Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for all the visits on my website and the kind comments on my first blog post! I'm so happy to be able to live out my passions, and share them with you all!
Today's post will encompass a little thing called the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo! During each runDisney event, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex opens their headquarters (located in Walt Disney World) to invite runners to shop the latest fitness merchandise, high tech gadgets, and nutritional products. It is mandatory for all runners participating in a runDisney event to pick up their official race number and packet during the days leading up to each race. This was honestly one of my favorite parts about race weekend, because the enormous complex was brimming with excitement.
When I signed up for my first runDisney event, I never expected the huge turnout like there was on race day weekend. I had signed up for the Princess Half Marathon in February of 2016 never having run a half marathon or trained for any sort of running event of this magnitude. Before I attended the Expo, I first went to my hotel (located on Disney property) to check-in. Normally, Disney will allow guests to check-in prior to the time stated, but if your room is not yet available, they can keep your luggage tucked away safely for you. This comes in handy if you're eager to get to one of the Disney parks and don't wish to tote your bags around. You can also download the Disney World app, sign in, and request a special check-in time if you booked your stay through one of the Disney resorts. (The perks of being a Disnerd)
Once we checked in, my friend Jackie and I jumped in her car and took off to the RunDisney Expo. The Expo runs for three days (Thursday - Saturday) and is open at different times depending on the day. Make sure to always check the runDisney website for details, and set an alarm on your phone (it opens fairly early in the morning). Typically, runners who sign up for the 5k and Kids Races will want to be at the expo on Thursday or Friday morning. You can expect heavy traffic at the Expo all day on Thursday. The 10k and Half Marathon are run on Saturday and Sunday, which means those runners have the luxury of choosing Thursday, Friday or Saturday (if you're a half marathoner).
Jackie and I got to the Expo on Saturday at around 1 PM. I was nervous because I had heard that a lot of the vendors were selling out of their products, and I had my eye on the popular Disney New Balance shoes. As it turned out, a lot of the official runDisney merchandise was restocked each day of the expo!
If you're looking to avoid heavy crowds, try going to the Expo on Saturday if you can. I remember the parking lot being very full when we pulled in, but a lot of people were heading out at that point. The best part about going late, was that we didn't have to wait in line for our bibs! Wait time for Packet-Pick Up can sometimes take up to one or two hours! Once you enter the complex, there are signs everywhere about where to go and what to do. Jackie and I made our way to the first building where you receive your bib, a race packet, and official runDisney merch. If you wait until the last remaining hours like we did, this will be the fastest line you'll have to wait in, guaranteed.
After picking up the necessities, we then headed to the main building where all the fun and commotion was. Disney releases their official race program a few weeks prior to each race, so my advice would be to highlight the vendors and speakers you wish to visit by order of importance. You really won't want to waste time, and if you have a special item you want, definitely make it a priority to get to that booth first. Also, make sure you factor Expo shopping into your Disney budget, because the place is a treasure trove of fitness goodies.
Walking out onto the landing of so many well known vendors was like heaven for me! We immeditaley started down the stairs and stopped at one of the first booths, which was "Raw Threads". This company makes amazing runDisney shirts that highlight every princess and her style. I really liked Ariel's "Leg Day" tank, but I already had my race day shirt picked out prior to visiting the Expo. (Runners, if you don't have an outfit by race weekend, Disney has you covered...you can find every kind of race outfit at the Expo! Bring cash.)
Jackie was able to snag this amazing Belle-inspired tee to wear on race day! Along with "Raw Threads", there were so many other fun booths to visit. We stopped by exhibitors that sold snacks, sunscreen, sweatbands, ear buds, deodorant, running skirts, and more! I could definitely see how a large crowd would make any visit to the Expo less enjoyable, but for the most part we had a great time and got everything we needed/wanted. All the vendors and employees made purchasing any item quick and relatively easy. I was able to try on and purchase my runDisney New Balance shoes in the size AND design I wanted amid the chaos! (Plan to size up for New Balance sneakers, and plan to spend at least $100 per pair.)
