Running Thru Disneyland & What I Learned Along the Way

One of the experiences I was most excited about when going to Disneyland for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was the two mile Fun Run being planned for some of the conference attendees by the RunDisney team. I had already been trying to get back into running, but seeing the opportunity to run through Disneyland and California Adventures gave me a renewed motivation to train harder.

Of course, this would happen to be the coldest, harshest winter we’ve had in a long time, meaning that the majority of my training was done indoors on my treadmill. I started back at week 1, day 1 for a couch-to-5K training program, finding even the first week difficult. I’d later realize that starting a running program when you have a bad cold, which then turns into sinus and ear infections, makes the path a little more rocky, but hey, I had a deadline to meet, as well as a time: they wanted us to average a 13 minute mile.

In the week before I left, I started to worry that I wasn’t ready. I had yet to get beyond week 3 of the training program, unable to run longer than three minutes without a break, and I couldn’t get my time to anywhere under a 14 minute mile. The weather had FINALLY turned nicer, though, and I decided to switch my running to the outdoors. I also ditched the couch-to-5K program and decided that I’d run until I just started to feel out of breath, then walk for a minute or two, then run again. The combination of finally running outdoors with more than the wall in front of me and running without a timed schedule worked: on my last run before I left for the conference, my two mile time was 25:42, just barely under 13 minutes per mile!

At registration in Anaheim, those of us who were running were asked to go to the end of the hallway, where we were fitted with new shoes, courtesy of New Balance, one of the sponsors. Their team of fit experts made me feel like Cinderella, only instead of a glass slipper they found the perfect running shoe for my foot. I also stopped to admire the limited edition Disney-themed running shoes they had on display. It’s only natural that Cinderella was one of the character-inspired designs.

New Balance Disney shoes Photo credit: Josh Hallett @hyku

With new shoes for my feet (thank you, New Balance!), I then visited the runDisney/ESPN table to talk a little more about the runDisney events. I had originally thought they only did marathons and half marathons, but learned last year that there are 5K and 10K events that often go with each of the larger events. (Kids races, too.) Each event looks like so much fun!

The run wasn’t until Sunday morning, which meant I had three days to wear out my feet with all of the walking around Disneyland. Luckily, I had spent a week walking around Walt Disney World not even two weeks prior, so my feet handled the stress without any problem. I was smart and stuck to sensible shoes, too.

We had to be up SUPER early on Sunday morning. Check-in was at 5:30am. I wondered how many people would show up in costume, or show up at all, at that early time. Part of my motivation was wearing something fun and Disney-themed to run in. I dressed as Anna from Frozen, with a little help from my soon-to-be favorite running skirts, SparkleSkirts:

Anna and Olaf Fun Run #DisneySMMoms And I found Olaf!

After a pep talk and warm ups, we all gathered at the starting line. They split us into two groups: the runners, and those who would follow a 30 second run/walk pattern. I could run longer than 30 seconds, but knew I couldn’t run all the way without a walk break. So I positioned myself somewhere in the middle, between the two groups. I’d try to stay with the runners as best I could.

Start of the Fun Run #DisneySMMomsI was starting my running music…the Frozen soundtrack, of course

It was amazing to run through the parks! For someone who loves Disney, having the chance to run down Main Street towards the castle, with the street quiet and empty, is simply surreal. As I ran (and walked), I kept thinking, “Is this really happening? Am I actually here, running through the castle, past the statue of Walt and Mickey?”

Fun Run thru the castle #DisneySMMomsa sideways shot running out of the castle

Disneyland itself was fairly quiet, but once we left the gates and crossed the lot into California Adventure, we were presented with a different atmosphere. More cast members were on hand, directing us which way to go and cheering us on. You could feel the energy in their smiles. I was tiring out by this point, taking more walk breaks, but it was their enthusiasm that kept me going.

Fun Run Final Turn #DisneySMMoms

After running around the Paradise Pier area, we made the final turn into Carsland. I could see the balloon arch for the Finish line up ahead, along with the families and the runners who had already finished. I was already breathing hard with a pain in my side, but nearing that crowd made me launch myself into a sprint for the finish. I made it!

Fun Run Finish #DisneySMMoms 2014Photo credit: Josh Hallett – @hyku

I was tired at the end, but I also felt exhilaration for what I had just done. Two miles isn’t a lot to many people, but two miles in under 26 minutes was a great accomplishment for me. And there are few experiences that compare to running through the Disney parks in the quiet of the morning!

