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The Sand Is Your Friend
Want To Stay In Shape At The Beach This Summer?
Exercise Is (Almost) A Breeze.

By John Winters

Summer's here, and more than likely you'll be spending some time at the beach. The important thing to remember is that a day or a week at the shoreline doesn't mean you have to become a beach bum. There's lots you can do to stay active and still enjoy your time off.

But before packing those dumbbells in the cooler, let's consider for a moment whether it's even necessary to keep up that fitness regimen while you're away? I mean, can't a guy get a break from working out?

Well, yes and no.

"After all, it is a vacation and a little activity is plenty to keep the body sound," said Tommy Boone, professor of exercise physiology at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. "The muscles won't disappear and the heart and lungs will work just fine upon returning home."

Yet vacation is a time when even model dads can overdo it at the all-you-can-eat buffet, or find themselves raiding the minibar night after night -- which makes getting out and doing some sort of activity a must.

Here are some ways to do it without getting sand in your shorts:

Footprints In The Sand

Jogging on the beach is great, but beware: Your joints and bones will thank you, but your leg muscles and heart may be wondering if you're bounding up Mount Everest.

That's because running on sand provides excellent cushioning, but can be far more taxing on the body. Here's how to do it right, according to Andy Palmer, owner and director of the Maine Running Camp in Bar Harbor, Maine.

• The slope of the beach can cause problems with the muscles and joints of the legs, so watch out for uneven footing. Try to run at the lowest tide, which usually provides a flatter surface.

• Run on the soft sand only if you're conditioned for it, otherwise it can cause all sorts of aches, pains and muscle tears. For most dads, jogging on the packed sand will be fine.

• Finally, find an interesting stretch of beach to make your workout fun. (We suggest one with a few bikinis dotting the horizon.)

Go Deep

Water, water everywhere, so why not jump in? Swimming exercises most of the major muscle groups, and provides a great cardiac workout. Plus you can burn those buffet calories off at the rate of 11 per minute.

If you're up for it, do some swim sprints: Count your strokes, and swim hard for 50, and then rest or float for an equal time.

Be sure to wear a water-resistant watch, as you'll want to track your workout by time spent swimming, and not the distance covered.

Play It Again, Dad

There are loads of games to play at the beach. For $15 you can get a volleyball set and recruit the family and some fellow beachcombers for the game that has become a beach classic.

Also, the packed-down sand can provide a great court for paddle tennis or beach handball. Or, get the kids involved in a game of hopscotch. Simply draw the lines in the sand, find a rock or seashell for a marker, and you're off.

However, our favorite activity is called Beach Ultimate, an intense team sport that uses the skills of football, soccer and volleyball. You'll need at least eight players, a long stretch of beach, and a Frisbee. Players toss the Frisbee down the "field" to each other until they reach the end zone. If the disc hits the beach, it's turned over to the other team.

Tim Finan, a dad and physical education teacher in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said even the youngsters can enjoy this fast-growing beach sport. For more information about Beach Ultimate, check his Web site at

On The Beaten Path

Let's face it, no one - especially those with children - ever really rests during vacation. Just the regular running around the average get-away entails may be exercise enough if you do it right. Even sightseeing done at a brisk pace can be an excellent form of exercise. Call ahead to the local chamber of commerce or tourist board and find out what kind of hikes and walking trails are nearby, or rent a bike or strap on a pair of inline skates and make the rounds.

For those men who just aren't themselves unless they've pumped some iron or hit the treadmill, many local health clubs offer day rates, and some hotels have in-house fitness centers.

John Winters lives in Massachusetts and writes about health and fitness.

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