Surviving the GOOFY CHALLENGE

There’s the Half Marathon.
Nice distance: 13.1 miles-21.1 kms.
Longest run during training: about 10 miles – 16 km.

There’s the Marathon.
Not-so-nice distance: 26.2 miles-42.2 kms.
Longest run during training: 20 miles- 32 kms.

Then… there’s the Goofy Challenge.
Distance: 13.1 miles + 26.2 miles= brace-yourself-for-39.9 miles-around-WDW-parks.
Longest run during training: 12 miles Saturday + 22 miles Sunday.

The Goofy Challenge has been running at Walt Disney World for over 10 years.  It is held on the second weekend of January every year during the WDW Marathon Weekend. On Saturday you run the Half Marathon over two parks and on Sunday you run the full Marathon around all 4 theme parks, the ESPN complex, and the Speedway.

How can you survive this challenge?

First, you should have the appropriate fitness level. Even though you might see people of all sizes (and costumes), it is recommended that you have at least completed a Marathon before you attempt this challenge. Your knees will suffer, your feet will suffer, your muscles will suffer, your lungs and heart will suffer. Running back-to-back long races takes a toll on your whole body, but if it is used to longer distances already, you’ll be more ready to handle the strain.

Can I walk throughout the course?

Yes. Walking is allowed and the time limits for both races are enough to let you walk a good part of the way. For the HM, the time limit is 3h30m. And for the FM, time limit is 7h00. This would be about a 16.00 min/mile pace, though a good 15.00 min/mile pace is recommended both in training and race day to avoid any last minute complications and being at risk of being taken out of the course.

My recommendations for your training?

-Sign up early. Registration starts in April and spots sell out fast.

-If you haven’t done so, make sure you are building a nice base where you are at least running or walk/run 3 times a week for 45 min before starting your formal training.

-Start training about 20 weeks prior to the Challenge. This would be around mid-end of August.

-For the first 4 weeks focus on building a strong base. You were previously running or walking/running 3 times a week for 45 minutes each. Work for these 4 weeks on reaching running 4 times a week.

Sample: Tuesday: 45 minutes. Thursday: 1 hour. Saturday: 45 min. Sunday: 1h40 minutes.

-For the first 10 weeks, focus on building a good strength base. Lifting weights, using your body weight, at the gym, or at home. Now is the time to start strengthening all those muscles that will take you to the finish line. Aim for 2 times a week of 30 minutes of strength training, focusing on your legs, abs, back, and glutes.

-After the first weeks you should continue increasing your long-run distance (typically Sunday) at a no more than 10% increase per week.

-On alternate weeks, have a semi-long-run on Saturdays before your long run that is half as long as the Sunday one. E.g.: Sat. 8 miles, Sun. 16 miles.

-‘Recovery week’ every 3 weeks. Run 3 days. Example: Tue. 45 min, Thu. 45 min, Sun. 10 miles.

-One day of the week (not the long run), focus on speed training. Intervals or tempo runs are ideal. Not a fan of speed work? Do some hills.

-Cross-training one day of the week, either substituting one of your shorter runs or as an extra workout day. Can’t spare one day a week for cross-training? Go ahead and cross-train on alternate weeks. 5 times a month is better than 4, 4 is better than 2, but 2 is still better than none, right?

Are you going to suffer?  Absolutely.

Are you going to have fun? Absolutely!

My recommendations for Race Weekend.

-Plan on getting your packet before 5 pm on Friday. The Expo is at the ESPN complex. It closes at 7 pm and I have seen runners rushing or not been able to get their packets because the got there at 6.55 or at 7.05.

-‘Carbo load’ on both Friday and Saturday for LUNCH.

-Keep your dinners light and safe: a sandwich is a nice choice. Keep it light, not very fatty. Eat something you know won’t upset your stomach or make you feel super full.

-Get a good night sleep both days. At least 7 hours. Remember that for WDW races you need to wake up super early (maybe as early as 3-3.30 am).

-Wake up early and have a good breakfast both days at least 2-2 1/2 hours before the start time. An example of a good breakfast is a combo of protein+carbo+fruit for minerals. My choice: half a bagel with PB and a banana.

-After the HM on Saturday -and again after the FM on Sunday-, head to the massage tent right after the finish. You can get a massage for $1 a minute. So, carry a few bucks on your race belt.

