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How You Can Burn Off Your Thanksgiving Calories

Fitday Editor

Let's be honest: this Thanksgiving you will probably be making one--or possibly two or three--trips to the stuffing and gravy line. Or perhaps a few trips to the pumpkin pie table. Or, if you're like me and my fiancée, you'll be stopping by three different family eating sessions. And grandma gets upset if you don't try her cranberry dressing. In order to stay on track with your workouts and goal progress, we've put together an ideal workout to justify the 3,000 calorie Thanksgiving meal you're probably going to have.


Elite athletes often consume high-calorie, high-carbohydrate meals in order to prepare themselves for the mass amount of exertion that will occur in their chosen sport. The same applies to the Thanksgiving meal. In order to maximize the expenditure of all the calorie energy you'll take in on Thursday, plan for a long, intense, demanding workout on Friday or Saturday.

The ideal workout that will help you burn off the Thanksgiving dinner will be something that follows these guidelines:

1. It's an intensive cardiovascular workout.
2. It incorporates some kind of strength training (put that protein to work).
3. It will last approximately 60 to 90 minutes in endurance.

In general, these three principals will help you create a workout to counter your big meal.

Turkey Trot

Many communities will already have an event like this planned. If your neighborhood holds one, sign up! If not, you can create your own turkey trot at home or at the gym.

Basically, you will be running a 5k, which is approximately 3.1 miles. This is a great post-Thanksgiving workout because it maximizes cardiovascular output and uses up the stores of carbohydrates from your meal. If you are running your own turkey trot, running it outside will help maximize its effectiveness: being in the elements makes it tougher, and the uneven terrain will make you exert more.

If you have to run indoors or on the treadmill, vary your speeds and incline to make it more realistic and burn more calories.

Turkey Day Triathalon

You can make this workout count even more by making it a Turkey Triathalon. Complete additional miles (between one to three on each) on the bike and elliptical machines.

If you feel like you need to push yourself more, I suggest rounding out your Turkey Trot with a two lap circuit of five to seven weight machines. I personally complete the round with a 20 to 25 pound dumbbell.

Take note that combining the 5k, the bike, the elliptical and the weigh training circuits will be an intense workout and should only be attempted by those who are physically able to do so.

Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at [email protected].

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