Meet Melanie!

Hi! I’m Melanie. I am big sister to Amanda, and little sister to Christine. I live in Austin and have been running half marathons in Disney since 2011.

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Top race moment: high-five from Mickey!

It took a lot of motivation from my sisters to start running. I started with a strong belief that I was not a runner and finishing a half marathon was not something I was capable of doing. I signed up for the 2011 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon with my sisters as my first race because I figured if I didn’t finish, I at least had a weekend in Disney World. At the starting line, I still did not know what to expect from myself.  I trained, but had yet to attempt the full half marathon distance. My sisters continued to try to convince me I was going to make it and to my surprise, they were right! I couldn’t believe it when I made it across the finish line and received my first medal. It felt like a miracle, and I’ve continued to run and improve ever since.
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My first race

I love sewing race costumes and finding epic Disney merch. I am excited to share race costume tips, fashion finds, and general magical moments with each of you.

Here are some fun facts about me:

Favorite Disney Princess:
Tiana because she is a princess who still has career goals.

Favorite Mickey Shaped Food:
Cake pops. Mickey Cake Pops.

Favorite running jam:
If it’s not a Disney song, it’s “PUMP UP THE JAM.”

That’s all for now!

– Melanie

 

The Best Walt Disney World Restaurants (according to us)

PicCollageThe Runs in Tutus team has been on dozens of Disney vacations, and one thing we know for sure is that your Disney Dining experiences can really make or break your Disney vacation. There is nothing worse than being hungry in Disney World and realizing you have to wait in line for an hour to eat, and even if you do plan ahead and make reservations, all Disney restaurants are definitely not created equal.

We’ve always been the kind of group that plans our dining reservations well in advance, and as a result we’ve tried a number of the most popular restaurants. So without further adieu, may we present the best Walt Disney World Restaurants as determined by each tutu wearing food critic on the Runs in Tutus team. These are all table service restaurants in the price range of $15-$30 per adult.

Christine’s Pick:
San Angel Inn Restaurante, Epcot World Showcase

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Christine and Mom at dinner!

This restaurant is located inside the Mexico pavilion at the Epcot World Showcase. The ambiance is spectacular and it feels like you are dining during twilight in 17th century Mexico overlooking the Mayan ruins. You can also get a glimpse of the boats entering the ride in the pavilion (Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros.) The service is wonderful, the food is delicious and there are vegetarian options, which is a plus for us because Amanda and Melanie are vegetarians. You may have to ask the server to bring a vegetarian menu because there are options that may not be listed on the regular menu. Added bonus to this restaurant is it’s located inside, so you’ll have a chance to cool off in the air conditioning or find shelter from the rain. Reservations are strongly recommended.

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The meal is extra magical if you find Donald Duck standing outside in a sombrero afterwards!

Melanie’s Pick:
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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Photo courtesy of Disney.com

This restaurant is extremely unique with its 50’s drive-in theater setup. The tables look like adorable little cars and the lights are dimmed down low so it feels like nighttime. There’s a big movie screen that shows retro sci-fi clips while you munch on tasty classics like Fried Dill Pickles and an All American Burger. The vegetarian options at this place are amazing: Veggie Burgers, Vegetarian Sheppard’s Pie, etc. The restaurant is also calm and quiet because kids are occupied by watching the movies. It’s indoors with good air conditioning, which is always nice on a hot summer day. For adults, there are even sci-fi themed cocktails with glow-in-the-dark ice cubes! We usually make a reservation for this restaurant. If you really want to get one of the car style tables, you will definitely need a reservation. Sometimes the picnic style tables in the back don’t have quite as long of a wait if you go during off peak times.

Amanda’s Pick:
Sanaa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, Kidani Village

animalkingdomlodgeWe went to this restaurant one year to celebrate Melanie’s birthday and it was so magical! The food is a fusion of African and Indian, and the restaurant overlooks the animals roaming in the Sunset Savanna – zebras, giraffes, birds and more. It is absolutely beautiful. There are meal options for everyone, and we really enjoyed the unique choices and flavors on the menu. The service was impeccable, and we received the best rendition of “Happy Birthday” at this restaurant – complete with drums and a little African flair! The restaurant is a bit of a pain to get to if you aren’t staying in the Animal Kingdom Resort Area, but it is well worth the trek. After your meal, you can enjoy the view outside and get a closer view of the animals by the campfire. Reservations are recommended and usually aren’t too difficult to get. You definitely want to make your reservation for a time of day when the sun is out, otherwise you will miss the spectacular view. animalkingdomlodge2

While these three restaurants take the lead for now, we did have some very close contenders including Chefs de France, The Hollywood Brown Derby and Liberty Tree Tavern. If you’re running the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in November, you’ll definitely want to look into reservations now so that you can get into some of the good ones. Do you have a favorite Walt Disney World Restaurant that isn’t listed here? We’d love the hear about it and try it out.

