I had an awesome Thanksgiving last week. I really did enjoy spending time with my family, enjoying a hardy feast, and watching plenty of football, both NFL and NCAA.
Unfortunately, those good times do come at a price. I consumed more calories in the span of three days than I usually do over the course of a week. To be fair, that’s common for a lot of people, even those who are very health conscious. For the sake of the Thanksgiving spirit and family, we set aside our diets and just let ourselves gorge for a few days.
Personally, I think I overdid it. Anyone who was with me on Thanksgiving can attest that I ate more than my share of the turkey and deserts. It was a festive environment and we all savored every bite. For that, I have no regrets.
But that does mean the last few days have been particularly arduous when it comes to my exercise routine. I’ve noted before that I go to the gym quite frequently. I actually go more frequently now than I did before the COVID-19 pandemic. I rarely skip workouts, even around holidays. But even when I don’t skip a trip to the gym, I definitely feel it when I eat a lot of calories.
I suspect I’m not the only one dealing with that. I also suspect more than a few people are trying to get back into a healthy routine after all the family, feasts, and desserts. If you are, then I hope you find this helpful because I’d like to share a few tips on post-Thanksgiving workouts. I’m sharing it because there is a right and wrong way to do it. I know because the day after Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure I did it the wrong way and was very sore for a while because of it.
You don’t need to go through that pain, nor should you.
Also, I always feel inclined to note that I am not a personal trainer. I would never claim to be an expert at exercise, health, or getting into shape. I’m just sharing my experience and strategies in hopes that others will find it useful. I’m not even charging anyone for it. This is completely free advice.
The first tip I’d like to give is that, if you had a regular routine before Thanksgiving, do not try and go straight back to it the day after you’ve consumed so many calories. Your body just went through an abnormal experience that is holiday festivities. You can’t expect it to quickly re-adjust as though it never happened.
You will hurt yourself. I know because I badly strained my quad, chest, and abdominal muscles. It hurt more than I care to admit.
The second tip I’d like to offer is that, when it comes to consume lots of calories, cardio should be a greater priority over weight training. Even if you’re primarily focused on building muscle mass, it’s necessary to do extra cardio after consuming excess calories. That means a bit more time running outdoors, running on a treadmill, or using an exercise bike or elliptical. I’ve done a little of everything in that regard. And even just doing an extra 10 to 15 minutes of cardio makes a huge difference.
It’s primarily a matter of physics. You eat a lot of calories. You need to burn them off. Cardio, in addition to helping with blood flow and heart health, burns more calories than lifting weights. Eating all that turkey just means having to burn extra.
The third and final tip I’d like to offer has to do with how you go about weight training. Depending on your goals, you either try to do a few reps with heavy weights, usually 5 rep sets of 5, or lots of reps with lighter weights. For the most part, I’ve favored doing fewer reps with heavy weights. That’s fairly common for men looking to add muscle mass, whereas the higher reps with lower weights are common for women looking to slim down.
I had to change that recently to ensure I don’t strain my body more than I should. So, in the interest of burning off my holiday calories, I’ve started doing more reps per set with fewer sets. This way, I can emphasize good form and work to strain the muscles more concisely rather than using brute strength with lower reps. I’ve already found this to be quite effective in that I get a good burn going, but with less painful strain.
To illustrate, this is the current workout I’m using for most of my gym trips:
Start off with 35 minutes of cardio, either on an elliptical or running outside.
Do 100 weighted ab crunches (basically a crunch with a free weight on your chest).
Then, I do a the following weight training routine.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps of a butterfly curls (machine or free weights).
Do 3 sets of 20 reps of reverse butterfly curls.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps of bicep curls.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps for tricep extensions.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps of shoulder press.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps of lat pull downs.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps for leg press.
Do 3 sets of 20 reps for leg extensions.
Do 2 sets of 20 reps of pull-ups.
In general, this routine takes me about an hour and 15 minutes. I’ve been doing it for a few days now and I’m already feeling much better in terms of energy, mood, and fitness. I still do my other routine of doing 5 sets of 5 reps with more weight. But I’m thinking of maybe alternating the days when I do that in order to get the most benefits out of my workout.
One general rule of exercise is that if your body gets too used to one particular thing, it ceases to be as effective. That’s why it’s important to mix things up. It keeps the workout interesting and it helps get you better results in the long run.
Chances are I’ll probably tweak this workout as time goes on. If I uncover other useful tips, I’ll be sure to share them and they’ll continue to be free.
We all need to take time to enjoy the holidays with our families and get off our diet for a while. And if the price for doing so is more time at the gym to stay strong, healthy, and sexy, I say that’s a price worth paying.