Another really cool part of the Expo, were all the photo ops! One thing I definitely wasn't expecting, was the chance to meet Jeff Galloway near the runDisney booth! Jeff is an American Olympian and life-time runner who provides the training plans for every runDisney race. I stuck to his training plan like glue, and I came out of race day barely sore and feeling GREAT. (Jeff's website ww.JeffGalloway.com is super valuable and his training methods produce great results.) One of the best takeaways I learned from Jeff, was the ability to factor in a Magic Mile during my training. A Magic Mile is completed about every two weeks of training and is a one mile timed trial. His formula states that if you run a measured mile at a challenging pace, you can then use that time to predict your outcome during further distances. His website even hosts a Magic Mile calculator, and directions on how to pace yourself through every type of race. Thanks for the signed bib, Jeff!
Once we had done all our shopping and grabbed a handful of snacks, we decided it was only appropriate to do a pre-race pic with our runDisney shirts and bibs! Cheesing hard as per usual.
I couldn't think of a more exciting way to spend the afternoon. We probably spent a couple hours wandering the sports complex before deciding to head back to the hotel for a bit. This was our first half marathon, so we decided to spend the rest of the day leisurely shopping at Disney Springs. If you're planning to visit a runDisney expo AND visit a Disney park in the same day, you will want to make sure to plan accordingly...(get to the expo early and make feasible Fastpass and dining reservations). If anything I've learned over the years of going to Walt Disney World, it's that you plan for a lot but actually get to do very little. Make the most of your time by utilizing Walt Disney World transportation, the Disney Parks App, and FastPass plans according to your purchased tickets. It's all relatively simple if you remain calm and don't actually run anywhere until race day. ;) Oh, and definitely wear comfy shoes...ALWAYS. :P
Oh M goodness...the holidays are officially here! It's the season for festive music, cozy sweaters, and long distance training runs (I'm looking at you, Princess Half-marathoners!)
If you have yet to finish your Christmas shopping and need gift ideas for the runner in your life, then look no further! I listed below TEN amazing stocking stuffers/Christmas presents for any endurance athlete!
*All items have links to shop!
NUMBER ONE: S'WELL BOTTLE
I LOVE my S'well bottle because it's stainless steel and keeps my water cold for 24 hours!! The smooth and sleek design is so pretty and 100% condensation free. S'well bottles come in a variety of stylish colors, limited edition designs, and stone-like textures. The newest S'well bottles even come covered in Swarovski crystals... #fancy. Plus, it's the perfect fit for any Christmas stocking.
Price range: $25 - $45, unless you're buying a bottle with crystals on it.
NUMBER TWO & THREE: XTEND BCAAs &
These two little beauties really come in handy for when I have to log a lot of miles. Scivation XTEND BCAAs helps to replenish electrolytes lost while running for extended periods of time. BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) play an important role in muscle and energy production during exercise, and help to reduce muscle soreness. This product comes in a powder form and is very easy to pour into your shaker bottle. Not only is it beneficial for athletes, but it tastes good too! The Blue Raspberry is my favorite flavor but I also like Watermelon and Pineapple. All flavors are sugar free.
Magnum Nutraceuticals Rocket Science is a clinically proven exercise intensifier. I usually take two of these pills prior to a long distance run, and I've seen an amazing difference in my stamina and focus. This product is perfect for anyone who wants to break through endurance plateaus and have unlimited energy. All Magnum products are 100% pharmaceutical grade. You'll be wanting to go to infinity and beyond, trust me.
BCAA's - $20 - $40
Rocket Science - $29.99
NUMBER FOUR & FIVE: TONE IT UP PERFECT FIT PROTEIN & BOOTY BANDS
I have been a Tone It Up girl for years now, and I've been using their Perfect Fit Protein consistently for a longggg time. The TIU protein is plant-based and comes in recyclable tubs, as well as small on-the-go packages. The vanilla is my favorite flavor, and I use this protein powder a lot for baking mini muffins and making yummy smoothies. The texture, smell, and taste cannot be beat! TIU also has amazing and affordable workout gear! The "Booty Bands" are my favorite, because they are easy to bring on vacation, and they are perfect to use before a run to warm up those glutes! I use these bands to improve my hip strength, and they are my go-to whenever I deal with IT Band Syndrome (which is very common among runners). These bands come in three different resistance levels.
