Running in the 'Meda: Tackling Thanksgiving

Running in the 'Meda: Tackling Thanksgiving

Marty Beene

As you read this, we'll be less than a week from - cue music: dun dun DUN! - Thanksgiving! Yes, the holiday of gluttony. Of course, it's also a great time to be with family and/or friends and to think and talk about things that you're thankful for. But for people who are trying to live a lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating, it does present something of a conundrum: How can you remain committed to eating healthy food in reasonably sized portions and living an active lifestyle, when there's an entire holiday that is devoted to eating massive amounts of food, much of which is not all that healthy (e.g., gravy, stuffing, butter, pie, butter ... did I mention butter?)? How many people finish Thanksgiving dinner, then announce: "Hey, who's up for a six-mile run?!"

So what should we do?

In general, I like to remind myself that Thanksgiving is a single day in a year of 365 days. That's 0.3 percent of the year. My general approach to nutrition issues tends toward the more laid-back side, rather than the extreme side, so my advice is to not worry about it. That's right: Eat whatever you feel like eating in whatever quantity you feel like eating it.

Do you really think eating some specific food or some quantity of food one time that's not ultra healthy is going to wreck your health? Most sane diet advice includes a mental component of not feeling guilty if you stray from your strict regimen briefly. This kind of advice reflects a philosophy of looking at the big picture rather than trying to "LOSE 30 POUNDS IN A WEEK!!"

But if you're an exercise enthusiast like I am, you will also want to do something active on Thanksgiving, just because you feel better if you do. Not only that, if you can do something active AFTER you eat, you'll get your body's food-handling systems in gear to start processing all those calories you just consumed.

So here's what I recommend for Thanksgiving Day exercise:

Get up whenever you usually get up to start your (non-holiday) day, and work out. I often go to the gym a couple times a week early in the morning (5 a.m.), and - YAY! - my gym is open Thanksgiving Day until noon. So I might do that. But I usually run a race on Thanksgiving.

The race I run is on a cross-country course in Belmont, and it's a community race that doesn't charge anything - it's basically a bunch of people getting together to run a few miles. Last year, however, the "organizers" announced that it would be the final formal event, due to hassles with liability, etc. But I am guessing that won't stop at least a few dozen people from continuing a 40-year tradition of showing up and running the same three miles.

There are other races you can do here in the East Bay, although some of them do sell out.

Another option is to go for a long bike ride if the weather is okay. Some bike clubs make a point of doing a big ride, like up to the summit of Mount Hamilton, on Thanksgiving. Whatever flavor of workout works for you, do that.

Then, after you eat dinner, get the kitchen cleaned up, dishes into the dishwasher, crumbs swept up, then go for a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. Walk briskly, but don't worry too much about making it into a workout. Enjoy the crisp and/or damp autumn air. Note the changing leaves. Glance into your neighbors' front windows to see their celebrations. That walk will make your body feel good, and enjoying the outdoors will make you happy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In other news, tomorrow (after the cross-country meet I wrote about last week) I will be attending my 36th consecutive Big Game, in which several dozen extremely fit young men will be running into each other on purpose. Here's to hoping for an injury-free, entertaining game with lots of good sportsmanship - Go Cardinal! Go Bears!

Marty Beene, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and specialist in senior fitness and fitness nutrition, is owner of Be The Runner; he trains adults of all abilities individually and in groups, and loves holidays involving food. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.