During the holidays people count their blessings, but forget to count their calories. The average Thanksgiving meal hits its high note of a whopping 3,000 to 4,500 calories. So… let’s just say it’s a holiday you don’t want to make a rest day. Be ready with your Thanksgiving workout.
“Most people have breakfast then snacks and appetizers and maybe some drinks before sitting down to Thanksgiving,” says Anne L’Heureux, R.D., Spartan SGX trainer and Elite Spartan Racer. “The Thanksgiving meal is usually well-rounded with protein, vegetables, and starch, but then you add alcohol, second helpings, dessert, more alcohol—these extras are what really contribute to the excess calorie creep.”
Instead of telling you how many miles you’d have to run or (35+) or how many hours of yoga you’d have to do (about 17) to burn off that dinner, play it smart: First trim the fat from your Thanksgiving meal using these tips from L’Heureux, and then do these three workouts which burn between 500 and 1000 calories each, depending on your intensity, weight used, and athletic capacity, and remain pudge-free following the feast.
“I also recommend putting extra focus on eating healthy beforehand,” adds L’Heureux. “Eat as healthily as possible right up to the meal itself, and get right back to it once the meal is over.” In addition, avoid these holiday foods at all costs.
Bonus: These tips and workouts aren’t just great for Thanksgiving. They’re the perfect antidote for any big event where you’ll be tempted to indulge.
5 Ways to Trim the Fat from Your Feast
- Skip the heavy appetizers. Why fill up on cheese and crackers when there is a nice home-cooked meal to enjoy?
- Pass the rolls. This means less processed flour and less butter.
- Reduce or eliminate your portions of gravy, cranberry sauce, and butter—the calories add up quickly. Also opt out of whipped cream or ice cream with your pie to save calories and fat.
- Choose white turkey meat over dark. White breast meat has fewer calories per ounce because it is the least fatty part of the bird. And whatever you do, skip the high-fat skin.
- Choose plain veggies or salad over creamed spinach, candied yams, or green bean casserole. Heavy cream sauces and marshmallow toppings always mean high-calorie.
Turkey Day Training Triplet
Maintaining a consistent workout schedule even during the holidays is key to keeping your weight in check. Map out a program that includes the week leading up to Thanksgiving (or Christmas or Super Bowl) and several days following, and incorporate these three high-intensity workouts to get the burn on—and keep it on. (see the sample workout schedule below for ideas).
“High-intensity training will burn a large volume of calories in a small period of time,” advises L’Heureux. Then of course there is the afterburn effect of a metabolic conditioning session in which your body burns additional calories as it works to repair and replenish itself over the next 48 to 72 hours.
The calories you burn during the workout itself have everything to do with effort: The more intensely you train, the more calories you will burn both during and afterward, so aim for between 80 and 95 percent your maximum heart rate. This will also maximize your time during the chaos of the season.
Also, try to get your friends and family involved and pay your fitness forward: Take a post-meal walk, go for a hike if the weather cooperates, or challenge them to the Fat-Burning Face-Off against you and a partner (Workout C below).
Sample Workout Schedule
|Workout A: 3 to 5 rounds||Workout B||Workout A: 3 to 5 rounds||Workout C||Off or easy cardio, 45 minutes||Workout C||Workout A or B|
WORKOUT A: Round and Round
This Thanksgiving workout burns approximately 100 calories per round. Do it five times through and you’ll blast away 500 calories.
50 Jumping Jacks
40 Butterfly Crunches
30 Air Squats
10 Jump Squats
WORKOUT B: Burning Bear
Barbell complexes are one of the most challenging workouts you can do, combining cardiovascular conditioning with intense strength training—and the Bear Complex is categorically the most notorious. This makes it a good Thanksgiving workout.
Load a single barbell with a moderate to heavy weight, then without putting the barbell down, do one rep of each of the moves seven total sets—that’s 35 reps nonstop. Repeat that for five rounds, resting briefly when you must. Really want to burn off those biscuits? Aim to complete all 175 reps unbroken (we dare you).
Repeat the below sequence 7 times through to complete one round. Do five total rounds.