Bon appetit, Princesses!

Building Mental Stamina: 4 Strategies for Runners

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Finishing a distance race requires a significant amount of physical training. The importance of mental preparation and building mental stamina is often overlooked. It’s been my experience that mental training can have a tremendous impact on the quality of a race experience. I’d like to take some time today to talk about the value of “gettin’ your head in the game.”

Let’s take a journey back to 2003. I was 22 years old and had just finished cancer treatment. I was in what I consider to be the worst shape of my life. I was thankful to be healthy, but definitely wasn’t feeling strong or athletic. A friend of mine approached me and told me she wanted to sign up for a marathon. Two seconds later I responded by saying, “That sounds like fun. I’ll sign up with you.” I had no prior running experience and didn’t even know how many miles were in a marathon (hence the reason I so quickly committed). A few days later, I was registered for the San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon, and ready to start training for my first race.

I knew it was going to take me a while to be ready to run what I now knew was a 26.2 mile race. I had to start from nothing. Being the nerd that I am, I knew there had to be a book that would teach me how to train for a marathon. I went to the book store (this was pre-Amazon prime days, y’all), and stumbled upon a book called The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett and Forrest A. Dolgener. The book is based on a training program developed by two authors at the University of Northern Iowa. Their training program is designed to help novice runners successfully complete their first marathon. A central theme in the book is that mental training for a marathon is at least AS important as physical training.

FullSizeRenderJust a few pages into the book, I quickly realized I also had quite a bit of mental training to do. A couple years of cancer treatment had left me defining myself with words like “weak” and “ill.” I used The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer to help me successfully finish my first marathon. The training was hard, but it dramatically transformed my physical stamina and, more importantly, my mental representation of myself. I replaced descriptions such as “weak” and “ill” with words like “strong,” “healthy,” and “marathoner.” Finishing the San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon is one of the best moments of my life.

I’ve continued to use mental training as a part of every race I’ve done since 2004. Many of the techniques I use come from The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, but I’ve picked up tools from other sources, too. Here is a list of the mental techniques I use the most:

  1. Act “as if:” There is no special club you have to join to become a runner. If your goal is to run a marathon, then you are a marathoner. Acting “as if” you are a marathoner will help you create thought patterns that build your confidence and optimism for finishing a race. If your goal is to finish the race, act “as if” you have already finished. You construct your own reality. This means that your mind has a tendency to believe whatever you think. Try telling yourself “I am a marathoner. I finish races strong and with my arms raised in triumph.” You can create a mantra that you can repeat to yourself when you are out on long runs.
  1. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good: This tip comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Before and After. Marathon training is a time commitment. Things will not always go according to plan. You will have days you get stuck at work, or days where Queen Elsa blasts your favorite running trail with a 10 foot ice wall (well maybe I’m exaggerating there, but you get the idea). Try to avoid thinking about running as an all or nothing process. It can be common to think things like, “I only have 30 minutes, that isn’t enough time to do 5 miles, so I will just skip my run today.” It’s ok to not be perfect. Do what you can. All movement is good movement. Here is a post about not making perfect the enemy of good. 
  1. But…It doesn’t matter: In The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, the authors devote a lot of text to the impact of negative thoughts. Negative thoughts require a lot of energy, and undermine your goal of finishing the race. Common negative thoughts include statements such as, “I’m tired today, and I don’t want to run.” Whitsett and Dolgener recommend adding the statement “it doesn’t matter” to the end of negative thoughts about running. For example you could say to yourself “It’s cold outside today, but it doesn’t matter. I will finish my run anyways.” This helps your mind create the image that you are resilient and you will finish the race.
  1. Use Visualization: You will have runs where you feel like you can run forever. All the stars align, and you achieve running bliss. When you have a great run, take in every detail of the experience. Pay attention to all the sights, sounds, and feelings of the run and create a mental movie. After awhile, you will have a “library” of mental movies that you can access in the event you are having a not so good run. When you approach a large hill, or feel like you can’t go on, replay the memory of your strongest running moment. This can give you the extra little bit of energy you need to finish strong. When I have a tough run, I frequently access the image of Amanda and me running through Cinderella’s castle at our first Disney Princess Half Marathon.

That’s all the tips I have for now. I hope some of these help you “get’cha head in the game” on your next run. I am always looking for more mental tips and tricks. Do you have any mental strategies that help you get through training? I’d love to hear them!

-Christine

Nutrition and Weight Loss for Runners

photoAfter running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon this month, I now have a bit of a gap until my next race. I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in DC on October 25th followed by the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon on November 7th. I would love to find another race for September or October (any suggestions?), but in the meantime I am trying to focus on an area I can always improve: my nutrition.