BETWEEN RACES (Saturday afternoon)

-Walk a bit on Saturday afternoon,but do not stand still for long periods of time.

-Compression socks are a must. Wear them everywhere.

-Drink lots of water until 2 hours before going to bed.

-Refuel very well. Have a nice breakfast post-HM (low on fat and fiber, but packed with protein, carbs, and fruit)= Think eggs, white toast, a couple pieces of turkey bacon, OJ, banana). Then have a full lunch (carbo load)= some protein and pasta, but skip the creamy white sauce and the shrimp, stick with red for today.

Can I stop and take pictures during the races?

Absolutely. There is so much amazing entertainment along the course. Characters, animals, acrobats, music bands, you name it! Just make sure that you trained appropriately so you can still get to the finish line on time.

Can I dress up?

It is almost a MUST! It is very encouraged to dress up for the WDW races. Make sure that you’ll be able to cover your distance in whatever you decide to use and that you don’t carry any props that might harm other fellow runners.

Are there awards for the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge?

No, there are no awards for covering the whole 39.3 miles faster than other runners. Is this a bummer? Absolutely not, this is WDW’s way of telling you to have fun and enjoy the races!

Do I get a special shirt and medal?

Not just one. You get THREE shirts and THREE medals. One for each race and a special one for the Goofy Challenge. And they are all AMAZING.

What is this RUN/WALK method?

The run/walk method was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway, who is WDW’s official coach. Click here to go straight to his training method for the Goofy Challenge. It is a very simple method in which you have walk/running intervals since the beginning of the race, and including in your training. This is a great training program for beginners.

I did use this training method for the first time I ran the Goofy and I think that the training runs during the week are far too short for all the long running that is done during the weekend. But one of these runs could be substituted for a longer tempo run, intervals, or hills. This is, if you’ve already experienced a marathon before.

I hope these lines helped you a bit on getting a feel of this Challenge, and I hope you try it at one point. Enjoy!

How to safely exercise while Pregnant

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, all you can think of is a big belly, eating all you want, and then holding that baby in your arms and taking him/her home for the first time. But there’s a long way to go before all that happens. It is very important to take care of your body during this time.

For the next 9 months (or 8 or even 7), your baby will be completely dependent on your body for being safe and developing appropriately. Although some things might be out of your control, nourishing yourself healthfully, exercising purposefully, and taking appropriate rest are all things you can control and learn to do for your future child.

In my previous pregnancy (I’m about 8 months away from having baby number 2, yay!) I exercised throughout my pregnancy, and I researched about the ways we should or should not exercise. In this article I’ll be covering some of the most common exercises that are safe for pregnant women to do, and how to do them.

I ranked them in order of what I thought was convenient + safe +no previous experience required.

#1. WALKING.

Walking is ranked #1 for convenience (all you need is to put one foot in front of the other, anywhere), it is very safe for about every one, and if you were not a walker before, it is now the time to start. Walking is a great cardiovascular exercise, meaning that you are working your heart and helping it be more efficient transporting blood and oxygen to your organs -and to your little one-. You will be able to burn off a few calories, and recover better postpartum.3111014204804

Where?   Walking outdoors is always recommended. The exception would be extremely hot weather, where the risk of overheating and dehydrating increases. In that case, if you don’t have a gym membership, head to the mall and get a good walk done in there. (Better yet, buy some baby goodies while you’re at it!).

Now, walking on a treadmill is a great workout, but be careful about losing your balance, or misstepping. Remember that we may become dizzy easier than before, and that we also become a bit clumsy. So, on the treadmill, never exceed a controllable speed or incline.

When? If walking is the only exercise you’re doing for the moment, you can aim to walk at least 4 or 5 days of the week (or 6, but always rest one day), for at least 30-45 minutes. If you can walk for an hour at an easy or moderate pace, wonderful. Just make sure you start short and slow and that you build up.

If you are alternating between walking and some other form of exercise, then 45 minutes 2-3 times a week should be enough.

NOTE: make sure you’re always able to speak in complete sentences while exercising.

#2. Swimming.

