Turkey Day Tabata Or Feast Gone Bad

Photo from www.flickr.com/photos/dlifson/3176938157/

Here’s something you might not know about me: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m sure you’re thinking it’s because of the food. And yes, it’s partially because of the food. But it’s mostly because I associate T-Giving with a laid-back attitude that’s all about togetherness and love. (And food. Which is love. If you do it right.) It always feels like a snuggly day, and I love to get dressed up simply to lounge around the house.

This Thanksgiving, instead of a badass CrossFit workout or morning run, I’ll be enjoying the grooviness of my Kundalini of Sound yoga class. But if you’d like to tackle a tough workout before sharing food-love with your near and dear, I’m reposting two workouts I made up last year: Turkey Day Tabata and Feast Gone Bad.

Both workouts include movements that require minimal equipment, so you can do either in a park, your yard, your parents’ yard or, in a pinch, your parents’ basement. If you’re a well-behaved exerciser and do a good warmup first, these workouts will require approximately 25-30 minutes of your time. Surely you can carve out half an hour before you dig into your feast!


Turkey Day Tabata

Tabata training is a totally kickass way to get huge benefit from minimal time; I wrote some stuff I learned about Dr. Tabata and his protocol here. In case you’re unfamiliar, the tabata is 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of delicious, satisfying rest… 8 times – and you do that whole shlemiel for four different exercises.

The reason I like tabata workouts is that they’re so challenging, they block all potential mental whining. For those 20 seconds of work, I AM the work. It’s enormously freeing to just be. Be the pushup. Be the jump rope. Be the pain. It’s sort of like meditation, only brutal instead of soothing.

A few guidelines for Turkey Day Tabata:
1. Be sure to do a solid warmup before you start. I’ve posted the warmup we usually use below.

2. If you must, you can take a brief rest between each exercise, but between the eight rounds of an individual exercise, don’t waiver from the 10 seconds of rest.

3. The exercises that work best for tabata are the ones that are generally comprised of only one movement (for example, NOT burpees or man-makers) and don’t require a ton of thinking about form (for example, I wouldn’t throw snatch into the mix). Here are some good ones:

air squats
box jump/step ups
running sprints
med ball slams
dumbbell/kettlebell overhead or press
jump squats
mountain climbers
jump rope/double-unders
kettlebell/dumbbell swings
dumbbell/kettlebell thrusters
kettlebell sumo deadlift highpull
PVC pipe overhead squats

4. Don’t go too heavy on the weight. Please. The idea is safe, controlled, effective full range of motion. Use manageable dumbbells or kettlebells that allow you to complete the movement correctly and move like you mean it.

5. There are two ways to keep score, if you’re into that kind of thing. (IF you want to keep score! Like there’s a CrossFitter out there that doesn’t keep time or count during a workout! Track your reps each round, then: (a) count your lowest number on each round and that’s your score for that round… or (b) keep a tally of your total reps for the whole workout

Turkey Day Tabata
400m run, easy pace
high knees, butt kicks, punter kicks, walking lunges
2X 10 squats + 10 pushups + 10 rotations + 10 situps

8 rounds, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest: med ball slams
8 rounds, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest: overhead press
8 rounds, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest: sprawls
8 rounds, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest: jump rope/double-unders

plank 2X1:00
side plank 2X:30 each side

Feast Gone Bad

When in doubt, I like to default to the Fight Gone Bad format: 5 exercises performed for a minute each then a full minute of rest… for three rounds. Yes, it totally kicks my butt, but the symmetry is very appealing. And really, you can do anything for a minute, right?!

Thanksgiving Feast Gone Bad
3 rounds:
1:00 pushups
1:00 overhead squats (dumbbells or PVC pipe) or air squats
1:00 box jumps
1:00 dumbbell/kettlebell overhead/push press
1:00 jump rope/double-unders
1:00 rest

NOTE: If you don’t have dumbbells available, you can replace those exercises with bodyweight options: air squats, walking lunges, jump squats, burpees; see the tabata list above for more ideas.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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  • Mel says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ll be doing “Packing Chipper”, which means…uh, we’re packing up our house to move.

    In fact, I haven’t gone to the gym for the last two weeks because we’ve been doing demolition in our new kitchen! I figured 3 hours a day of farmer walks (carrying trash to the truck), deadlifts (prying up plywood subfloor), medicine ball throws (tossing trash onto the truck or off the truck into the dump’s transfer station) and plenty of squats (to pick up trash, sweep, or use the shop vac) have left me pleasantly worked out without being sore.

    The only downside is that we’ve been eating out a lot since I haven’t been home to cook. We’re in a phase of contractor work now, though, so I’m stocking up on soup, roast chicken, and greens. 🙂

    Oh, and we’re having smoked ribs for T-day! My friend and I admitted to each other that we didn’t like turkey very much. 😉

    • Mel says:

      Oh, Mel. Good luck with your move! I love your Moving WOD… awesome. Take good care of yourself and just think how great it will be when you’re settled in your new pad. Best wishes to you!

  • Tom R. says:

    Love this post. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by far. Family (mine is small) and good food and just relaxing. No presents, etc. to stress everybody out with.

    The tabatas are a great idea to get up and move some before feasting. My crew will start the day off and move a little with our second annual Lumberjack20 Hero WOD. That and a huge meal makes for good naptime.

    Hope you have a great yoga session and holiday.

  • Walker says:

    love it, thanks for the ideas Mel!

    ps. quick tip/warning – in my experience, jumping squats or jumping lunges will typically leave you staggering sore the next day. but this means you will think twice about whether that leftover pumpkin pie is worth trying to get up off the couch 😉