Is running your go-to guy when you
need a workout? Do you strap on
a pair of sneakers and hit the road
simply for the love of it? Then perhaps
it's time to mix things up a
bit. Different kinds of running surfaces
offer varying benefits, and present different
kinds of running experiences.
It's important to understand how your
training routine stands to gain from
each of these surfaces -- and also what
to watch out for when you're trying an
unfamiliar surface for the first time.
Here's a guide that weighs the merits
and demerits of some common running
Running on the treadmill
For most people, the treadmill is their
first initiation into running. It is
undoubtedly convenient because it
offers varying levels of challenge to suit
beginners as well as professional athletes.
It helps those who have never
exercised before to gradually build up
their stamina. "It is a good idea to start
training with the treadmill because it
allows you to be very much in control
of your exercise," says Heath Matthews,
physiotherapist with the Champions
Trust. "Supposing you want to run 2
km at a gentle pace, you can adjust your
pace and incline to achieve that." Being
a cushioned surface, the treadmill also
has lesser impact on the knees than
running on a tar road. If you like variety
in your routine, the treadmill also
offers a range of pre-set programmes
that offer different kinds of training.
Running on the beach
The beach is an excellent training
ground because it provides different
kinds of workouts.
"The wet sand that is closer to the
water is great for short runs because
it has a relatively low impact on the
knees and calves," says Rahul Verghese,
founder of the running group, Running
and Living. Running on this hard, wet
surface is similar to running on grass,
according to Matthews.
Running on loose sand is a whole different
ball game. "Dry sand gives in so
you have to grind very hard to run on
it," says Matthews. "The underfoot and
the muscles of the ankle have to work
a lot harder. But you can really strain
your calf if you do too much too soon."
He advises that you stick to short
sprints on loose sand, and only if you're
Running on the road
Although running on a tar road can
mean putting some pressure on your
knees, the surface is still among the
most convenient to train on. It is also
the surface of choice for professional
runners. "A tar road gives a little more
than concrete, which is the hardest surface
and has a pretty high impact," says
Verghese. "In dry cities, dust gets swept
on to the sides of the road. That's a
good surface to run on because it provides
But it's important to pay attention to
the gradient of the road, because steep
dips or inclines can put a lot of pressure
on your knees. If you must run on
concrete, make sure you're wearing the
right shoes. "When you run on concrete,
you put the equivalent of four to five
times your body weight on your knees.
This can have an impact on your skeletal
system," says Verghese.
Running on grass
An even, grassy surface is ideal for running
because it provides the right grip
and reduces impact. But watch out for
uneven patches. "A regular earth trail
or grass is good," says Verghese. "But
the chances of hitting a crater and twisting
your foot are relatively
All you need to know
Concrete has the maximum impact on
your feet and knees. So if you must
run on it, make sure your have the
right shoes. Running on dry sand can
also cause excessive strain, so run
only in short bursts.
The best surface is a regular mud trail,
just watch out for sudden depressions.
Most marathon runners tend to train
on tar roads. To add intensity, you can
run on the wet sand close to the
A treadmill is the best place to start,
since it has lesser impact and allows
you to control the pace of your workout
Mix it up
If you're training for the marathon,
run on the road 2-3 times a week.
Run on harder sand in running
shoes once a week and get on the
treadmill once or twice a week,
using the hill or interval training programmes.
Don't run more than 4-5
times a week.