With Lightning McQueen #DisneySMMomsLightning McQueen is holding me up at this point.

Reflecting on the experience, I picked up a few valuable lessons from this run:

1. “That’s what friends are for. They help you to be more of who you are.” Christopher Robin’s words reinforce the idea that a good community is invaluable. Some of the runners had formed a Facebook group to encourage and support each other as we trained for this event. Some were new to running, others experienced runners, and a lot fell in-between. Just when I felt like giving up before we even arrived, there were community members there to remind me that I could do it, I wanted to do it, and I wasn’t alone.

I wouldn’t have felt as prepared if it hadn’t been for the advice and encouragement I received from that group. It’s hard to do anything alone, but it’s so much easier when you have friends to remind you to keep going and not give up. It was wonderful to see each of them cross the finish line, too!

2. “Just keep swimming.” I’ve used Dory’s phrase many times since I first saw Finding Nemo, in many different situations. When you’re running, and your lungs are burning as you huff and puff for air, the finish line can seem awfully far away. I remember coming around a corner and seeing Paradise Pier, and then realizing I still had to run alllllll the way around it. But I wasn’t going to quit, right? No way! I had to keep going, reminding myself that I could get through it if I just kept swimming, swimming, just keep swimming…

3. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Mary Poppins was right – find the fun in any task, and it’s far easier to accomplish. Why did I put together a running costume? Because when you’re running through Disney, it feels more fun to run as a character! For that time, I was Anna, running through the magical world of Disney with the Frozen soundtrack in my head. Running is hard, but that two miles was probably the most fun I’ve ever had while running, which only makes me want to do it again.

This was a big revelation for me: if I want to find more success with running (and anything else in life), I have to find ways to make it more fun for me.

4. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney’s quote is popular for a reason: there’s some solid truth in there. If you told me ten years ago that I could run two miles, I’d have laughed until I cried. I’ve always admired runners, but I was never a runner. Well, now I’m willing to challenge that idea. I want to be a runner, and I’m willing to pursue it. I feel that, with the right motivation, I can keep training and push myself further. I can apply this philosophy to anything I want to pursue in life as well.

It was a magical experience, and I’m so glad I decided to do it and didn’t give up.

Neither Aaron or I have done a runDisney event yet (other than this unofficial one for me), but the announcement of the new Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon at Disneyland was enough inspiration for Aaron – he’s vowed that he will run in that event for his 40th birthday in three years. I’d be happy just to train for and run in the Princess 10K at Walt Disney World – a half-marathon seems far too out of reach for me, but if it’s a runDisney event to motivate me, I think I could be ready to attempt my first-ever 10K by next year.

#DisneySMMoms 2014 Fun RunPhoto credit: Josh Hallett – @hyku

Disclosure: Thank you to runDisney and New Balance for sponsoring the Fun Run and our breakfast afterward!



My Goal To Be Healthier: Week 1 Results

At the beginning of the month, I declared that I needed to clean up my diet. I spent most of spring break finishing out as much of the junk food we had in the house. Those Thin Mints were soooooo good. And then on April 7, I said goodbye to my Coke Zero and chocolates (with an especially emotional parting from my Nutella), farewell to bread and snack crackers, and plunged headfirst into eating as clean as possible for the next week or two.

Clean eating, for me, means no soda, no artificial sweeteners, limited sugar, and limited processed foods. Lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts, lean meats and eggs, beans, and smaller amounts of rice and dairy. Along with water to drink, I’m also having one coffee or tea each day. It’s not exactly Paleo, but it seemed like a good idea to help me detox from the foods I’m most addicted to.

So how’s it going so far? I’ve made it a week and half now without any soda, sweets, or heavily processed foods. The most processed thing I’ve eaten so far was the tortilla strips on a McDonald’s salad.

My feelings over the past week and a half have swung back and forth. The first seven days went a little something like this:

Day 1: Hahaha, this is fun! We’re going to be healthy! We’ve got this covered!

Day 2: What the hell do I eat for breakfast? Or lunch for that matter?

Day 3: It’s 8pm, I really, really, really, really, really want something sweet to snack on. An apple, while sweet, does not sound exciting.

Day 4: I fought off the chocolate cravings yesterday! Go me! I’ll celebrate by…baking some eggs.

Day 5: If I have to eat another salad…wait, Chipotle is mostly real food, right?

