Thanksgiving calls up images of tables laden with feasts around which sit overstuffed family dinner guests, anxious for nothing more than to sit and recuperate from the gastronomic workout, but fitness and fun have blended into the holiday traditions in recent years. People want to enjoy the repast without regretting the extra calories so they have created new customs that get the whole family out and moving for a bit of fun and togetherness while making room for the extra calories they consume during Thanksgiving dinner. Walking, hiking, biking or an impromptu game of football or soccer, all help people pass the time while the turkey is cooking or burn off the post-turkey doldrums. Some gyms are even getting into the spirit by offering Turkey Day workouts.
The cold weather of late fall and early winter does not need to deter anyone from outdoor exercise, according to Kirby Adams, writing for the Courier-Journal. Dressing in layers using thermals and winter gear that blocks the wind will keep the family warm regardless of the outdoor temperatures. The brisk air can stimulate the appetite or help with digestion.
Running is one of the most popular options for Thanksgiving Day workouts, blending fun and fitness, with many families running together and turkey costumes abounding. Many communities and organizations nationwide run an annual “Turkey Trot” race of varying lengths, from 50 meters for the children’s versions to 15K and half-marathon races for the hardy enthusiasts. Fuzzy turkey costumes and Pilgrim hats add a spirit of fun to the holiday trend. The Washington Post reports that in one race two racers partnered up to run while hoisting a canoe overhead for the duration of the race.
The Oregonian questions whether the trend is past its prime, however they also cite Running USA statistics that show the number of Americans participating in a Turkey Trot, more than doubled from 2008 to 2013. The count for 2013 boasted 870,000 runners. They also state that in many states the Google trend for “Turkey Trot” is up. Individuals wanting to participate in a Thanksgiving Day race will likely be able to find an event in their local area as races are scheduled from coast to coast.
However, running is not the only choice for people wanting to make fitness part of their Thanksgiving traditions. Something as simple as neighborhood walk gives families an easy and flexible way to include young children. Some families take a hike through local natural areas while others take a group bike ride. The Wall Street Journal reports that some San Francisco exercise clubs and gyms are offering special Thanksgiving workouts from a mile swim in the Bay to a 90-minute “Turkey Burn” cycling workout. YMCAs in Snohomish County, Washington are offering some morning activities in Zumba, kickboxing and running to “Burn the Bird.” The CrossFit gym in Natick, Mass. challenges its members with a brutal Turkey Day “Lone Survivor” workout in honor of KIA Navy SEAL, Michael Murphy.
Whichever form of exercise works for a family and their guests, the shared experience of cold noses and brisk air, laughs and camaraderie make many Thanksgiving memories to treasure in the years to come. People may come for the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce but the heart of the holiday is always about quality time with friends and family. Blending the workout with shared fun helps build, not only physical fitness but emotional fitness, as well; and the smiles, laughter and memorable moments to be retold for years to come, strengthen family relationships in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Photo courtesy of Kevin – Flickr License