1 Power Clean
1 Front Squat
1 Back Squat
WORKOUT C: Fat-Burning Face-Off
Pair up with someone of comparable ability, and square off against another couple at your gym or box. Decide how you want to split up the reps—5s, 15s, all 30 at once—then start the clock. While one partner works the other rests. For instance, Partner A does 10 wall balls, Partner B rests. Then Partner B does 10 while Partner A rests, and so on until all 30 reps are complete. Then you move to the pullups. Complete a total of four rounds and earn your bragging rights.
Perform four rounds for time:
30 Wall Balls (20/14#)
30 Hand-Release Pushups
30 Hang Power Cleans
This workout courtesy of David Plumey, owner of Shoreline Athletics in Branford, Connecticut
Thanksgiving Workout Exercise Breakdown
Thanksgiving Workout A: Round and Round
Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides, knees soft. Jump your feet apart and raise your arms overhead, then jump them back in again.
Lie face up with the soles of your shoes together and allow your knees to fall open. Lie back with either an Ab Mat or a folded hand towel underneath the small of your back for support, fingers reaching toward your feet. Curl your head, neck and shoulders off the floor, sitting up all the way up and reaching your hands to touch the floor in front of your shoes. Curl back down slowly and repeat right away.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs and feet turned out slightly, arms at your sides. Push your glutes back and bend your knees, simultaneously lifting your arms in front of you as counterbalance. When you hit parallel or below, drive through your heels and stand to the start.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and extend your feet behind you, head, hips and heels aligned, and head and spine neutral. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor until your chest nearly touches, the forcefully press back to the start.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Quickly squat down and swing your arms back, then explode upward as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead to gain height. Land softly, reset and repeat.
Thanksgiving Workout B: Burning Bear
These moves should flow seamlessly, one into the next.
Stand behind a loaded barbell and take a shoulder-width overhand hook grip on the bar. Drop your hips, lift your chest and look forward. Powerfully extend your knees and hips to pull the bar up in a straight line from the floor along the front of your body. When it comes to your hips, rise up onto your toes, shrug your shoulders, then catch the bar across your front delts and upper chest, flipping your elbows underneath.
From there, keep your elbows and chest lifted and your weight in your heels as you bend your knees and hips and lower into a deep squat. Drive powerfully up out of the hole to the start.
Now bend your knees and hips slightly while keeping your heels on the floor, then extend them quickly and use that momentum to press the bar straight up overhead to full extension. Lower it behind your head to rest across your upper back and traps.
Next kick your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat, then drive through your heels to return to standing.
Bend your knees and hips to load up, then extend them powerfully to press the bar from your back-rack position up overhead. Lower it to the front rack position, then back down to the back to floor. Repeat right away without putting the barbell down.
- Note: You can blend the squats and push-presses together make a thruster. It saves time, but it’s much more taxing than pausing briefly between each move.
Thanksgiving Workout C: Fat-Burning Face-Off
Hold a medicine ball at your chest with both hands, elbows down. Face a wall and stand about a foot away with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs and feet turned out slightly. Keep your weight in your heels as you squat down, then explode upward and throw the medicine ball to hit a target above you—such as an 8- to 10-foot mark. Catch it as it descends and drop right into your next rep.
Take a wide overhand grip on a pull-up bar and hang underneath with your legs together. Pull your shoulder blades together, then drive your elbows down and back to bring your chest up to the bar. Lower slowly and go right into the next rep. These can be done kipping, if that skill is in your wheelhouse.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and extend your feet behind you so your head, hips and heels align. Bend your elbows and lower your body all the way down to the floor. Pick up your hands briefly, replace then and press forcefully up to the start.
Hang Power Clean
Hold a loaded barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand shoulder-width hook grip, and stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Press your glutes back and slide the bar down along your thighs until it comes just above the knee, back straight, head neutral. Quickly straighten your knees and press your hips forward to pull the bar up along the front of your body. When the bar comes to hip level, rise up onto your toes, shrug your shoulders then catch the bar across your front delts and upper chest, flipping your elbows underneath.
Hold the bar in the front rack position and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and hips to load your posterior chain, the quickly extend them, using that momentum to press the barbell overhead to full extension. Lower slowly and repeat right away.
Note: This can be any manner of overhead press—strict press, push-press, push-jerk—so long as it goes from the racked position to an overhead position.
Sit on the rower and take an overhand grip on the handle, back straight. Extend your knees and hips explosively and as you come to full extension, pull the handle in toward your abdomen by driving your elbows back. Next, extend your arms and then bend your knees and hips to slide the seat forward and repeat right away.