"Happy Thanksgiving" Workouts

I love many things about Thanksgiving.  I enjoy spending time with friends and family, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the food of course but what I don’t love, however, is the idea of gaining weight! Like most of you, I will be enjoying just a little bit of everything this holiday so there's absolutely no question that we'll likely take in a few more calories than we ideally would with our usual nutrition regimen, even if we are making healthier choices. So to avoid looking and feeling like a stuffed turkey I’ll be making sure I don’t let myself or my clients workouts fall by the wayside. By performing a good workout session the day before, the day of and the day after, we can all reduce the impacts this meal has on our overall physique.

The key to coming out of Thanksgiving without an ounce of weight gain is making sure you plan for it carefully. Your strategy for the three days surrounding the meal should be to perform a longer duration cardio session the day before thanksgiving to really boost your overall calorie burn leaning up to the meal, then perform a higher rep strength training workout the day of thanksgiving to deplete the muscle glycogen levels and provide a calorie 'sink' for the coming meal to go into, and then follow up the day after with an interval training session that will boost the metabolic rate to help burn off any of the left-over calories that you may have taken in.

Here are a few Pre and/or Post Turkey Day workouts for you to try. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling, or have company because you won’t necessarily need any equipment. The key is to stay on track! Start each day by having a large amount of ice water and a really healthy breakfast and remember to workout and stay active all weekend! Find exercise in regular activities like raking leaves, playing flag football with your family or if you are brave enough, go shopping Black Friday! Anything is better than sitting on the couch all day watching “A Christmas Story” and eating all the leftovers.

By using this pre, during and post-meal strategy, you can eliminate all chances of body fat gain.

Day-Before Cardio Workout

Since many of you may be traveling over to relatives for the holiday, you may not have access to your normal gym cardio equipment. As such, you're likely only left with a few options.

Going out for a long run tops the list of choices as this is not only going to be easy equipment-wise, but it's also great for your total calorie burn. Since running does get the heart rate up higher and is one of the best forms of cardio in terms of how much energy you utilize, this makes it rank right at the top of what you could choose to do.

If running isn't an option - either because of injury or because you simply dislike it, then going for a long walk is another method that you could consider. Get the whole family (or whomever you're sharing the holiday with) involved as walking is something that almost anyone - fit or unfit can do.

If you take a walk around the community for a good hour to an hour and a half, this can cause you to easily burn 400-600 calories. Remember, the focus of this session is not to try and max out your intensity. You're going to save that for the workout after Thanksgiving day. During this point you just want to get out, burn some calories, and focus on staying active.

If you really want to prevent weight gain, you could consider two cardio workouts this day so you burn off an extra thousand calories that day to make room for the meal ahead. 

Note:  Please attempt to not defeat the purpose of your cardio session and avoid replacing those calories burned with additional food!

Thanksgiving Day Workouts

On Thanksgiving Day, you'll want to perform a strength-training workout utilizing higher rep training with shorter rest periods. This is going to help to deplete the muscle glycogen in the muscle so that when you do eat your Thanksgiving meal, you can intake a higher level of carbohydrates without having them spill over into the body fat stores.

I have provided three exercise routines to choose from depending on your fitness level and the equipment you have available. They should each take approximately 30 minutes to complete so it's easy for you to sneak away and do at some point throughout the day.  All of the options will be a full body workout to maximize the calorie burn during the workout as well as after.

OPTION 1: Gym Full Body Strength Training 

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, Barbell, Bench and/or Step, Pull-up bar 

Perform one set of all the exercises below in order moving from one exercise to the next as fast as you can, doing as many reps as possible (AMRAP) within one minute. After one round of the circuit has been completed, take a 2-4 minute break and then repeat  the circuit one more time through.

Dumbbell Squat  

AMRAP in 1 minute 



AMRAP in 1 minute


Dumbbell Lunges  

AMRAP in 1 minute



AMRAP in 1 minute


Dumbbell Step Ups 

AMRAP in 1 minute


Dumbbell Shoulder Press

AMRAP in 1 minute


Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise

AMRAP in 1 minute


Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row

AMRAP in 1 minute


Air Bike (for abs) 

AMRAP in 1 minute


Front Dumbbell Raise

AMRAP in 1 minute


Side Lateral Raise

AMRAP in 1 minute


Side Plank

Hold for 1 minute, 30 sec each side 


Dumbbell Bicep Curl 

AMRAP in 1 minute


Bench Dips 

AMRAP in 1 minute


Hyperextensions (Back Extensions) 

AMRAP in 1 minute


Rest 2-4 minutes and Repeat circuit 1 time 


OPTION 2: No Equipment Needed Routine

Warm Up- Jog in place:1 minute

Jumping Jacks: 1 minute.

