The Happiest Place on Earth. Or so they say. Who knew that having a full day of fun could be so much work? One of the oft unspoken aspects of any Disney Park experience is the physical fatigue from 10 or more hours of play. You’ll spend a lot of time on your feet, walk long distances…and sometimes do it for close to a week! With this in mind, one way to maximize your enjoyment of your Parks experiences is to arrive your best physical condition possible. You don’t need to be in marathon shape (and it wouldn’t be a complete form of preparation, because the physical demands are different), but you don’t want your body to hold you back.
Think of it this way: At Disney, time is money and money is time. If you need to take lengthy breaks, you are paying for time doing nothing! Yes breaks are essential to maximize the quality of your experience but there’s a balance between just right and too much. Now, I’m going by the assumption that you are going to Disney to DO stuff as there are far better destinations for relaxed idleness. My PERSONAL preference is to cover lots of ground, but yours might not be. And that’s fine. The main point is that your physical readiness should be sufficient to support YOUR desired activity level!
Footwear – Quality athletic shoes that fit are paramount. You could walk up to ten miles in a day. Socks are also overlooked and are not something to skimp on. Your regular socks that do the job for routine walking at home might not withstand the heat and moisture of long days, especially in Florida. In the military, sock changes are built into our road march routine. You can have the strongest lungs and legs in the world, but the pain of an open blister can turn your day into complete misery. Also consider investing in Bodyglide, which is a sports lubricant without any residue (I have no affiliation with them, but have used it for close to twenty years).
Walking – You don’t need to walk ten miles a day to prepare but you do need to be ready for walking a lot. Other things to consider..stair climbing is also helpful because there are some attractions involving stairs (Swiss Family Robinson, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street Train Station), though generally the parks are flat. Additionally, sometimes the challenge isn’t only from the walking but also from being on your feet for so long during the day. If you’re used to sitting for 8-10 hours per day, spend time building yourself up to where you can comfortably spend prolonged periods on your feet.
Carrying Stuff – You may find yourself carrying a bag or even little people! Prepare accordingly but don’t go crazy and put yourself at risk for injury. Some things to consider: will you be carrying a double strapped backpack? Or something like a purse that hangs on one shoulder. If you are carrying kids will you be carrying them on your back, on your shoulder or in front? How much do the kids weigh?
Stroller? This is a simple one. Get out the baby jogger and start pushing those sleds, especially if you choose to load up the stroller with your supplies for the day or if you choose to rent a stroller from the Parks that is heavier than what you’re accustomed to at home! If you’re at Disneyland, you know you’ll face a small climb back to the center of the park if you visit Winnie the Pooh.
Food – I’m hardly a diet guru but I would offer some pragmatic advice. Be a little extra “good” before going if you’re worried about over-indulging. But don’t be so restrictive that the Disney influx of sugar sends your gut into a frenzy. Bottom line, give yourself months in advance of quality eating, but enough small indulgences sprinkled in to help develop the gut adaptability for the wide variety of tastes you may encounter in the Parks!
Intra-trip recovery – a restorative massage is always a good option if staying at one of the Disney resorts offering spa services. However, there are some free options available as well. Getting in the pool and kicking your legs around can help encourage quality circulation and facilitate the recovery process. Your resort gym may also have self-massage tools such as foam rollers. Better yet, invest in your own and bring it with you!
Exercise – For most of us, the fitness routine is not the main priority during a Disney visit. That said, if staying at a resort onsite, the exercise options are serviceable. Some will offer morning yoga or other group classes on certain days (though it could mean forgoing Magic Morning Hours). The fitness centers are generally decently equipped, at least enough to accomplish something (which is better than nothing!). Another way to go into a trip is to schedule a hard block of training immediately beforehand so you can use the vacation as a time to “recover” from your normal activities at home. The trip won’t be complete recovery, but it will serve as a break from the normal routine.
Like many things, it all comes down to thinking ahead and preparation. I have simply provided some options and suggestions here, but other strategies may work for you. The main point is to recognize the key areas and have a plan for your trip...just as you have a plan on how you are going to navigate the Parks!
Allan Phillips, PT, DPT is owner of Ventana Physiotherapy