Let me start by saying that I am not a Nutritionist or a Registered Dietician. I am a Certified Personal Trainer and a Weight Loss Specialist. I’m educated on basic nutrition, various diets and basic guidelines, but I don’t prescribe diets and I don’t know everything. I’ve read the textbooks and the guidelines when it comes to nutrition, but the truth is that I’ve learned the most by doing my own experimenting with various diets and meal plans.

There are a million different diets and fads out there from the South Beach Diet to the Paleo Diet to something ridiculous called the Cabbage Soup Diet and whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is currently eating. When it comes to following a specific fad diet here is my advice – find what works best for YOUR body and find something that you can realistically stick to for a long period of time. I’ve seen people have amazing results with things like the Paleo or South Beach Diet, while others become completely miserable trying to adhere to these. Everyone is different.

For me personally, I have success with a well balanced diet that includes a lot of fruits, veggies and lean proteins (for me this is a lot of eggs) with minimal simple sugars and processed food. I do not completely cut out carbs, and this is partly because I’m a vegetarian and also because I get incredibly cranky if I don’t eat any carbs. Instead, I focus on eating an appropriate portion of complex carbohydrates. In other words, BAD = white rice, white bread, giant bowl of spaghetti and GOOD = quinoa, nuts, hummus, brown rice.

Now let’s get to the topic of nutrition while training for a race. Last holiday season, I ate about 100 too many Christmas cookies, and a DEXA scan showed that I gained 5lbs of fat in my stomach and I had gone up a few percentages in body fat. Because of this, I got really serious about my nutrition from January-March of this year. This was also the most intense time of my marathon training. I was averaging about 20-30 miles per week of training with my long runs getting up to 18 miles. By focusing on a well balanced diet, I managed to lose 6 pounds of fat, drop my body fat percentage, and not lose any muscle mass while training for the marathon.

This experience really opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition. This wasn’t the first time I had trained for a race, and I’ve been a long distance runner for awhile now. Why had I never lost weight before during training? I had consistently been the exact same weight through training for several races. After doing some research and participating in a few social media running groups, I’ve noticed this is actually the case for many people. Some people even gain weight while training for a race. So what can we do? Everyone has different goals when it comes to long distance running. Your goal may be to hit a personal record at your next race, to have the best looking tutu or just to earn as many medals as possible. If along with this, you also hope to lose weight, here are my main points of advice.

  1. Avoid Rewarding Yourself with Food: The fact is, a lot of us play a mind game with ourselves when it comes to food. We say things like, “I ran 10 miles today, so I can definitely eat that pizza” or “I worked really hard on that run today, I deserve a cupcake!” The problem with this is that weight loss is a math problem. It doesn’t care how hard you worked or how many miles you ran. All it cares about is if you reach a caloric deficit at the end of the day. Did you burn more calories than you ate? You might have burned 900 calories on that long run, but if you eat an extra 900 calories as a result, then you aren’t going to lose weight. Did you stop at Starbucks after your run to get a slice of pound cake and a Frappuccino? (I’m guilty of this.) That’s 900 calories. Try to find other ways to reward yourself. How about if you run 10 miles you can take an extra long bubble bath or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix?
  1. Don’t Overdo the Energy Drinks: Protein bars, energy drinks, and energy gels are awesome during and after a really long race, but if you’re running for less than 60 minutes, you don’t need them. Just stick to water in order to avoid adding unnecessary calories to your diet.
  1. Replenish Your Body with Healthy Food: Probably the most difficult part of weight loss is striking the balance between appropriately nourishing your body and still achieving a caloric deficit. Your body needs to be replenished with protein and healthy carbs after a long run. The trick is choosing the right foods. Avoid empty calories, or foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value. These foods won’t help much with rebuilding your muscles after a long run. Instead, go for those nutrient rich foods to refuel after a run and to help satisfy hunger cravings. Examples include fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains etc.
  1. To Carb-Load or Not to Carb-Load? If your goal is to lose weight, be really careful with the carb-loading. Carb-loading is a strategy used by runners who are really trying to boost their performance on race day. The idea is to maximize the amount of energy stored in your muscles before the race, allowing you to exercise for longer without losing steam. I personally don’t do much carb-loading for half marathons. I did a little for my full marathon. I find that if I just replenish with an energy drink or a few nuts every 60-90 minutes I don’t really lose steam. Feel out your body and see what works, but don’t binge eat carbs without having a really well calculated plan for this.
  1. Incorporate Strength Training: Lastly, be sure to incorporate more than just running into your exercise routine. Incorporating strength training is really important for maintaining muscle mass while training for a race. Although your goal may be to lose weight, you don’t want to lose muscle or become a weakling! In addition, your metabolism will increase as you gain muscle, you’ll improve your bone density, and you’ll be able to run faster! For a fun Disney themed workout checkout this post. You can also find a list of exercises for long distance runners here.

