Creative Ways to Get a Workout While On a Beach Vacation

Whether you're a water bug or you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on the sand, these pointers will help you break a sweat at the beach — and have fun doing it.

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Two women running into the ocean with surfboards
Photo: Drazen_/Getty

No matter if you take to the shore, lake, or other water spot, you're in for a cool, mood-elevating experience. Here, tips to get every drop of fun, fitness, and mental fulfillment out of your day on the beach. (

Break Out the Boards

Looking to catch some waves? "Mornings are usually better for surfing, when there's less wind," says Anna Ehrgott, a pro free surfer who lives and rides in Southern California. And almost any beach will do: "As long as there are swells, you can find something to surf." If you're just learning the ropes, ask your surfboard shop for an instructor rec, or try a surf camp, such as Surf Diva in San Diego and women-only Pura Vida Adventures in Costa Rica.

Even boogie boarding will get you closer to hanging ten. "Learning to read waves and conditions is a skill that comes over time and can be practiced whenever you're in the water," says Ehrgott says. As for suiting up, her go-to combo is boy shorts and a stay-put top, such as prAna's Datum shorts (Buy It, $55, prana.com) and Regan top (Buy It, $65, prana.com).

prAna Datum Shorts

prAna Datum Shorts
prAna

prAna Regan Top

prAna Regan Top
prAna

Make It a Circuit

Look around at your playground — the surf and sand — and consider this: Almost any move you make will work your muscles in a fresh way. Wade into waist-high water, and you're burning about a third more calories than you would walking on solid ground because water provides greater resistance than air. Swim out (some 380 calories per hour at a leisurely pace) and body surf a wave back, then repeat for a full-body circuit — working arms, core, and legs — that's subtle yet inspired.

Back on shore, fit in a power walk or a run. "Every step you take is going to be different, unlike running on concrete," says Ashley Joi, a celeb trainer in Los Angeles who does beach drills to mix things up. "It allows you to become more body aware and activate smaller muscle groups that you may not use, like in your feet and other muscles within your leg." Sand is also ideal for doing plyometrics like jump squats, she says. On the way up, you have to dig to explode up, and as you land, the impact is less of a jolt.

Level Up Your Swim

Summertime presents 92 warmer-water days to re-dedicate yourself to getting into the swim thing. "Frequency of training is more important than the duration for perfecting your form," says Jamie Barone, the head swim coach and director of aquatics at Chelsea Piers Connecticut. "So four 30-minute sessions a week are preferable to one 120-minute session."

The four big strokes are breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke, and front crawl (aka freestyle). The first is widely regarded as the easiest to swim, and the last is the fastest. "The breaststroke is usually more kick driven than the other three, which is why you see people who tend to excel at breast and not the others," says Barone. (BTW, swimming a few laps offers plenty of health benefits.)

He recommends getting a pro tune-up to lock in good habits. Most YMCAs offer adult instruction, or get a coach through a swim club. And grab a solid pair of goggles that lets you see full speed ahead: Speedo USA's Covert style (Buy It, $26, amazon.com) has a customizable nose bridge, six lens tint choices, and a design that helps nix goggle marks for when you towel off. (

Speedo USA Covert Goggles

Speedo USA Covert Goggles
Amazon

Power It Sup

It's no surprise that paddle sports skyrocketed with the pandemic rush outdoors: Sales of products for the pastime jumped 56 percent from June 2019 to June 2020, according to retail analyst NPD Group. And what better way to take in the bay, lake, or shore than with a muscle-searing workout on a stand-up paddleboard? For newbies, a board that is at least 33 inches wide makes a good, stable ride, says Luke Hopkins, the head of watersports at manufacturer Surf 9.

"To stay headed straight, focus on your paddle stroke technique: long and close," he says. "Start your stroke as far forward as you can, and pull until the paddle is just behind your feet." When you're ready to commit to owning your own SUP board, consider an inflatable, like Body Glove's Performer 11-foot iSUP (Buy It, $999, bodyglove.com).

Body Glove Performer 11-foot iSUP

Body Glove Performer 11-foot iSUP
Body Glove

The Joy of Just Letting Go

"I'm with most people in just feeling calmer by the ocean," Ehrgott says. "Any chance to free dive, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or get on a boat is a day well spent." She also makes a point of beachcombing with a purpose by picking up trash, another fulfilling move. "Beach cleanups are like shell collecting but good for the planet," she says.

And nothing compares with catching some air, says Sarah Hauser, a pro Windsurfer who rides for the Dakine Team. Windsurfing and kiteboarding are not sports you pick up in a day. But, Hauser says, "there are so many beautiful things to learn from understanding how to interact with winds and currents to become agile on the water." (Rental shops are a good start for finding lessons.) The beauty is, arm yourself with a sunscreen that has staying power — Hauser swears by Avasol Surfer's Barrier Stick (Buy It, $20, avasol.com) — and water shoes with drainage, such as Body Glove's easy Namaste style (Buy It, $20, amazon.com) and you can seize the day any way you like.

Body Glove Namaste Water Shoes

Body Glove Namaste Water Shoes
Amazon
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