Swimming is a wonderful exercise for pregnant women. No previous experience required -except for making sure you won’t drown, of course-, and it is very safe, efficient, and brings wonderful cardiovascular benefits and swelling reduction. The only problem is that you need a bathing suit, a pool, and plenty of time to swim and then take a shower right after.

Where? I’m super afraid of ocean, lake, or river creatures, so I’ll be recommending swimming in a pool. The length is not really that important, if you really want to log 30 minutes of swimming, you’ll be able to do them anywhere. Inside or outside is not really an issue, just remember not to get into a hot tub.

When? Swimming burns a bit more calories than walking, so swimming 3-4 times a week is enough for a good 45 min-1 hour workout. I had not gone swimming for years before I took it up when I was 5-months pregnant with my girl, and 1 hour of swimming was a good time, just as long as you start slow, rest in between laps, and hydrate ALL the time.

 

#3 Strength training

What?! Strength training while pregnant? Yes. This is easy and necessary. We are not talking weight lifting body-builder-style, but using machines at the gym or dumbbells and a chair at home, or even your own body weight.

Healthy pregnancy.Why? Some muscles require strengthening to avoid certain pains during this time when you’ll be carrying around some extra pounds on your system. Your back, abs, legs, and specially your pelvic muscles will benefit so you can hold that pee in, and pop that baby out with more ease.

Where? The gym or at home.

When? Two or three times a week will do the trick. Now, if we talk kegels…. every day.

Here’s a great strength workout for you to try.

 

#4 Cardio machines at the gym (including steppers, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and stairs)

staying-active-during-pregnancyAll of these are fine during pregnancy. They are great for burning those extra brownies and they are wonderful for those days when you feel super fatigued, because you can jump on one for 10-15 min and when you get bored just try another one for an extra 10-15 min. No previous experience is required, but make sure that you start short and slow and that you always feel very comfortable with each exercise. Do not dismiss any aches or pains, as small as they might feel.

Where? The obvious problem is you need the gym. Or your own equipment.

When? Alternate with walking. Exercise with any of these machines 2-3 days a week for 30 min-1 hour and walk or swim the other 2-3 days for the same duration.

 

#5 Dancing

Dancing, whether at the gym or at home, is a great workout. You’ll burn some calories while enjoying yourself. If you are new to dancing, make sure you are not bouncing around too much, specially at the beginning and towards the end of your pregnancy. Also, be careful about your balance and falling. Other than that, enjoy!

Where?  Wherever!

When? Whenever! As long as you’re able to speak in full sentences and do not feel out of breath.

 

#6 Yoga & Pilates

 

exercise_364x200_138594956Better yet, Prenatal Yoga or Pilates. Specially if you are not regularly practicing these disciplines. These classes will help you with your posture, your ligaments, labor and recovery. Any prenatal class offered will be appropriate for you. These classes, when offered, generally tell you for which stage of pregnancy they are meant for. The instructor will be able to let you know how often you can do them. They generally last for 1 hour.

 

#7 Running -NOT for beginners-

Running is a wonderful calorie burner. But it could also take a toll on your joints, so taking it up while pregnant is NOT an option. Running during pregnancy is only recommended for regular runners who have been cleared by their practitioners to do so, and until their bodies can comfortably handle the bounce.

pregnant-runnerSo, if you were a regular runner before becoming pregnant, and your physician allows you to, please continue to run. What should change? Your speed, your intensity, your frequency. All these will need to decrease. A good rule is to measure by minutes instead of miles. For example, running for an hour pre-pregnancy might have let you log 7 miles. At the start of your pregnancy, 1 hour= maybe 6-6.5 miles. In the middle, 1 hour= maybe 5.5-6 miles. Near the end, and if your body allows it, 1 hour= 4.5-5 miles.

This is just an estimate. All bodies are different, and some women who frequently ran before pregnancy can barely run for 4-5 months, while others even run a marathon while pregnant.

Where? Outdoors on the track, or a park. The street is fine, but take extra precautions around cars. Indoors, the treadmill is fine as well, as long as incline is set to a maximum of 1-2, and you are careful about maintaining your balance and not tripping.

When? 3-4 times a week for 30 min-1 hour is enough to get good cardiovascular benefits for the week.

 

No matter what type of workout you choose, make sure you can speak in full sentences so you don’t exert yourself too much. Take care of your body, it’s the only one you’ve got. And have a safe and active pregnancy!

