Interval training surface: sand or grass?

Outdoor training is increasingInterval training surfacein popularity and interval training, one of the most effective and efficient methods to increase endurance, is very suitable to try outside the gym. Outdoor training can be performed on different surfaces. To find out to what extent interval training surface influences training effects, scientists from Australia started the following study.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers recruted 10 well trained teamsports athletes who were familiarized with training on sand. All participants performed two interval training sessions on different days, one on sand and one on grass. Before and after training, blood samples were taken and analysed on lactate concentration. During training heart rate was monitored. The athletes performed the training on the highest intensity that still allowed them to finish the session.

What were the results?

The results are depicted in the figures below.

Effect of training surface on blood lactate










Figure 1: Blood lactate (mmol/L) before and after interval training


Effects of training surface on RPE










Figure 2: Perceived exhaustion (RPE) before and after interval training


Effects of training surface on Heart frequency










Figure 3: Heart rate (BPM) before, during and after interval training

An identical interval training on sand resulted in higher blood lactate values and heart frequency’s than on grass. Despite these physiological differences, the athletes thought the training sessiones were of equal intensity.

What did the researchers conclude?

Interval training performed on sand results in greater physiological adaptations, than the same training performed on a grassy surface. Since adaptations in running technique on one surface don’t translate well to other surfaces, it remains important for athletes to train on the surface that they have to perform on.

What does this mean for me?

Interval training surface influnces training results. Interval training on sand can lead to greater training effects than the same perceived intensity on grass. Another advantage of a sandy surface is that it decreases impact forces during running better, which is better for weak knees. Keep in mind that running technique will improve on sand, which can influence running technique and safety on other surfaces.


-Binnie, M.J., Dawson, B., Pinnington, H., Landers, G., Peeling, P. Effect of Training Surface on Acute Physiological Responses After Interval Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2013, 27, 4, 1047-1056.