Getting "Park-Ready"

Jason M. Epstein, MD, MBA August 22nd, 2023

Getting “Park-Ready”

Every time is a good time to go and experience the excitement and fun activities available at the spectacular theme parks Central Florida has to offer.

Many of my patients come to the office with the goal of spending the weekend at one of the parks. Subsequently, I see numerous acute injuries or acute exacerbations of chronic injury patterns after a fun visit to these same parks. On average, guests tend to walk between 15,000 – 20,000 steps a day when visiting these parks. Converting that to a distance, guests tend to average 7 – 10 miles walking in a theme park per day! Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, a half marathon is 13 miles.

Here are some quick easy tips about getting “park-ready” for your theme park marathon…

  1. Aerobic Training

Just like an athlete training for a marathon, try to spend a few weeks building your endurance prior to a park visit. Start with walking around the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes a day and consider adding 5 minutes per day. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. If walking is not conducive for you, don’t forget that there are other ways to build stamina. Consider a stationary bike, swimming or an elliptical. These types of exercises will give your lower extremity joints some reprieve while providing aerobic activity.

  1. Stretching

On top of walking a lot at the parks, you will also find yourself standing a lot. Theme parks can be the ultimate “hurry up and wait” exercise. The less tight your muscles are, the less you’ll have to worry about low back and other muscle pain at the end of the day. Some easy areas to focus on include:

  • Calf stretches
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Lower back stretches
  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Upper back/Scapulothoracic stretches

Some of these can easily be performed during some down time while waiting for a ride, which is an excellent way of increasing muscle blood flow and enabling your muscles to work more effectively.

  1. Hydrate…hydrate…hydrate…

We’ve all heard that 8 glasses of water a day is generally a good rule of thumb.  This rule varies based on climate, gender, size, and other medical comorbidities. Florida tends to get hot, really, really hot. Especially in the Summer months when the humidity climbs. Typically, when we sweat, the heat from our bodies evaporates the sweat into the air, thereby cooling our skin. Humidity, however, prevents sweat from evaporating as readily, because the surrounding air already has a high moisture content. The less moisture that evaporates from our skin, the more uncomfortably hot and sticky we feel. In addition, moist air generally carries less oxygen. We actually will feel like it is more difficult to breathe. Be mindful of your fluid intake and don’t wait until you feel dry or dehydrated.

  1. Shoes are your equipment

We don’t tend to think of it this way, but when you spend your whole day on your feet, your shoes are your equipment. The day you go to a theme park is not the day to whip out your brand-new shoes that you want to show off in pictures. Use a shoe that supports your arch and laces to fit your foot comfortably. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new shoe and sometimes the arch or fit still is not quite right for the shape of your foot. Blisters, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis are all in store with poor fitting shoes. Slides, flats, sandals, and boots all have a unique purpose - that purpose is not for walking around a theme park all day. Do yourself a favor and wear a pair of form fitting sneakers, your body will thank you later.

  1. Nutrition

Nutrition is not usually a priority on theme park day. While I am not saying do not indulge on some theme park snacks, try to be mindful of adding some healthy nutritional sustenance before, during, and after your trip. Easily digestible, nutrient-rich carbohydrates like fruits, wholegrains, and dairy products such as yogurts and cottage cheese make for easy snacks that provide an energy source for your body to handle your fitness demands.

There is not one universal trick to perfectly prepare for your trip to a theme park, but these guidelines should assist in ensuring your experience is as magical as possible. If you are dealing with pain after visiting a theme park, schedule time with one of our specialists on our Make an Appointment page today.

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