Friday, June 8, 2012

Staying Fit at Disney

I want to start this post with a little confession... While I make my living teaching people to play tennis, and have spent the better part of my life competing as a player, I am in no way a fitness nut. I am not the person who feels bad at the end of a day when I didn't "hit the gym." And I am not that guy that you see running from Beach Club across the Boardwalk towards the International Gateway before breakfast. That person would be my wife, and she will frequently get up early to get in a quick run before we hit the parks. She loves it, and counts these runs as a highlight of her vacation. She also loves running along Deck 4 of the Magic and Wonder while the rest of the family sleeps off the feast of the night before! I am trying to embrace running, but doubt that it will ever become a part of my vacation routine.

When we go to Disney (especially the cruises) I tend to indulge. Regular Coke instead of Zero, steak instead of chicken, a burger instead of a turkey sandwich, a turkey leg instead of, well that one pretty much speaks for itself! I also tend to eat a lot more sweet things. My favorites are Dole Whips, Butterfinger Muffins, and Carrot Cake cookies. The funny thing is, at least with our visits to the parks, I don't gain weight. In fact I tend to drop a couple pounds. 

I wondered why this was, and I initially came up with a couple of ideas... The first was that even though I was indulging, in reality I wasn't eating as much. When we are really hitting the parks we rarely eat three full meals a day. We will usually eat one large meal a day, and kind of have a couple mini meals along the way. For example, if we do a character breakfast, we try and schedule it as late as we can so we can essentially knock out breakfast and lunch in one meal. Since most of the character breakfasts are buffets, everyone getting enough food to hold them over until dinner is no problem! 

The second thought I had was that Disney really is taking their healthy food initiative seriously, and they are serving zero calorie food and beverages! Wouldn't that be some real Disney magic?! Since this probably wasn't the case, I came to the third thought... 

Is it possible that we do so much walking while we are vacationing in the parks that I am actually able to burn off the extra calories I am consuming? So I decided to do a little Disney experiment, or a "Dis-speriment" if you will. 

Thanks to Apple's Generation 1 iPod Nano recall program, we had two brand new generation 8 iPod Nanos, with built in pedometers and Nike+ fitness apps. For a couple weeks I used the iPod to measure my average number of steps in a day. On an average day I would take between 6-7,000 steps (about 3 miles). On days when I would teach a lesson or two the total would go up to 9-10,000 (roughly 5 miles). These might be a little higher than some people, I tend not to take elevators if I can avoid them, and with two kids under 5, I am rarely immobile for very long! The next part of our "Dis-speriment" would be to see how many steps we take a day on a Disney park vacation. 

The testing ground would be a five night vacation to Disneyland Paris. During this trip we would be spending 4 full days in the parks, and one day visiting that big tower thing that they have downtown. For the first time ever, on any Disney trip, we would be staying off property, at the Dream Castle Hotel, just outside the resort proper. Since this was a Dis-speriment, I would only measure our steps on park days. This would be interesting. Behold the results... 

Total steps during four days of touring the parks: 97,455
Total distance covered: 47.24 miles 

Honestly, I was pretty shocked by the numbers! I didn't think that we would do that much walking at Disneyland Paris, where everything is so compacted together, but I think it would be about the same at Disney World where everything is more spread out. Again, we tend to walk more than the average park guest. At Disney World we almost never take the trams from the parking lots. Usually this is because we don't like having to stop and fold up the stroller, but also we enjoy walking. During this trip to Disneyland Paris, we frequently walked to the parks from the Dream Castle Hotel, and almost always walked back. It was about a 25 minute walk, which we found much preferable to waiting in line for the shuttle back. Unfortunately there are only a few resorts at Disney World where you can walk to the parks, that might lower our step count there, but I'm sure we would make it up somewhere. We'll find out for sure when we go back late this year. 

So there you have it. My secret for staying fit on a vacation at Disney... Eat what you want, and walk you tail off! 


  1. Hi! I stumbled upon this blog as I was trying to determine the same thing! I am the runDisney specialist on the Disney Moms Panel, and find this to be very interesting!
    I just got a fitbit that measures my steps per day and I can't wait to see how it differs on our next trip.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I'm hoping to join you as a Mom's Panel member next year! I've been thinking about getting a fitbit, but I was also looking at the Nike+ Fuelband. How do you like yours?