WHAT DO YOU DO AT THE BEACH?
Check the photo of Bondi Beach. Have a think about it for a minute…..
In this article, I’ll be discussing the behaviour of Australians during their leisure time at our number 1 leisure location- the beach. I offer some advice on how we can adopt a more active approach to our lifestyles. For those runners out there- think “cross training”. Exceptions could be those runners already logging massive mileage (e.g. training twice a day, running 160km per week or more), multi event sports people, those doing long hard labour for work, and many others who are really putting in the hard yards in their lives- you may actually want to just “lie down and go to sleep on the beach”. Very few fall into these brackets, however, so I feel this article will be helpful to most.
Have you ever been at the beach on a nice, sunny day and had a good look around? I mean, really checked out what other people are doing on the beach. I have to admit that I normally wouldn’t do that, as I’d normally be busy having fun myself, or occasionally sleeping on my towel. For the purposes of this article, however, I’ve been observing the visitors to Melbourne beaches in recent weeks. Being a Sydney boy, I have to admit the same applies to Sydney beachgoers, with the exception of the decent number of surfers in Sydney.
I’ve been to the beach on quiet mid-week days and on crowded weekend days. One characteristic about the majority of people that go to the beach that has stood out from the rest is that they don’t do too much. That is, most of them appear to just sit down or lie on their towel for the majority of their time. Or possibly go for a very casual stroll/stand around as their dog sprints around covering several km in the same amount of time- during “dog off lead times off course….Melbourne beaches are great for that!
People may argue that they go to the beach to relax. They need their R and R time. They’re so tired that they need to unwind from their busy week. That they just want to sun bake and work on their tan. Some people may argue that the water is too cold so they may as well just lie on their towel. Others want to gossip or have a good heart to heart with a friend in a relaxed environment.
This is all well and good. However, the beach is the most popular recreation venue for Australians to visit during the warmer part of the year. For people in warmer areas like in Queensland, this applies year-round. What people do at the beach is often a good indicator of how they spend the rest of their time. Sure, some people may have an excuse to just lie on their towel, every day for a week, during a holiday. For example, they may have recently come out of hospital and be recovering from an operation. They could be a footballer at the end of a hard season who is resting his weary, often injured body.
I have a saying about sleeping. It is ‘NIGHTS ARE FOR SLEEPING’. I believe that the majority of the time, if you have to sleep, even lie down, it is at night. That’s why there is dark and there is light. God gave us darkness so we can sleep. He gave us light so we can work and play. Thus I don’t believe that days are for sleeping, including lying down on the beach for long periods of time, with the odd exception.
It’s amazing how many people just seem to spend the majority of their time at the beach looking like dead, beached whales. Sure, some of these people actually may work extremely hard, even in a physical job such as a bricklayer or builder’s laborer. Some of these people may be exercise fanatics or elite athletes who may train hard for 20 plus hours per week and just be spending a couple of hours at the beach to recover. Looking at the bodies of most people who just seem to lie around at the beach though, they lead sedentary lifestyles. Their bodies aren’t toned and many of them are carrying excess weight.
It’s a sad fact that many local councils are now inflicting laws on citizens which actually discourage people from exercising on the beach. They erect signs on the beach pronouncing rules such as ‘No Frisbees’ and ‘No Ball games’. What is going to be next? ‘No running’. ‘No walking’. ‘No swimming’? Maybe the signs should read ‘No playing with balls on this beach as the thousands of lazy people slumped like beached whales on their cozy little towels don’t wish to be awaken from their slumber during daylight hours’.
Through conversation and a little observation and subsequent interview I followed the daily activities of 2 people who went to the beach on separate days, with their consent. For both these people, time spent at the beach took up quite a decent part of their day. I’ll let you compare and contrast them. Which person are you, your family and friends most like when it comes to the amount of physical activity that you do at the beach? Are you a combination of the two people? Maybe you’re nothing like either of them
Person A: The following transcript is the day of a 24 year old sales assistant, Vanessa, following her actions throughout her day at the beach.
9.00am- sleep in, then get up and have a big, long breakfast.
9.45am- call friend Sue to see if she still wants to come to the beach with me.
10.00am- get changed and pack bag for the beach.
10.30am- pick up Sue and drive to the beach.
11.00am- arrive in vicinity of beach, can’t find car park. Drive around looking for car park. Find a park about 400m from the beach but feel that it’s way too far to walk. Decide to drive back to the car parks next to the beach. Double park and wait for someone to vacate their parking space.
11.17am- a car park becomes vacant 30 metres away, so I move forward quickly and park there. We walk 100 metres to the café strip back from the beach,
11.30am- we feel stressed out after our trip and parking drama so we decide to go get a coffee before we hit the beach.
11.40am- we both have a cappuccino and also order croissants.
12.20pm- we walk 200m to beach and walk a further 50 metres to the flagged area. We lay out our towels, help each other to apply sun cream and sit down on our towels. We start talking.
12.50pm- it’s getting very hot so we decide to go for a swim. We walk 20 metres to the water and slowly make our way into the ocean. It feels cold. We finally decide to get our hair wet and submerge ourselves. It’s not too bad once you get under. We sort of float around and feel the waves crash over our bodies. We try to bodysurf a couple of waves. Sue is quite good at this but I struggle.