Jumps:  Jump in place or use a jump rope for 1 minute

Repeat the warmup 2-3 times.

For this circuit workout you’ll also be doing as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of each exercise listed below for one minute.  Keep track of how many you do so you can do even more the next time!


Squat Jumps:  AMRAP in 1 minute - Keep your feet hip width apart and squat. Your knees should be stacked on top of your ankles; make sure they do not go over your toes. Use your leg muscles to push your body off the ground and reach as high as you can. 


Ski Jumps:  AMRAP in 1 minute- Keep your legs together. You are going to mimic skiing. Keep elbows tucked into your sides. Jump from side to side. As you jump from side to side, use your arms as momentum to help you jump.

Push Ups: AMRAP in 1 minute - Start in a plank position. Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder width. Lower your body just slightly off the ground and then push up. 

Plank Crawls: AMRAP in 1 minute - Start in a plank position. Take your right hand and move it a few inches to the right. Your left hand will follow. Continue this movement to the right four times. Then move to the left four times. 

Repeat these above four moves three times.

One Final Push - Stand in a wide squat position. Your legs should be out wide with your toes turned out and pelvis tucked under. For 30 seconds, pulse.

Next, bring your arms out to a "T" and start moving your arms up and down (just small pulses) for 30 seconds.

Still in your wide squat position with your arms out, raise your arms up and clap your hand once they are over your head. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Still in your squat position, place your arms into the "T" position. Begin to move your arms directly in front of you. Your hands should be in front of your shoulders. Repeat this move for 30 seconds.

You're down to one last exercise. Still in your squat position, keep your arms are out. Do backward arm circles for 30 seconds. Now, switch—forward arm circles for 30 seconds.



OPTION 3: Treadmill, Track or Elliptical Workout & Body Weight Circuit


Warm- up 5 minutes

Run 1 mile as fast as you can. Walk 5 minutes.

Run (or pedal) .75 mile as fast as you can. Walk (or decrease speed pedal speed on elliptical) for 7 minutes.

Run (or pedal) .5 mile as fast as you can. Walk (or decrease pedal speed on elliptical) 5 minutes.

Run (or pedal) .25 mile as fast as you can. Walk 10 minutes on high incline (12% and 3.0mph) for 5 minutes. If you are on a track, walking lunges for .25 mile. If you are on an elliptical, put the resistance HIGH but pedal slow – digging in heels each pedal stroke.

Body Weight Circuit – No equipment needed!


AMRAP in 30 seconds



AMRAP in 30 seconds


Split Squat Jumps/Plyo Lunges (or lunges if you have bad knees) 

AMRAP in 30 seconds


Dips off of a chair

AMRAP in 30 second


Bicycle Crunches 

AMRAP in 30 seconds



AMRAP in 30 second


True Burpees

AMRAP in 30 second


Mountain Climbers 

AMRAP in 30 second


Plank Hold 

AMRAP in 30 second


1 Jump Forward, 2 hops back 

AMRAP in 30 second


Rest 1:30 and repeat 4 times


Now sit back and relax.  You just did your Thanksgiving workout.

Stretch for five minutes and enjoy your turkey dinner! 


                              Day After: Interval Cardio Session

Finally, to finish off the workout plan for the Thanksgiving holiday you have the day after interval training session. Since you should not do two days in a row of full-body strength training, interval training is the next best option to help increase your metabolic rate so you can maximize your calorie burn.

For this interval cardio workout you'll focus on slightly longer interval periods of 45-60 seconds and then couple this with a 90-120 second rest period. Repeat the work to rest intervals 10 times total, meaning that your workout should last somewhere between twenty to thirty minutes.

Also be sure that you start it off with a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down to prevent injury and reduce the chances of post-workout stiffness.

You can perform these intervals however you would like - if you're back at your regular gym doing them on the treadmill may be your best bet or even better, do them outside to make transitioning between the sprint and rest intervals that much easier. Again, if you aren't a fan of running and are back at your usual workout facilities, then you can select any other piece of equipment that