If you’re like me, you go crazy sitting around talking and eating all day long, which is tough—especially because that’s what the holidays are all about. But at the same time, fitting in a scheduled workout class when you’re traveling or even feeling motivated to take on tough workouts during Thanksgiving can feel like an impossible feat.
And that’s OK. With our go-go-go mentalities, I often tell my clients that moderation and cutting yourself some slack is usually the best strategy to keep up your stamina. So, no, I don’t want you to feel guilty if you skip your CrossFit or boot camp class over Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, why not go for a restorative, low-key option instead?
Here are four reasons to get moving and exactly how to move to return for your break the happiest version of yourself:
1. Exercise improves mood.
You know that post-awesome-exercise-session feeling when you feel “most like yourself”? Happy, confident, talkative, high on endorphins? Wouldn’t that be great to bring to the Thanksgiving table with you? I’m an introvert, and after I work out, I find conversations and connecting with others come easier to me. Plus, I simply feel better on the inside and can truly soak up the joy of the holidays when I’m in a better mood.
What kind of exercise do you love the most? Do that. What did you love to do as a child? Try that. Dancing, running, tag football, basketball in the driveway, jumping on the trampoline (safely), or playing hide-and-seek with the kiddos are all great ways to find your endorphin high.
2. Walking aids digestion.
Ate too much? Don’t beat yourself up—we’ve all been there. Heading out on a gentle walk, anywhere from 10 minutes to even 90 minutes, can help stimulate your digestion and ease your stomach pain.
Try a short walk after your meal to start the digestion process and add in a longer walk the next morning to help avoid constipation and get things going.
3. Stretching makes you more comfortable.
We can get so stuck in our bodies this time of year: feeling bloated, skipping exercise, sitting in traffic, enduring long plane rides, and covering ourselves up with layers of sweaters, sweatshirts, and thick, puffy parkas. These can all disconnect you from your body. A great way to feel more comfortable in your own skin is to stretch and open up.
Try five minutes stretching in the bathroom, a 20-minute YouTube Yoga video on a clean towel next to the bed, foam rolling or hitting up a local yoga class with a family member.
4. Movement burns off excess energy.
Ideally you’ll want to burn through some of your glycogen stores earlier on Thursday so you have “more room” to store the calories from a big meal. So you’re feeling up for it, try getting a tough workout in at least one morning of the weekend. Try lifting some heavy weights in your cousin’s basement or get outside for an hourlong distance run or brisk walk. There’s a reason why turkey trots are so popular!
When you eat more than usual, your body has excess energy. And technically, we should use up our excess calories within 12 to 16 hours after a big meal to avoid storing the energy as body fat. You might want to try an “intermittent fasting window” and wait until you’re genuinely hungry in the morning rather than just eating on autopilot because it’s breakfast time.
Need a little more structure to avoid grabbing a slice of pumpkin pie within half an hour of waking up? Go for an hourlong walk after coffee but before breakfast hits your system. You’ll use up some of the energy from any feasting you’ve done the night before and give your digestion system a boost before you eat next.