Day 6: Uh-oh, we’re out of dried fruit and nut mix. Everybody panic! Costco run, stat!

Day 7: I’m barely sleeping at night, and yet I’m feeling OK during the day. That’s odd. Hey, pass the almonds, would ya?

There’s no way I can tell you that it’s been a breeze. If you don’t like to cook from scratch, it can be difficult to find enough food to eat on this plan. We’ve had dinners of grilled chicken and veggies, chicken tikka masala with rice, and grass-fed organic steak one lucky night. Hard boiled eggs (baked, actually – the Pinterest idea really works!) and nuts have been good protein for lunches. Fresh and dried fruit help curb my sweets cravings. Carrots with hummus is a great snack.

Yum!

These? Are awesome.

But I am getting a little tired of the same foods mixed up and rearranged over and over. And it’s not cheap, either. We buy a lot of our food from Costco, which does help in price, but our food bill has increased over the past week. Nuts are expensive. I’m looking forward to summer when we can count on farmer’s markets for local fruits and veggies.

Overall, I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty good. It’s easier to wake up in the morning, even when I stay up late working. I’m not feeling the wild energy swings throughout the day. (I do still feel the mid-afternoon slump, which is usually when I reach for the coffee or tea.)

At first I was worried that eating calorie-dense, higher-fat foods would result in gaining weight. Instead, I’m finding my hunger isn’t as strong as it used to be. I don’t even feel like eating large meals now – I prefer to graze throughout the day.

Best of all? I’m down two pounds, and more importantly, my belly looks slimmer.

I’m really proud of myself for sticking to this so far. Yes, it’s been only a week and a half, but that can feel like a long time when it comes to food. I’d like to keep to this strict level of eating clean for at least another week, then gradually expand my diet again, still trying to keep limits on the sugar and processed junk.

Next up is to get back to working out regularly. Yesterday I laced up my new running shoes and broke them in for a 30 minute run/walk (mostly walk, really). I wasn’t excited to work out, and I felt like my heart was going to break out of my chest and run away afterward, but I did it. My dayglo shoes probably played a part to get me moving:

Asics tapped into my 80's memories

Blinded by the light!

I’m hoping this will all become habit so we can be a healthier family. Aaron is eating the same foods with me, and is far ahead of me in getting back into running. And our ultimate success of the week: Cordy and Mira will both eat grilled chicken and broccoli now.

Anyone else trying to make any healthy changes right now? Please share how it’s going for you, or what you’re planning to do!



Celebrating With A Run (& A Giveaway!)

Since walking the runway in the BlogHer fashion show, I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself. I did gain a little bit of weight back while in NYC, but most of it was water weight and returning to the Slim-Fast plan helped it disappear just as fast.

Last week my family had the chance to take a mini-vacation, and so we spent two days at Lake Erie, with one day at Cedar Point and the other at Put-in-Bay. During that time I ate freely and enjoyed all of the fun of carnival food and fine island seafood. And yes, I even wore a bathing suit at one point! It felt great to walk around in a (non-skirted) bathing suit without feeling the need to keep a towel wrapped around me.

On Saturday we were home again (and exhausted!) and my eating habits dropped into lazy teenager: fast food and sweets. I knew it was going to be temporary, though, and by Sunday morning I was ready to jump right back into the Slim-Fast plan again. It’s really true: eating excessive amounts of junk after eating well for a long period of time does make you feel awful.

Sunday was also the day Aaron and I had signed up for the Color Me Rad 5K. If you’ve never done one of these 5K races, allow me to explain. This is a “fun run” and while everyone gets a race bib, it’s not timed and there are no prizes for coming in first. You start the run in a plain white t-shirt, and along the way you get color bombed. There are color stations set up along the route, where volunteers throw brightly dyed cornstarch at you. By the end of the run, you look like you were hit by a rainbow tornado!

It’s been months since I trained for a 5K, but I was still excited to do this run. I knew that I wasn’t going to run the entire distance, but I also knew I was going to try my hardest. This was also the lowest weight I’ve ever been at to run a race, so I expected the pride of my accomplishment to carry me through to the end.

I started the morning off with a Slim-Fast Chocolate Royale to fuel up before the race. It was just enough to give me plenty of energy without sitting heavy in my stomach. As we ran, I thought of how far I’ve come, and how much harder this would have been when I weighed 245 lbs.

Reaching each color station, I laughed and threw my arms in the air as volunteers tossed colored powder on me and I ran through the brightly dyed clouds, knowing there was a time when I may not have even reached those points in the race.