Let me conclude this post with a few motivational tips that I’d like to share.

  • You’re already beautiful. If your goal is to lose weight, you’re just trying to make yourself healthier.
  • You aren’t on a diet, you’re just eating healthy. The phrase “diet” has a negative connotation and it makes me think of something miserable. It also makes me think of something temporary, but the goal is to always eat healthy – even when you aren’t trying to lose weight.
  • You only have to eat healthy 85% of the time. For that other 15% of the time, eat the Mickey cake pop and your friend’s wedding cake.
  • Do not become obsessed with the scale. It doesn’t always speak the truth. It’s better to listen to your body, focus in on how you feel and take note if your clothes start to fit you differently. Even if you don’t lose weight right away, you are immediately improving your health and longevity.

After completing my marathon at the end of March, I fell off the healthy eating wagon and gained back some of the fat I lost. It’s time to get back on track, and I hope you’ll do it with me! I plan to stay focused by sharing healthy eating posts and recipe ideas! Do you have any nutrition advice or healthy recipes? If so, please share in the comments!

I will also be posting my training plan for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon as the date gets closer.

See ya real soon,

– Amanda

8 Tips for Planning a Race-cation at Disney World

FullSizeRenderWe love running for many reasons. One of them is that running gives us an excuse to go to Disney World multiple times a year. Race-cations can be fun, but they require a little more organizing and planning than running in a local race. Here are a few tips to make your race-cation more magical. Please note that these tips are specifically for Disney World. Tips for Disneyland will be coming soon.

1. Train for the race: I know this sounds silly, but you would be surprised how many people show up to a half marathon unprepared to go the distance. Find a training plan that works for you and commit to the program. It’s ok if you have to start from no prior running experience. When I first started running, I had just finished cancer treatment. I had to work up to the minimum mileage required for the first week of most marathon training programs. That meant I had to train 6 weeks more than the number of weeks listed on the training program. It was hard work, but WORTH IT! It doesn’t matter where you start. The important thing is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and work towards the final goal of epic Disney bling.

2. Register as soon as possible: Some of the RunDisney events are known to sell out minutes after the registration link goes live. Be on alert and ready to register as soon as the link is posted. Be aware that the website might freeze during registration time due to high traffic. Keep calm and try your best to get on to register. If you aren’t able to register before the race sells out, you can also get race bibs through charities and travel agents. To be sure that your bib comes from a reputable source, use only the charities and travel agents listed on the RunDisney website. Selling and buying race bibs from an unofficial third party is strictly prohibited. Don’t buy your bib from a rando and end up banned from Disney races. #unmagical

3. Stay “on property:” RunDisney publishes a list of host hotels for each race. If you book in a host hotel, you get free transportation to and from the airport, and to all of the race events. This includes transportation to the expo and the race. You also get free transportation to all the Disney parks and the ability to manage your reservation through the MyDisneyExperience app. The app allows you to buy park tickets and link meal reservations with friends.

4. Make time for parks: Many RunDisney events occur during off peak times which makes for fun times at the parks. In our experience, the parks are the least busy the Monday following the race. Thanks to the MyDisneyExperience app, you can now book FastPasses in advance of your trip (FastPasses are reservations for riding the rides in Disney World). FastPasses are amazing because they help minimize the time you spend waiting in lines.

5. Make meal reservations: Nobody likes a hangry Mousketeer. Do your pals a favor and plan ahead of time where you would like to eat for your pre/post-race meals. Many restaurants in the park require reservations. If you don’t have park tickets, you can eat in one of the hotels or somewhere in Downtown Disney. Either way, reservations are recommended.

6. Submit a proof of time: Disney races are amazing and magical. They are also large, popular races. This means you can expect tens of thousands of your closest buddies to join you at the start. RunDisney manages crowds by corralling runners into groups based on expected finish times. The fastest runners start first and then the rest of the crew starts a group at a time in about 5 minute intervals. If you have a particular pace you prefer to run, I strongly recommend you submit an official proof of time at the time of your registration or shortly after. All races have a designated deadline for submitting a proof of time. You can find proof of time information on the RunDisney website. If you do not submit a proof of time, you are automatically placed in the last corral. There is nothing wrong with the last corral, but if you have a certain pace in mind that is faster than the last corral, it might be difficult to work through the crowds to get to your comfortable speed. A proof of time for a RunDisney half marathon can include any race 10K or longer. If you are new to running, I recommend signing up for a local 10k as a training run and using that 10K time as your proof of time. For the Walt Disney World Marathon, you’ll need to submit a race 10 miles or longer.

