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Because time out doesn’t have to mean time off your fitness regime

We all know that feeling of coming back from holiday a few pounds heavier – but who says it has to be that way? The good news is a beach workout is one of the best for you, and it’s fun, too.

On the run

Beach training such as running engages more muscles than just pounding on solid ground – as the grains of sand shift, you engage extra muscles in the hips, legs and core to compensate.

Wet and tightly packed sand is the best to run on as you’ll sink less and therefore be less likely to overuse your muscles while trying to stabilise. It’s quite hard work, so start with around 20 to 30 minutes to make sure you don’t overdo it.

Dare to go bare

Consider kicking off the trainers and giving barefoot running a try – it’s great fun and very liberating, and with the soft sand between your toes, what better time is there to give this exercise a go? Shores slope, which can affect your form, so pick as flat a section as possible to run on – an out-and-back route will help even out any imbalances.

Get your game face on

The beach is a great location for family games such as tag, which you can play running in and out of the water, or even just standing in the shallows and jumping waves.

Take a beachball and play a game where a group of you line up at the shore. One person throws the ball over their head into the sea, then everyone turns around and sprints or swims to be the first one to get it.

Swim when you’re winning

Include swimming in your games with relays. Form two teams and stand in two lines facing the sea.

One person from each team runs into the water and swims out for 20 to 30 strokes, then turns to face the shore and treads water. The second person on each team swims out to meet them and high fives them.

The first person swims back to shore and high fives the third team member, who then swims out to person two – and so on.

And if you’re feeling less energetic, remember even building sandcastles and rockpooling will give you a gentle family workout.

Take the plunge

Swimming in the sea is one of the most effective forms of full-body exercise.

It builds endurance, cardio fitness and strength, and it’s one of the most effective calorie-burning workouts because swimming through waves is much harder than in a pool, requiring your muscles to work more.

It’s also a type of beach workout that’s completely non-load-bearing, taking all the stress out of your joints, and the perfect way to cool off after your run!

Slow and steady

In a pool, you get built-in breaks between laps, whereas in open water you’re swimming continuously, making this something of a hardcore beach workout. Keep your stroke long and steady. Think endurance rather than speed.

Swim parallel to the shore and never go open water swimming alone and, now that the safety bit’s out of the way, here’s how to master your stroke…

Set your sights

Pick a landmark (a tree or building) in the direction in which you want to swim, and glance up at it every 10 strokes or so. The more you lift your head, the more it affects your body position. So, rather than lift your whole head, just raise your eyes out of the water.

The breath

People often breathe too much or gasp for air, which makes them panicky and lightheaded. Instead, stay calm and relaxed, keeping your breathing under control. Gently breathe through your mouth and out through your nose when your face is in the water. Try to breathe on both sides as it will help in choppy waters.

The body roll

Rotate your body, not from your shoulders or neck, but from your hips, as if there were a pole running from your head down through your body. You need to keep rolling around that pole. Do that and it will be far easier to breathe.

The stroke

You can’t control the waves so, unlike swimming in the pool where you need high elbows, your arms just need to go over the waves. Relaxed your hands and keep your fingers together. When your hand is under the water, push it all the way back towards your thighs. Roll with the stroke and find your rhythm.

And just in case…

If you’re unlucky enough to get caught in a rip current, don't swim against it – this will just lead to you getting exhausted. Stand rather than swim if the water is shallow enough; if not, carry on swimming parallel to the shore until you’re free of the rip, then head to land.

Handpicked article: How to really relax and switch off on holiday

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