1. BEACH VOLLEYBALL
“You’re diving into the sand and sprinting in every direction, even backward, which means your body is being challenged in various planes of motion,” says exercise physiologist Michelle Lovitt. Studies show these plyometric movements better improve your strength and agility—and cause less muscle soreness—when performed on sand versus hard land.
Do It Right: Before a match, warm up your shoulders with a few arm circles to boost your range of motion for those spikes. That said, most volleyball injuries happen when your body is tired and your form breaks down, and fatigue can set in sooner on sand. So check that you have a flat back, engaged abs and your weight in your heels. If that position feels difficult, take a 10-minute break.
The queen of low-impact (joint-friendly) activity, swimming is the most effective total-body cardio workout you can get—especially in the ocean versus the pool. “Your muscles work harder to fight the unpredictable waves,” says physical therapist Juli Wylegala, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo. Fifteen minutes of constant motion in the ocean? It’s a workout!
Do It Right: Stick to a version of the front crawl, as the “knifing through” motion will help you move fastest through the waves. And swim parallel to the shore so you can log distance without straying too far from safety.
Sure, it blasts your legs, butt and abs. The arms and heart, however, get an unexpected boon, since most of your time on the board is spent paddling toward waves, says Sean Newcomer, PhD, a surf-research specialist at California State University at San Marcos. That jacks up your heart rate to high-intensity territory.
Do It Right: The hardest part of surfing is mastering the popup—and staying up there! “Think of your pop-up like a very fast burpee, where you come to stand in one quick motion,” says Newcomer. To stay balanced once you’re standing, keep your knees bent so you’re low to the board.
4. SCUBA DIVING/ SNORKELLING
Going under the sea to see aquatic life doesn’t torch a tonne of calories, but swimming with fins—recommended for snorkeling and essential for scuba to help you cut through the water faster—does provide a nice toning bonus. Research shows the added weight bumps up activation of your thigh and butt muscles, and “your core has to work harder to keep your legs and torso in the right position,” says Wylegala.
Do It Right: The repetitive motion of paddling with fins can tire your calves quickly, causing leg cramps. Stretch each calf for two to three minutes before diving in.
5. RUNNING ON SAND
Because dry sand is an uneven, shifting surface, your muscles— particularly the glutes and hamstrings—have to work harder to propel your feet through it, says Lovitt. One study found that you burn 1.6 times more calories running on sand as on pavement. Just 10 to 15 minutes equals an effective workout.
Do It Right: Pulling a hamstring, hip flexor or calf is common for runners not used to sand. So add a dynamic flexibility warm-up (two minutes each of high knees, jumping jacks and reverse lunges on a stable surface) right before a sandy sesh.