 7. Arrive to the Expo early: RunDisney releases special merchandise before each race. The merchandise includes shirts, shorts, jackets, mugs, wine glasses, magnets, pins, and headbands. The race merchandise is very popular and often sells out within hours of the first day of the race expo. Unfortunately non-runners can also come to the expo, so local trolls like to snatch up the race merch and sell it for a profit on eBay. If you have your heart set on a commemorative race item, I recommend you arrive at the expo early on the first day of the race weekend. For the Princess Half Marathon, this would mean a Thursday arrival.

8. Consider a race costume: Many runners at Disney races wear tutus, sparkle skirts, and race costumes. It’s part of the fun. Costumes should be comfortable and appropriate for the climate on race day. For more tips on making the perfect running costume, check out our costume planning post here.

That’s all for now. Hope these tips help you get started on your next running adventure. If you have any other tips, we’d love to hear from you!

-Christine

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend, the Runs in Tutus team trekked across the country to Anaheim, California for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland. We had a blast, and we are proudly displaying our pink Coast to Coast medals that we earned for completing both the Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons in the same calendar year!

Coast to Coast Medal - Pink Edition

Coast to Coast Medal – Pink Edition

For me, there were a lot of highlights in this race and very few disappointments. As is always the case with RunDisney races, packet pick up was amazingly organized. The Expo was full of awesome photo booth opportunities, and we took advantage of each and everyone of them. We also met Jeff Galloway. I wanted to jump up and down and scream like a little girl, but I managed to keep my cool and act somewhat normal. Meeting an Olympian? NO BIG DEAL. I told him about finishing the Shamrock Marathon in March and he said it’s totally normal to cry during a marathon. Thanks, Jeff!

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Keeping it cool with Jeff Galloway

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Here’s the one major buzz kill of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo. The official MERCH sold out like a friggin’ Madonna concert. Seriously, we got there on Friday and Disney was so low on merchandise that they started filling the shelves with generic Tinker Bell products to make it look more full. Lesson learned: get there a few days early if you want to buy merch. I did however manage to score the holy New Balance Tinker Bell shoes. I’ve already worn them several times and they have vastly improved my quality of life.

They are even sprinkled with REAL pixie dust.

They are even sprinkled with REAL pixie dust.

We chose not to participate in the Pixie Dust Challenge (10K + Half Marathon). This was my first time visiting Disneyland, so I wanted sometime to explore the parks, and that’s exactly what I did Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (yes, I’m exhausted). More about the parks will be coming very soon.

The Half Marathon took place on Sunday with a bright and early 5:30AM start time. Here I am all ready to go in my homemade Fawn costume! Side note – it was FREEZING outside before the race so I had to veto wearing shorts. WTF Southern California?

Shout out to the Neverbeast!

Shout out to the Neverbeast!

Me, Caroline and Melanie as Fawn, Smee and Queen Clarion

Me, Caroline and Melanie as Fawn, Smee and Queen Clarion

I was miraculously placed in CORRAL A which means I got to start the race in the very first wave! At Tinker Bell, you can get placed in Corral A with a 2:15 Half Marathon time which is pretty rare for any race. The best thing about being in Corral A is that you get to all the characters and photo spots before there are any lines. I didn’t have to do any weaving around other runners, and I ran through the castle with zero crowds. Here are some pics of my favorite race spots.

Disney California Adventure: 

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Paradise Pier

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Cars Land – Mater!

Disneyland:

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Sleeping Beauty Castle!

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The Lost Boys on the carousel

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Jack Sparrow and the pirates!

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Iridessa and Rosetta

The portion of the race through the parks was amazing. I have to say it seemed like there was far more time in the parks in this race than Princess or Wine&Dine, and there seemed to be more characters and excitement. Out of all the RunDisney races I’ve done, this was the best run through the parks. Unfortunately, after about mile 5 or 6, there was no more Disney! The rest of the race was through the neighborhoods surrounding the parks. There were plenty of crowds, dance teams, cheerleaders and marching bands (and they were great!). I was just hoping for a little more Disney magic toward the end when I was losing steam. I did run into these guys around mile 8 and they melted my heart.

photo-3Other race highlights for me include a massive cheering section of red hat ladies, someone running in a full Zurg costume, a runner dressed as Iridessa yelling “Good Job Fawn,” and Tinker Bell sticking her tongue out at me while posing for a picture with someone else.

Tinkerbell and random person

Tinker Bell and random person

All in all, it was a great race and I will definitely consider doing it again. I got a high five from Daisy Duck at the finish line, but Melanie lucked out with a high-five from Mickey!

