What Running 10km on Soft Sand Taught Me

Every year Bondi beach plays host to a barefoot soft sand run. For anyone who hasn’t tried running in soft sand… well don’t bother! It’s horrible. It’s like running in treacle, on an unstable surface. 

Anyway, I set myself the goal of running the 10km in under an hour (but in my head I wanted to get below 55 mins). So here is what running 10km on soft sand taught me: -

1) You get better at what you focus on: I spent the last 8 weeks solely focusing on improving my running performance and cardiovascular fitness. And my running performance and cardiovascular fitness improved greatly. However, my strength did not increase. With training, you cannot improve everything all at once. Choose your battles and focus on what you want to improve on. So, if looking to lose body fat, make that your focus and accept that your strength and muscle mass probably won't improve greatly over that period of time.

2) You cannot expect to build muscle and improve running performance at the same time: Ties in to the above point. I had to change my training schedule to accommodate the extra cardiovascular training I was doing. As a result I had to reduce the amount of resistance training I was doing. So my overall training volume was reduced significantly. I only focused on the larger compound lifts (such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups etc) and did away with isolation lifts, I was only interested in including those exercises that provided a large 'bang for my buck'. So, look at where your priorities lie and tailor your training program to suit.

3) I enjoy cardiovascular activities and will continue to include some in my weekly training schedule: I have always been good at distance running and I think this is why I have always enjoyed it. However, I haven't done a great deal of it over the past few years, but training for the 10km run has emphasised how much I do enjoy cardiovascular activity. As a result I will still include some in my weekly training schedule. Ensuring your training program has elements of things you enjoy doing is crucial to long term adherence to the program.

4) Cardiovascular activity requires increased carbohydrate to fuel performance: It is important to recognise the difference between training for performance vs training for aesthetics. To get the most out of your training sessions you must ensure you are adequately fuelled. As a result my carbohydrate intake increased, particular before and after training sessions. As a result I ate less fat in my diet, keeping protein intake pretty constant.

5) I got leaner, but didn’t necessarily look any better: As a result, I urge anyone looking to improve the way they look to focus on resistance training and their food intake before trying to embark on cardiovascular exercise. The key to looking better for the majority of people is to lose body fat and retain (perhaps gain) muscle mass. In order to achieve this we need a calorie deficit, a sufficient protein intake (around 1.6-2.4g/kg of bodyweight per day) and resistance training. I would only advice additional cardio if fat loss is stalled and decreasing calories becomes impractical.

6) I compensated my extra activity by eating more: This is another reason why relying on too much cardio can prove counter-productive to fat loss. It has been shown in research that oftentimes people who engage in lots of cardio then tend to move less in daily life and also over-compensate by eating more calories. These factors serve to eliminate the calorie deficit caused by the extra cardio. So, if adding cardio to your training plan, be mindful that you don't suddenly increase your food intake or stop walking and take the bus instead!

So how did I get on? Well I managed to finish in a little over 52 minutes, coming 6th place overall.