Thursday, August 04, 2011

How to Train for the Disney Princess Half Marathon

All those excited Princesses out there have been emailing me and leaving me messages on Facebook asking many fantastic questions about the Disney Princess Half Marathon (all of those questions and answers I will put together in a post coming soon here on Weekly Zen). The one question that kept coming up from many newbie Princesses and runners was… “Do you have any training tips for the Disney Princess Half Marathon?” This is such a great question and one I asked when I was getting ready for my first half marathon. Before I give you my own training plan or ideas on training I will let you all know that if you just Google “Half Marathon Training Plan” you will come up with tons and tons of information, some paid and some free. There is so much information available that it may feel overwhelming. Look at some of that info, digest it, think about it and then take an honest look at yourself and lifestyle and tailor any plan you choose to use to your lifestyle and goals. There is no magic formula out there. Each person is different and will find their own way if they are motivated enough. So with all that in mind below is what I did for my first half marathon (which also happened to be my first ever race) the Disney Princess Half Marathon…

The First Time Runner Half Marathon Training Plan:
2011 Disney Princess Half Marathon

1) Motivation to Finish
The first step to any training plan should be having the overwhelming desire to finish that race no matter what the distance. Something in your life should motivate you enough to make you get off the couch and take those first steps toward the finish line. If you have already signed up for the race or heck if you are reading this post you probably have that deep down inside you somewhere. Find it and identify it. Say it out loud, write it in your journal, on your facebook page… whatever just make sure you know your desire and motivation. Don’t let yourself forget it before, during and after the race.

Here was mine back in 2009…

Back in December of 2009 I was 60 pounds overweight and super lazy. A half a mile of slow walking made me tired enough to want to sleep the rest of the day. As I was surfing the internet one day I came across someone talking about how they just completed all the Disney races that year and they were showing pictures of their medals. Until that point I had no idea that Disney hosted races at Disney World nor that someone like me who had the $120 could just enter and have a chance to get one of those cool medals. So I went to Disney’s site to check out all the different races and see what they actually entailed. I read about the Disney Princess Half Marathon and saw pictures of the medal and I knew I really wanted that medal. So I signed up for the race hoping that some miracle would happen that would allow me to be able to finish the 13.1 mile challenge I put ahead of me. Almost immediately after signing up I felt terrible… I thought I had just wasted $120 because I was sure that I would not finish. A little discouraged I looked all over the internet for training plans that seemed easy and that would allow me to finish. I read other’s blogs and their stories about how they trained. None of it really seemed to help because it all seemed beyond my abilities at the time.

The next morning I woke up and decided that all those training plans and stories did not matter because I wanted that medal more than anything else I had ever wanted in my life and not because it was a really cool medal (it is though). No, I wanted that medal because it meant that I had a goal that seemed impossible to achieve and if I worked hard enough I would accomplish that goal. I dressed and told my husband that I was going out to train not knowing exactly what that meant.

2) Assessing your abilities
All diet plans, training plans anything that requires some physical change of you always start off by saying “Consult your doctor before starting this plan.” Always a good idea so make sure you do that but that is not the only thing you need to do to assess your abilities. Ask yourself “Honestly, what can I really achieve and how long do I think I will need to be able to achieve that?”  Be sincerely honest with yourself because if you lie to yourself you are just hurting… YOU.

When I assessed my abilities I thought that there was no way I would be able to run 13.1 miles in just 3 months (remember I did not start training until just 3 months before the race). I accepted that fact but I thought there was a great chance that I would be able to WALK 13.1 miles in 3 months of training if I really put everything I had into it. So I made up my mind that the majority of my training would be focused on walking (running would be a supplement and I would not expect to be able to run the half marathon).

3) Get a monitoring device
The only way to truly know how many miles you are doing in what amount of time is to have something that will tell you mileage and a timer. There are so many devices out there to choose from (I use the Garmin 305) so just pick one. It does not have to be fancy, expensive or pro quality it just has to work. I started with a $20 Omron Pedometer you can find at Walgreens or Walmart. No matter what you choose get one because it is essential to any plan you use. Why? If you are not in great shape you can think that ½ a mile feels like 3 miles. It is really important that you accurately know how far you are going and how fast you are doing it.

4) Decide WHAT you will actually do:
Once you have your device get out there. Lots of people like to start with a time goal. For example: “Today I want to walk for 30 minutes.” That is totally fine. Here is an example of a possible plan based on time…

Monday: Walk for 30 minutes
Tuesday: Rest Day
Wednesday: Walk for 40 Minutes
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Walk for 50 minutes
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Walk for 20 minutes

When you are first starting out it is important to let yourself rest and heal. Remember if you have never walked for 30 minutes that day after is going to feel like you were beat up. Let yourself rest as time goes on you will get stronger and then you can decrease rest days and increase time. Personally I was concerned more about distance than I was time (Disney has a very easy to obtain 16 min mile time limit). So my plan was more like this…

Monday: Walk 2miles
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: Walk 3 miles
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Walk 5 miles
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Walk 3 miles

Right there in my first week of training I was able to walk 13 miles. Each week I would gradually increase the “Long Walk/Run” day. The next week might be 8 miles for the long walk. Eventually I would work myself all the way up to 13 miles. One thing is certain you want to be able to do that 13 miles before the day of the race.

5) Decide WHEN you need to start:
Remember this is your plan and you can start and stop anytime you like but a word of advice DO NOT WAIT UNTIL A MONTH BEFORE THE RACE. Seriously even those who have been running or walking awhile give themselves more than a month to train. I have met so many people at all the Disney races who only started to train a month or a few weeks before the race very sure that they had it in the bag even though they never went the distance and they did not finish the race. Even 3 months was not enough time for me, a complete beginner at the time to train (I finished though). To give you an idea, 2012 will be my 3rd Disney Princess Half Marathon and I have already started training for it (7 months before the start). Granted I am also training for the WDW Marathon (6 months away) at the same time. Think of it this way, you can always do more with more time than you can with less time. In other words, the earlier you start the better.

6) Decide WHERE you want to train
Like everything else in your plan this depends on you and your environment. So if you want to train on a treadmill or outside that is up to you to decide. Either way has its benefits. Since I was in Florida where the weather is pretty great all year (sometimes you have to get up really early for that great weather) I trained all outside. Decide what works for you but let me just say this… It is a lot different walking and running outside than it is inside. When you are not feeling it some days the treadmill can literally do all the work for you, after all, all you really need to do is move your feet. Try no matter where you decide to train to get some of your miles outside that way you are not too surprised when it comes race time. Another word of advice, prepare for hills. I know our perception of Florida is that is it flat and beach like but there are some pretty intense hills for newbies and veterans along the Disney World courses.

No matter what plan you choose it all comes down to the things I have outlined here in this post. Here is a little review:

1)Know your motivation

2)Assess your abilities

3)Gear up (good shoes and a monitoring device)

4)Decide if you will walk or run or walk/run (I suggest those who have not done regular exercise start by walking the distance)

5)Give yourself plenty of time to train (it is really never too early to start)

6)Whether you train inside or outside get some of those miles outside and prepare for hills (you prepare for hills by actually doing them)

7)Get out there and do it! 

The more you put into your training the more you get out of it.
I hope this gives you all a general idea of how to train for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I am sure that there are tons of people out there with “plans” that changed their lives and I encourage you to share them here. You never know what will click for you but if you have the basics down you can make anything your own.

Happy Training Princesses!

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