1.05pm- we lie down on our towels. I drift off to sleep on my back. Sue is reading her magazine.
1.50pm- I am awoken by something that has hit me in the chest. I look up and there’s a Frisbee lying next to my body. A group of children nearby are giggling at me. My chest is stinging a little bit and I feel humiliated. I stay on my back and reach forward to grab the Frisbee but before I reach it, a good-looking guy wearing only board shorts, with black curly hair and latin American appearance (mmmmm…I think to myself) picks it up. He says, “Sorry about that, it was an accident”. A lifeguard arrives on the scene and asks me if I’m ok. I say, “Yes I’m fine”. The lifeguard then confiscates the Frisbee from the latin-American guy, saying, “You can’t play with Frisbees on the beach”.
2.00pm- Sue and I decide to have lunch. We walk 200 metres to reach the fish and chips shop. It’s packed with customers. We see another fish and chips shop about 50 m down the road. It only has about 5 customers in it. Sue suggests that we go there instead but I say “it’s to far and I way too hot to walk”
2.20pm- we finally get our fish and chips, plus cans of soft drink, and walk back to our spot on the beach. We sit down, eat and drink.
2.45pm- it’s hot, so we decide to go for another quick dip, just going in for a couple of minutes, floating in the water, which feels nice and cool
2.50pm- we decide to tan our backs, so lie on our fronts on our towels whilst we dry off.
3.10pm- we realize we have things to do back at home so we quickly walk back to the car.
3.15pm- we head home in my car.
3.30pm- we stop by at a fast food restaurant, in the drive by section, to buy a thick shake. We drink our shakes whilst continuing our journeys home.
3.50pm- I drop Sue off, having a quick chat before leaving.
4.00pm- I arrive home and decide to crash out on the sofa, as I’m hot and tired after a big day at the beach.
5.00pm- I get up to get a can of soft drink from the freezer, then lie back on the sofa.
7.00pm- I cook myself a nice pasta dinner and have two glasses of red wine.
8.00pm- I watch a couple more hours of TV
11.00pm- goes to bed
Vanessa’s day is quite similar to the way many Australians spend their leisure time. She only walked a total of about 1km (over many hours), and did some minor exercise in the water for a very short period of time. She consumed enough calories to feed a distance runner who ran 30km at a decent heart rate and spent a further hour doing exercises later on in the day. In other words, the marathoner traveled approximately 30 times further than Vanessa, with the intensity of his exercise also being far greater.
Of course, the marathoner would need to eat far more nutritious good than what Vanessa ate if he were to stay healthy and be able to sufficiently fuel his body to cover such long distances in training.
Person B- Matt
The following transcript is the day of a 44 year old accountant, Matt, following his actions throughout his day at the beach.
5.45am- wake up and get into Swimmers and running gear. Wake up Jack, his 12-year-old son.
6.00am- starts running towards the beach, with Jack riding his bike next to his dad. Jack has his mal board on a little trolley connected to his bike.
6.20am- arrives at the beach. Goes swimming whilst Jack paddles his board with a Nippers training squad.
7.00am- changes back into running gear and runs home, whilst Jack rides his bike and takes mal.
7.25am- arrives home and immediately prepares fruit, fruit juice and cereal for breakfast.
7.30am- joins Jack, wife Joy and 10-year-old daughter Alexis for breakfast.
8.00am- reads the paper
8.30am- drives Alexis back down to the beach for Nippers. Helps organize the events.
10.00am- joins many of the children and parents from Nippers in a game of touch football on the beach. (luckily the local council haven’t banned ball games on the beach up until this point!)
11.00am- arrives back home. Prepares to go to a BBQ at a friend’s house
4.00pm- arrives home from the BBQ and walks the dog with Joy
5.00pm- helps Jack with a school project, then responds to a few emails
6.00pm- eats dinner
7.00pm-plays some backyard cricket with the kids
8.00pm- watches some TV
9.00pm- goes to bed
Note the amount of exercise that Matt performs in his day. Even the game of backyard cricket is great exercise. When there are only 3 people playing, every player is always performing an action- either batting, bowling or wicket-keeping/fielding. Also note that Matt rises early in the morning to catch the nice conditions and to coincide with his son’s session. The beach is also quieter at that time, as you tend to beat the crowds. The UV rays are also less powerful early in the morning, so you are less likely to get burnt or contract skin cancer. It’s also a good time to run and ride a bike as there is very little traffic on the local roads on the weekends at that time.
How can we exercise at the beach?
• Go for a swim
• Play soccer
• Try some strength training
• Go for a run
• Ride your boogie board
• Play Frisbee
• Go snorkeling
• Build a sandcastle (or 2 or 3 or more)
• Play beach cricket
• Collect shells
• Play beach volleyball
• Go for a surf
• Join a surf club and participate in club competitions
• Go skim boarding
• Play touch football
• Go for a walk
• Slide down sand dunes on a piece of cardboard and climb back up (repeat many times)
• Play ball games in the water (e.g. Classic catches)
• Go Stand Up Paddleboarding
• Fly a kite
You can surely think of numerous more ways you too can still “relax” but exercise at the beach! Give it a go.