Melanie at the finish line

The Mickey high-five

Congratulations to everyone who completed the 2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon and Pixie Dust Challenge!

-Amanda

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Tinker Bell Half Marathon Preparations!

May is an exciting month for the Runs in Tutus team because we’re all in Disneyland for the RunDisney Tinker Bell half marathon.  We ran the Princess Half in February, so we’re eligible for the pink coast to coast medal!

In some not so magical news, I got a horrible case of pneumonia and I am on running restrictions until end of June. This means no coast to coast medal for me. #unmagical.

One benefit of being sick for over a month was that I had plenty of time to prepare some magical accessories for our team.  Here are a few of the magical extras we put together for this trip.

1. Luggage tags: I used these adorable chipboard tags from Joann’s to make luggage tags. Love my wing girls!

IMG_3386.2015-05-10_0057272. Body jewelry, bracelets and tattoos: No Runs in Tutus race trip is complete without a million body jewels, plastic bracelets, and temporary tattoos. Party City has a great selection of magical accessories.

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3.  Pixieworthy Fashion: I Found this gem at that store for 15 year-olds called Wet Seal. Picked it up for 10 bucks and wore it to the expo.

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4. Room Decorations: To add a little extra magic to our hotel experience, we brought our own fairy decorations from Party City!

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5. Totebags: Last but not least our signature handmade tote bags for park time. We found the sparkly green bags for $1.00 at Joann’s. The straps were too short, so we bought extra bags and sew master Melanie used the extra bags to make longer straps. The bow on the front is from hot topic, and the rest of the details are simply hot glued ribbon. Shout out to Melanie for handling all that hot glue by herself. We usually make the bags as a team, but pneumonia kept me out of the game for this round of bags.

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We’ve had a blast so far at the Tinker Bell Health and Fitness Expo and a visit to the park! Look out for our recap posts coming soon. Here’s a little sneak peek of some of our experiences so far, including Expo photo booths and the epic adventure that is the virtual New Balance queue. Tinker Bell RunDisney shoes were acquired and WORTH IT.  You can follow our tinkhalf adventures on Instragram and Twitter for some live updates from the weekend. We’ll be back in touch soon!

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May the pixie dust be with you all!

Christine

Disney Inspired Magical Workout

We all know that cross training is crucial for long distance runners. Unfortunately, between the costume making, training runs and planning the ultimate Disney vacation, we don’t always have time to get in those workouts. They also feel very unmagical when compared to running through the happiest place on Earth. Well princesses and princes, all you need to do is add a little pixie dust to those workouts. Follow along with me below as we go through a quick strength and conditioning workout, all set to your favorite Disney tunes with no equipment required. You can find all the songs listed here on our Spotify account.

For the ultimate magic version of this workout, do all 6 songs. When you’re short on time, try the extra fast Lightning McQueen version with only songs #1 and #4.

  1. Warm-Up – Mickey Mouse March

Always be sure to warm up before your workout. I’m keeping it simple here. Just march along through the entire Mickey Mouse March. You can start with an easy march in place, and then start to lift the knees a little higher, maybe finishing with more of a run in place. You can also try butt kicks, kicking the heels all the way back. Try to stay light on your feet here. M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

  1. Planks – Daughters of Triton OR Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People

The goal here is to hold a plank for the entire song, and the song option depends on your level. “Daughters of Triton” is about 40 seconds, and “Reindeers” is 50 seconds. If you’re new to this exercise, you may even need to start with half of a song and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can also come down onto your knees to make it less challenging. For a more difficult option, try some fun variations like lifting one leg up at a time!

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  1. Side Lying Leg Lifts and Clamshells – Under the Sea

Get it? Clamshells to Under the Sea? These exercises are awesome for runners because they strengthen the hips. They’re also good for toning the booty. You’re going to do half of the song lying on one side, and half the song lying on the other. I switch sides around when Sebastian says “LIFE IS DE BUBBLES!” There are three exercises for each side:

  • 30 Side Lying Leg Lifts – Lie on one side with your head resting on your hand. You can have your opposite hand in front for support. Bring your hip slightly forward and then move the top leg slightly back. You want to have your leg slightly behind your hip. Lift the top leg up and down 30 times. These should be pretty small movements.

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  • 10 Clamshells – Bring both legs out in front so that your knees are at a right angle. Lift the top leg up and down 10 times, keeping the hips stacked and the legs in that 90 degree angle

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  • 10 Toe Taps – Extend the top leg out in front. Turn your toes so they’re facing the floor. Bring the leg up and down 10 times, tapping the floor with your toes each time.