 I’m on the left wearing black capris in the front line

And at the end, I was a sweaty mess. A brightly colored, sweaty mess. It was totally worth it.

Did I run the whole thing? Nope. Did I run more than I walked? Yes. Am I proud that I did it? Absolutely. It was another reminder of how far I’ve come, and how even as I hover at my goal weight I can’t stop the fight. One or two days of unrestrained eating probably won’t do a lot of harm, but I have to always be careful that those one or two days don’t become four or five days or more.

I’m sticking with Slim-Fast for now because it’s a tasty way to remind me about portion control and keep my calories in check. The shakes and meal bars are filling, high in protein, and there are SO many different flavors to keep you happy!

Even maintaining a certain weight takes work, and Slim-Fast can help me with that, too. Once I decide I’m done with losing weight, I’ll likely continue to have a Slim-Fast shake in the morning (because it’s an easy breakfast when I’m frantically getting the kids ready and out the door) and then rely on the Slim-Fast snack bars for the occasional on-the-go snack. Having filling, lower-calorie options available to me in the fridge and in my purse will be the best defense against weight creeping back on.

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Disclosure: This post was created in connection with my appointment as an Ambassador in the Slim-Fast® Summer Slim-Down Challenge. Visit www.facebook.com/slimfast to join the conversation.



I’ve Got To Keep On Movin’

Up and down, up and down. My weight makes me feel like I’m on a see-saw sometimes.

After the epic win of seeing my weight dip ever-so-slightly under 160, it’s now inched back up to 161. I’d like to call it water weight, but I’m not sure that would be completely accurate.

Last week Aaron found out he was being laid off at the end of the month. After that news came crashing down on us, let’s just say there was more than a little self-medicating with food for both of us. And pretty much no exercising at all.

We’ve spent most of the last week and a half numb from disbelief, sitting on the couch each night watching TV and occasionally finding a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips in our hands. It wasn’t pretty.

But eating away my feelings won’t change anything, other than hurting myself. It can’t make a job appear for him, and it can’t pay the bills, so better to stop it entirely and focus on activities that CAN improve any area of our lives.

It was that mindset that sent me out for a run yesterday. I want to run a 5K again, so I pulled out my trusty Couch-to-5K app and laced up my running shoes. A few weeks ago I had tried week 4 again and found it was too much for me. So I went back to week 3 this time. It was still hard, but I did it, even though I felt lousy for having to go all the way back to week 3 when I had once run an entire 5K.

Our gym membership is up at the end of this month, which means I’ll no longer have access to the treadmill. Sucky timing, too, since I hate running in the heat and humidity. Yesterday was a reminder of that. How do you deal with the heat and humidity? Maybe I’ll go back to running at night, like I did two years ago.

I can’t let bad news and setbacks take me down. The BlogHer ’12 5K is in August and I want to run it. We’re also planning to visit a water park at some point this summer and I want to rock a bathing suit.

So I’ll continue on. Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride.



Running For The Finish Line

On Monday I started running again. It’s been…awhile…since I last tried running. But with just four or five pounds (depending on how much salt I had the night before) between me and my goal weight, it’s time to turn up the heat. Or generate some heat – by working out.

I had no idea where to start. I felt tired as I walked into the gym, so I set my couch-to-5k app to week one. I began the five minute warm up walk, and realized that I needed to increase the speed on the treadmill, because I wanted to go faster. That was a good first sign.

Then when the first run came, I turned up the music, increased my speed, and just ran. But just as I started to get in the groove, the app alerted me that it was time to walk again. Thirty seconds was far too short – I was actually angry at being told to stop!

So I quickly switched programs to week two, skipping the warm up walk and getting right into the first run. Again, the run seemed short, but I decided to get through the entire set. I was still sweating plenty near the end of the set, yet had enough energy to walk an additional five minutes at a fast pace after the app announced I was done. Total distance? 2.6 miles in 45 minutes. Not bad at all.

I’m planning to run again today, but I’m not sure if I want to continue with week two or jump straight to week three. Week two was enough to make me sore the next day, but didn’t feel like a strong challenge. But maybe easing myself into running again will keep me from being frustrated at it getting too hard too fast and quitting?

I’m still not sure what I’ll do when I get there this morning. Will report back on how it goes!

Edited to add: 
I did week three this morning instead of week two. And I still had no trouble! Woo-hoo!

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