When to buy your first running shoes

I still remember what I felt the first time I tried on my first pair of running shoes. White and gold Asics. My feet felt so free and so light. The toe box felt AMAZING and I felt like I was flying. Of course I was not used to wearing shoes that were a size larger than my regular shoes, so I felt like I was going to trip every time I climbed the stairs. But I got used to that pretty quickly.

This pair of running shoes I did not buy before I started to run. I did not buy them before my first or second race.

I started walking-running 2 weeks before my first 10k using a pair of Nikes that used to be my brother’s. A couple of years before. But because I did not know how important running shoes were and because I thought this 10k race would be a once-and-done deal, I did not even think about buying running shoes. Or a running bra. Or running shorts. Or a good watch.

With absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I needed, I embarked on this running journey. I ran for a year and a half, about 3-4 times a week, 3-5 miles each day, and about 5 10k races, using those shoes. Blisters were part of my life, but because Dr. Google said that it was completely normal for runners -especially new runners- to get blisters, I thought I was ok.  runn-shoes

Even though this might have been a terrible mistake -and I ended up with more blisters in a year than I’ve had over the next 10 years altogether,- I don’t regret waiting to get my real running shoes. I made sure I would be pursuing running long-term before committing to buying shoes, outfits, books, magazine subscriptions, etc. I waited exactly until I accepted a friend’s challenge to run my first half-marathon.

I know a lot of people who decide they want to pursue an activity/hobby. They go and buy absolutely every article and gadget specific for it, they tell everybody their plans to take this up, only to end up trying it once or twice. What about everything they bought? It is left in a corner in the garage gathering dust. A very good example of this is my husband. A friend of his was selling a road bike. These things are super expensive, but he was selling it for $600, which my husband said was a bargain. He wanted to take up cycling, so he bought a million little gadgets, cycling shorts, shirts, helmet, shoes, and gloves. He bought the bike, tried it once… and a year later he sold it to another friend (after it had been sitting on our basement for 364 days, unused).

I watched a very nice TED talk about ‘Keeping your goals to yourself.’ It perfectly illustrated this practice. When we tell everyone our goal -running for instance- we release a hormone that satisfies our need to work towards it, and we feel much closer to our goal without even getting out the door. I teach English to adults and I hear my students telling each other  about their plans to start exercising or to take up yoga… they never get them done. I am convinced (through my own experience and others I know) that heading out to buy everything available for runners will NOT make you a runner. First become a runner, and then go get the expensive shoes…

 

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A New Challenge

After 15 full weeks of marathon training, I am already looking for a new challenge. A new race? Mmm… considering I haven’t even run the marathon (Sunday, Oct 9th!), and considering I already signed up for another one in January, that is not the kind of challenge I am referring to. I am looking for a new challenge for 3 reasons: I like running for FUN, I like running LONG, and I’m tired of following 16-week boring marathon trainings.

I have been running for a few years -11 to be precise, -but I’ve always tried to do it for fun. Looking for diversity in races is my passion, be it trail runs, relays, night racing, stroller running, back-to-back races, etc. But being competitive is definitely not in my nature, and I’m super happy about it because I rarely feel frustrated after a race (except for that ONE time, meh…) .

Also, I have always liked running long. I love Sunday mornings when I have an 18 or a 20 miler, I set off from home super early and run…and run… and run to my parents house, 19-21 miles away (depending on the route I take). Or setting off and then meeting my family 4 hours later for lunch at a restaurant 20 miles away. To me, this is the good life. And, believe, everything on that menu looks three times as good…

Now, the problem is that training for a marathon requires getting up at 4.30 or 5 am 3 times during the week to run before making lunch boxes and going to work to log in some miles that are not half as fun as those super long ones. But they are they only ones that will help us support those weekend 20-milers. Now, getting up early is not an issue. My problem is getting up early to run a run that I don’t really enjoy that much after approximately the 8th week of training, when the weekday runs are long.

This last part is what I’m trying to change. I read an article a couple of weeks ago (I’ll insert the link when I come across it again), about different ways to log in running miles in different ways and through different activities. This is the journey I’m taking for my next marathon training, I want to share it with you. I know I’m not the only one getting bored 4 weeks before the marathon!

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