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  1. Tabata Interval – True to Your Heart

This song is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout called a Tabata interval. Tabata intervals are great for improving cardiovascular health and endurance. Studies have also shown that they improve your metabolism and promote fat burning. Yay fat burning! The Tabata interval includes 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes. This song is just over 4 minutes, so it’s a good pick. I would also recommend using a timer or downloading an interval app that will buzz for each interval. I use one called “Interval Timer.”

You can do just about any exercise in a Tabata interval. Stair runs, side shuffles, burpees, jumping jacks – if it gets your heart rate up, it works. You can do the same exercise for the entire 4 minutes or you can alternate exercises. My favorite combo is alternating sets of speed skaters and mountain climbers.

SPEED SKATERS

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MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

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  1. Legs and Booty – I’ll Make a Man Out of You

This one is definitely a challenge, but Mulan didn’t become a war hero by sitting around on the couch doing nothing! WE CAN DO IT. This one should really burn the legs and booty. Here’s how it works:

  • photo 1”Let’s get down to business!” When Li Shang starts singing, sit back into a wall sit. The goal is to make it for one minute, which is how long he sings here. You can always start shorter and work up to it!

 

 

 

  • “I’m never gonna catch my breath!” When the goofy soldiers start singing, do a set of lunges, alternating legs with each rep. You can either step backwards or forwards into each lunge.

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  • “BE A MAN!” When you get to this part of the song, do a squat jump every time they sing “be a man!” In between the jumps, try holding the squat low. Remember to land as quietly as possible. I also recommend doing your best karate kick when he sings “mysterious as the dark side of the moon!”
  • “Time is racing toward us!” Through this last verse, try one more set of alternating lunges
  • “BE A MAN!” Finish it off with those “be a man” squat jumps!
  1. Burpees – Bibbiddi-Bobbidi-Boo

Every time you hear the phrase “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo,” do one burpee. If you’re really feeling ambitious, try two burpees every time you hear it. (show off!)

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Good luck everyone! May the pixie dust be with you!

-Amanda

Five Tips for Making the Perfect Race Costume

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Costumes are one of the best things about participating in a themed race. The perfect race costume can be magical, but a not so perfect race costume can be miserable. I’ve experienced both the magic and the misery that can come from attempting 13.1+ miles in a costume, so I thought I’d share a few tips for picking the perfect race costume!

 

1. Choose breathable fabrics: Choose a base for your costume that includes workout friendly wicking material. This might mean you have to do a little bit of creative shopping, but it is well worth the hunt! Nothing ruins race fun like chafing from heavy fabrics. I like to look for cheap, solid color workout shirts from Walmart and Target. They work great as a base and are often less than 10 dollars!

  • Precautionary anecdote: At the Tower of Terror 10 Miler a few years ago, we decided to all wear pirate costumes. Life got crazy and I didn’t have the time to make a race costume. It was close to Halloween, so I went to a costume store and picked up the first costume that looked pirate-like and low cost. My costume was made for teens so the arm holes were a little snug and the top was made of velvet. Yes, you read that correctly. I ran a race in 100% humidity and 86 degree temps in a velvet Halloween costume. I thought I was going to pass out before the end of the race. At one point, I considered asking the medical tent to cut it off of me so I could breathe. The only saving grace of that costume decision was that we got selected to be on the Disney blog for a race costume contest. Here is a picture of my race costume disaster:

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2. Consider weather fluctuations: This seems like a pretty obvious tip, but it can be tricky to plan around weather. For example, I’ve run the Princess Half Marathon 3 times, and the temperature has been anywhere from 40-85 degrees. I try to be as flexible as possible with my costumes. If I need a shirt with a logo, I make an iron on logo and wait until I see the race day weather forecast before choosing long sleeves, short sleeves or tank top. Tutus and sparkle skirts are also a great way to have a costume that can work in a variety of temps. If it’s cold, you can simply wear running tights or capris under your tutu or sparkle skirt. If it’s warmer, you can wear running shorts. You can also wear fun accessories like running sleeves that are easy to remove should you get warm while running.

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3. Keep it simple: I love Pinterest, but sometimes I find crazy costume projects that are time consuming, stressful, and way out of my league. You don’t have to become a seamstress or find a gang of sewing mice friends to create a great race costume. The truth is, a race costume really only needs to make it through the race. I use shortcuts like hot glue, safety pins, and iron on materials to help make the costume prep less time consuming… and when all else fails, I hop on Etsy and outsource the costume to a pro.

Here are some examples of a few shortcuts I’ve taken in the costume department!

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4. Check race rules: Planning on going as your favorite superhero with an epic mask? Want to carry a plastic shield? Before you make that extreme costume decision, be sure to check the guidelines for costumes at your particular race. Many races do not allow costume accessories that might conceal your face such as a mask or full face paint.

