Six Easy Ways to Train for Mountain Running at the Beach

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website. Photos by Tayte Pollmann and Nancy Hobbs.

Mountains are some of the best places for trail runners to train. With many amazing training benefits, such as great trail access, hills, high altitude, and challenging terrain, it’s no wonder many of the country’s best trail runners hail from mountainous regions like the Rockies, the Sierras, or the Appalachians. However, mountains aren’t the only place to train for mountain running. After spending this past week on the French Atlantic Coast, I’ve discovered how training on the beach can offer similar benefits to training in the mountains. Listed below are six ways you can build mountain running strength at the beach.

Build Strength With Tough Terrain
Beach and mountain trails offer challenging terrain that can help you become a stronger trail runner. In the mountains, running on snow or rocks can improve your leg strength and ankle mobility. Similarly, running along a soft sandy beach requires more effort than running on buttery smooth trails and can improve your balance. Next time you’re at a sandy beach, try performing ten repetitions of 10-second uphill sprints on a sand dune. Walk down to recover. This is a challenging workout and you may feel that you’re sinking into the sand more than moving forward! You may also be able to find a set of rugged steps leading to the beach to practice your footwork.

Enjoy Solitude
Mountains and beaches are vast and offer ways to find peace and quiet for your training. In the mountains, there are often many lightly-trafficked trails that you can use for your training. Similarly, you can find “hidden beaches” or search for larger beaches that take you away from densely inhabited areas.

Access Long Trails
Mountains and beaches can have trails that go on for tens or even hundreds of miles. Most mountain ranges have miles of hiking trails that lead to popular destinations, such as secluded tarns, incredible vistas or craggy summits. Similarly, beaches often have trails running parallel to the ocean or traversing nearby sand dunes. Try performing your long run on the beach. With wonderful waterfront views the time is sure to pass by quickly.

Eat Well
Mountain and beach towns are known for good food. In more touristy mountain and beach destinations, there’s often a wide selection of restaurants and bars to please every palate. Make sure to also research the area’s regional food specialties, such as fondue in the French Alps or clam chowder at a New England beach. See my article from the holiday season for dessert recipes specific to French mountain regions.

The author running on the beach along the French Atlantic Coast.

Appreciate the Flora and Fauna
Mountains and beaches are home to extensive wildlife. During a trail run in the mountains, be on the lookout for deer, elk, moose, bears and my personal favorite: mountain goats. Enjoy flowering plants and shrubs, and the myriad trees surrounding the trails. On the beach, watch for seagulls, pelicans, crabs, starfish, turtles and many other sea creatures specific to the area. During your training, take an extra few minutes to stop and marvel at the variety of seashells, seaweed, native grasses, and driftwood often found on coastlines.

Learn to Assess Risk
Both mountains and beaches have inherent dangers. In the mountains, it’s necessary to prepare for quick changes in weather and to dress appropriately for the conditions — both what they are and what they may become. As well, know what to do when encountering wildlife and take appropriate action. At the beach, it’s also important to check the weather to know if there’s a predicted storm that could make the beach unsafe. Also, make sure you know the high and low tides for the day. During high tide, areas that you may have previously traveled on foot during low tide may be underwater. Check out this website to research tide charts of beaches around the world.

You won’t find mountain goats at the beach but there are still plenty of training challenges.

PRO TIP: Did you know the USA Beach Running Championships are coming up May 29 in Cocoa Beach, Florida? Find this and many other “Beach” races on our event calendar.