Protein - $49
Booty Bands - $12
NUMBER SIX: BEATS BY DRE, POWER BEATS WIRELESS
Let me just say that prior to using these small pieces of ear candy, I didn't realize what I was missing out on. I wish I had a nickel for every time I used to have to detangle my sad little non-bluetooth earbuds, however, all of that has now changed. Beats by Dre Power Beats Wireless earphones help me focus better on my workout and the sound quality is top notch, y'all. I no longer have to struggle with keeping my phone in my hand at all times. Running has become a lot less of a hassle, because I can move more freely and the buds stay snug in my ears at all times. These earphones are water and sweat resistant, which means they are perfect for any outdoor running. I got them from my boyfriend last year as a Christmas gift, and they're definitely one of my top "must haves".
$159 *Special Holiday Offer
NUMBER SEVEN: GRAPHIC SWEATSHIRT
Every girl needs a good graphic sweatshirt, and I find that the best ones are usually fitness related. My current go-to is Shop Private Party "I Sleigh All Day". This sweatshirt is festive, soft, and speaks nothing but the truth. We all know Beyonce wasn't built in a day, but you'll definitely be feeling like you woke up like this. Crew neck sweatshirts are fun to run in because you don't have to bother with the annoyance of a hood, but I also love to lounge in them. Check out Private Party for plenty of other fun items.
NUMBER EIGHT: TRIGGER POINT MASSAGE BALL
I first came across the TP massage ball after ordering a Trigger Point foam roller. Trigger Point has so many quality products that help any athlete relieve minor aches and pains. I usually use the TP massage ball for targeted muscle relief on my calf muscles and glutes. Often times after a run I'll feel knot begin to build up, and that's when I rely on this little ball to help release any tightness in a particular area. I would highly recommend this item for anyone who is active and plans on staying active. It's the perfect fit for any stocking! The TP foam roller receives honorable mention!
NUMBER NINE: HOT HANDS HAND WARMERS
I never thought such a simple item could mean so much! These palm sized Hot Hands hand warmers are perfect for any runner who endures the colder weather to stay in shape. I personally love to run outside, but sometimes it becomes hard when the temperature begins to drop. I received about a dozen of these as a gift a couple years back, and they have kept me warm throughout multiple outdoor runs. If you're in need of a quick and creative idea, look no further! These really do come in "handy".
$4.50 - $50 (depending on where you purchase them and the quantity)
NUMBER TEN: NEW BALANCE RUNNING SHOES
I purchased my first pair of New Balance sneakers at the Run Disney Expo before the 2016 Princess Half Marathon. Each year Disney announces the characters/themes on the designs of the New Balance shoes prior to the race events. Runners usually make a mad dash for the design they want once they arrive on Disney property. I knew I had to have these "Little Mermaid" themed sneakers the moment I saw them! Aside from the aesthetics, I was really hoping they would deliver in comfort and durability. Overall, New Balance definitely lives up to the hype. They keep coming out with new and improved running shoes that are flexible and supportive for any foot-type. I've been dying to try their new Fresh Foam series, but until then, my Run Disney Vazee series shoes will work swimmingly. < See what I did there. ;) If the runner in your life needs new kicks, have them try out a pair of New Balance shoes. They fit like a glove, but definitely size up!
$79.99 - $159.99
...And that concludes my Top Ten Holiday Gifts for Runners! I hope you like my suggestions, and if you end up buying one of the items I listed, please leave a comment below! I'd also love to hear about any other items that could've made this list! It was definitely hard to narrow down, so maybe next year I'll have to do a Top Twenty!
Happy Holidays, folks!