5. Take your costume for a test ride: It’s never a good idea to try something for the first time on race day. Once you have all your costume pieces together, it’s time to take that costume for a spin! Make sure you are comfortable with the weight and feel of the material.

That’s all for now, running friends. Hope these tips help you make your best race costume yet!

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“There’s nothing to it really!”

-Christine

5 Best Exercises for Long Distance Runners

Magical races and sparkly tutus are indeed two of my favorite things in life. Today however, I’m going to put on my personal trainer hat and talk about something a little less magical yet equally important: exercises that you can do in the gym to make you a safer and stronger runner.

I’ve seen so many posts on social media and message boards about runner injuries and it really bums me out. I also sometimes see a runner go by and I can instantly tell they’re prone to injury based on the movement patterns in their knees or ankles.  I am not saying that all injuries can be avoided. There will always be somethings we can’t control, like a spectator dropping their Mickey ice cream pop on the course and creating a death trap. What I’m saying is that there are several things we can do to make ourselves stronger and safer runners. Below you will find my list of the 5 best exercises for a safe and strong race day.

1. Toe touch to calf raise 

Balance exercises are super important for runners. They strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles making you less prone to things like ankle sprains. You’re also less likely to fall in general if your balance improves. I like to perform this exercise barefoot to get the muscles in my feet and toes more involved, but this isn’t required. You may want to start with a supportive shoe if you’re a beginner. If you’re more advanced, you can stand on an unstable surface like a balance pad.

  • Step 1: Start to bend your standing leg and reach down for your foot. You want to reach for your foot by really bending your leg and squatting down – not by just dropping your chest forward.
  • Step 2: Still on one leg, stand back up and lift your knee high
  • Step 3: Lift up onto your tippy toes for a calf raise

Try 8 or so of these in a row on one leg and then switch. 

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2. Lateral Band Walk

This exercise is great for strengthening your hips and glutes. Anything you can do to strengthen your hips is going to make you more stable. Everything in our body is connected, so strong hips means stronger and safer knees and ankles. Runners with weak hips and glutes will often run with their knees caving in. This makes you more prone to ACL injuries and knee pain.

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See how the knees go inward? This is bad.

The lateral band walk is a great way to prevent or correct this movement pattern and strengthen those often neglected muscles!

  • Step 1: Hook the mini band on your ankles. (You can get a set of mini bands here . Start with the yellow band for the least resistance then work your way up as you get stronger.)
  • Step 2: Staying in a straight line pattern, take a big step to the side with your right leg
  • Step 3: Bring your left leg in to meet the right, but don’t step your feet all the way together. There should be resistance in the band throughout the entire exercise.
  • Step 4: Continue stepping to your right for several steps, then switch directionsunnamed-3

3. Deadlift 

It’s always a good idea to pair long distance running with strength exercises. If you run long distances without doing any strength training, you could start to lose muscle mass. We want muscles! They make us awesome and healthy! On top of that, being stronger will make you run faster.

My number one recommended strength exercise for runners is a deadlift. I completely realize that this exercise may be intimidating, but I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. Deadlifts strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and back and can even help lengthen the hammies. In the pictures, I’m performing a deadlift with a barbell, but this can also be done with dumbbells. While I’ve included a picture, I’ve also linked an excellent instructional video by Jim Bathurst, the CrossFit Director at Balance Gym Foggy Bottom. (To be extra sure you’re doing this one correctly, talk to a trainer)

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4. Box Step Off

This may seem really simple, but being able to land safely from impact is crucial for everyone and especially runners. I would recommend starting just a few inches off the ground then graduating to a higher step.

  • Step 1: Stand on a box or step
  • Step 2: Slowly step off with one leg (just a step, not a jump)
  • Step 3: Land as quietly as possible in a proper squat

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5. Kneeling Lunge Matrix

I love this exercise because it can both diagnose and correct stability problems in a person’s gait. If you’re unstable during this exercise, you are also unstable when you’re running or walking. Keep at it though and you won’t be as wobbly! It will both strengthen and loosen your hip flexors.

  • Step 1: Kneel down with a pad under your knee. You can start with your hands on your hips and then progress to reaching overhead
  • Step 2: Take a big step forward and plant your foot, leaning into it to stretch the hip
  • Step 3: Pick the foot up and step back to the start position

If you feel pretty stable during these steps, you can make it more challenging by stepping out to the diagonal or to the side, always returning back to that same start position.

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And that’s it! I hope this post has been helpful. Remember to consult a physician before starting a new exercise program, and if you are unsure about any of these exercises you may want to meet with a trainer for feedback. Feel free to email or tweet us and let us know how it goes! Now here’s an exit song for motivation. You’ll bring honor to us all!

*Special thank you to fellow trainers Robert Newcomb and Brian Dunlap for helping me brainstorm exercises!

-Amanda