water and prepare the surface to get the consistency you want.

Early in the training season. Not too late. General strengthening phase.

Dan Fichter

For anything beyond 20m I’d much prefer a soft grass surface.

Does the sand work by increasing frequency, due to less resistance at push off?

Sand running can play a role in developing strength but how you use it determines what you’ll get out of it.

David Dworjanyn - the 1989 Australian 100m champion - was also the national beach sprint champion that summer.

Darren Clark ran many circuits of a sand dune course as a youngster (under-16) during the several years he was coached by June Ferguson (coach of the great Betty Cuthbert). By 18 he was fourth in the LA Olympic 400m final. Then again none of his training partners amounted to anything nearly so grand.

Maree Holland (Seoul Oly 400m finalist) went from 52.9 to 51.5 in one year (1984/85) and routinely ran up and jumped down extremely high sand-dunes in Sydney’s Kurnell area.

Jana Pittman has run sand hills carrying weights in her hands as part of a general conditioning routine which has developed her into an immensely strong runner. This will become evident when she is let loose in Europe soon. She will be awfully hard to beat in the 400m hurdles in Paris.

But in all probability, these people have been impressive on sand because they are impressive on the track.

As with many other factors we incorporate into our training/coaching these athletes may have been successful DESPITE of the sand running, rather than BECAUSE of it. How can we ever be sure?

In general though I would say sand running is not very specific and I would not recommend it for anyone with even a hint of pelvic instability. (lateral instability)

There are enough variables difficult to control while running without unnecessarily introducing a shifting surface beneath the runner.

I prefer running on grass, preferably grass hills for strength which, due to stability on the floor, leads I believe to greater transfer of strength from the training situation to the racing.:o

Cuban sprinters and short distance runners as well as hurdlers/jumpers use sand running since Juantorena’s area, but only during the general preparation and not during specific prep, because it inhibits fast fibres. It’s useful though because they can do a bigger volume of work, with a shorter recovery after the work. The power gained is effective during a longer time than in weight room as all the muscles work much more during ground contact than on the track.
Following the cessions, athletes usually do 1/2 hour of swimming to work resistance.

On flat sand I don’t understand how the mucles can work harder in acceleration than on the track in the ground contact phase. Because the sand gives, surely contraction is faster and less stressful?

Because ground contact time on the sand is much longer, and you have to applied much more forces on the ground to move forward. The propulsive action of the feet is more complete. In order to be able to run better on the sand, there’s a special method: walk on your knees: do it at home, because people would look at you strangely. This exercises will stretch and make your quads stronger, that’s a good preparation for running on the sand.

I’v never sprinted properly on sand and was not thinking straight in the above posts, but I think I’ve got it now. Even though there is less resistance in straightening the leg against sand, the reduction in elastic recoil when compared to the track, results in longer ground contract time and hence the quads etc. work harder.

I’m not a great fan of flat sand (messy mechanics) nor shoreline (harder surface but often uneven) but I think that sandhills are fantastic. The problem is that only a tiny percentage of the population would have access to a good one.

One thing I have noticed is that it seems the harder the surface, the harder the stress on the CNS.

Sandhills are a great way to develop the alactic anaerobic system where you can do more volume and involve more muscles (including hams/glutes) and also condition the feet and lower legs for future quicker contact.

Another example of a soft surface is the pool. Again, you can do some great lactic anaerobic system development with a lower level of CNS stress, hence greater volume. You just end up tired, but not fried.

This is what made me think about hard surface = more CNS stress.

pierrejean, how does running in sand inhibit fast fibres? I agree the contact time is longer and so there is more time to apply force but I don’t understand your conclusion that fast fibres are inhibited… can you explain please?

As i’m not an expert on medical things, i was just quoting Cuban coaches experience. It was from an article where Leandro Civil was talking about Ana Quirot’s training. I red this that sand running was part of general preparation only on training articles for Long Jumpers (Pedroso) Triple Jumpers (Quesada), High Jumpers (Sotomayor) (don’t know about throwers), and other sports (Judo for example).

I think Ewan Thomas did a lot of dune work at Saunton Sands in the winter prior to his European title . No idea what his protocols were tho
Nice waves in that area too :smiley:

Marco Cardinale and Carmelo Bosco had performed some research on the use of sand-

I believe the studies are only available in Italian though

Hey Tom, give me the link or journal call #'s and I may be able to translate best I can :slight_smile:

Ask Rupert for translation support (software).

I have on a few times trained on a beach where when the tide is all the way out, if very hard and fairly flat, though can be a bit wet, and once, with a slight tail wind, say about 3m, ran for 60 sec on, with a slow walk back recovery done three times, after measuring once completed, and measured how far each were, i was suprised just how far they were, like between 49 - 51 sec 400m pace! And it felt that fast too, the first 30 sec or so felt like i was going the fastest i had ever gone! But, do you think i could then translate that to a grass track?? (No synthetic track around here) No way! So what was it? The slight tail wind the whole way, the fact i had at the time of actually running, no idea of just how far i was going, where as on a track, you know exactally how far. Or maybe the weight difference of not even wearing a pair of shoes? Just enough difference to hit the sprint position for a long enough time to record times that i otherwise cannot do? So, What The…?