Theme park days can be long and arduous. You can easily spend 12 - 16 hours in some of the Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Universal Resort parks and the 20,000 steps you might take can leave you exhausted and weak.
In this article, we take a look at how to prepare your body for the challenge of a theme park, and how to recover in time to do it all again the next day.
Before You Leave Home
Walking: Get used to it. There is no easy way to say it. In our house, we called it working on our Disney Legs. We aren't shy when it comes to walking, but there is longevity required at Disney that calls for a little buildup. For beginners, practice walking longer distances and standing for long periods of time. Don't forget to reacquaint yourself with your favorite backpack, as that can be hard to get used to after hours of carrying it around.
Footwear: Bring two completely different pairs of supportive shoes. These come in handy to alternate between days, or when taking a break during the day to give your feet a change. You won't believe how advantageous it can be to have differently-shaped support under your foot. While we are on the subject, fair warning: If I see you in the parks in stilettos I will point you out to my children as a life lesson of things not to do when you grow up. I make no promises; there may be some light laughter as well.
Do not, under any circumstances, ever, (no, seriously, never) wear new shoes to a theme park. Break them in at home before you even think about bringing them with you.
In the Morning
Sunscreen: Apply your sunscreen. We shouldn't have to have this talk, so if you are well-versed in what happens when you don't use it, feel free to skip down to the next point. If you are not familiar with the sun, live under a rock or come from the UK, listen up. Just kidding UK friends, not all of you end up sporting the lobster suntan look. Sunscreen can save your entire vacation. Without it, especially in Florida, be prepared for the sort of painful skin burn that makes turning over in bed feel like a sandpaper rub down. Put it on, put it on again. Repeat.
Umbrella: The umbrella can be useful for rain but even better to keep the sun off you in those vast, open-spaced queuing areas. Look for a small travel version, usually available in sporting goods stores, that is lightweight and can fit comfortably in your backpack
Water Bottle: Staying hydrated will help your entire body remain on track. Pay attention when people say "drink the water"; it is vital to how you will feel in the park and how well your body will recover overnight. The water bottle can be filled up in many different places and allows you to keep it with you in the hotter areas of the parks.
In the Theme Park
Drink Water: You brought your water bottle, and now you have to use it. It's an integral part of your daily routine: Every time you stop for a break, get some water. Drinking water is especially important if you are planning on also drinking alcohol in the Florida parks, as the heat and the alcohol can worsen dehydration. Together, the two factors can dilate your blood vessels, intensify the effects of alcohol and increase your chances of passing out. It can also interfere with your body's ability to self-regulate temperature. The increased circulation brings the warm blood to the surface of your skin, making you feel hot and even overwhelmingly uncomfortable in the summer heat. Drinking water alongside your adult beverage is a must.
Eat Well: It's easy to throw your usual healthy eating habits out the window when visiting an all-encompassing theme park experience like Disney, Universal, or Legoland. These are just a few places where you don't need to leave the property for any reason, making it easier to forgo healthier choices for whatever looks appetizing on-site. Try to be conscious of what you are eating. Consider limiting your splurge meal to one per day rather than being tempted by extravagance at every sitting. It is easy to pin it on the excuse of "I'm on holiday, why not indulge?" The truth is that your body can still thrive while on vacation if you limit the luxury just a little.
Just Chill: Part of keeping your mind and body in check is in keeping your cool. Stress can change not only your temperament but also how the rest of your day unfolds. Frustrating things will happen while you are in the parks. There will be some idiot that blocks the path, an irritating child that blows bubbles in your face and some sort of unexpected attraction closure. Just breathe. I know it can feel infuriating to have things not go to plan, but take a moment to appreciate all the things that have gone to plan. Remember, your vacation is what you make of it and often the best discoveries are made due to an unexpected change in plans. A good attitude paired up with a willingness to enjoy whatever comes your way will keep you, and your crew, calm and happy.
Back in the Hotel Room
Elevate Your Legs: If your feet have taken a pounding and have started to ache or swell, spend some time with your feet up. Like, further up than that. Lay upside down on the bed and get your legs up the wall to have your feet higher than your heart for a little while. You can do this while relaxing or watching TV. Elevating your legs higher than your heart can help with swelling but also improve blood flow and circulation
Stretching: Stretch it on out. Your muscles might be hot and worn out, but once you have laid in bed for a few hours they may cool down and start to stiffen up. Take some time before bed to stretch your body out, concentrating on your lower body but not forgetting your arms, neck, and back.
Water: Drinking water isn't just for the daytime sunshine. Make sure you drink water right up until bed so that your body can use the hydration to replenish itself while you sleep for your next big day.
Moisturize: Many of us forget that our skin is our biggest and sometimes most-easily damaged organ. It shields us from the elements and can change how our entire body feels. Use moisturizer on your face and body before bed, allowing it time to soak in overnight. If you are suffering from sunburn, frequently reapply with a moisturizer that uses aloe vera.
The Morning After
The morning after your first big theme park day can feel not too different than a hangover from your early twenties. You're tired, your body aches, there is a strange, unexplained bruise on your leg and yet you can't wait to do it all again.
Stretch, Again: Start your day off with some proper stretching. Tired muscles have tensed up overnight, so give them a good stretch. The rest of your day will thank you for it.
Water, Again: Drink a large glass of water before you eat or drink anything else. Doing so will immediately help to rehydrate your body as well as trigger your metabolism and aid in brain functionality.
Moisturize, Again: Let a lathering of moisturizer sink into your face before applying sunscreen. Wait at least 15 minutes to make sure the lotion has been completely absorbed before adding the sunscreen.
See the pattern here? Looking after your body is an important part of the success of your vacation. What extra steps do you take to recover between park days?