Turkey Day Workouts


This Thanksgiving, I’ll be rambling the streets of Prague, getting well more than my 10,000 steps and, possibly, dining on an American Thanksgiving dinner at a Czech restaurant, surrounded my other tourists and ex-patriots. I will also, definitely, get in at least a 20-minute meditation on gratitude.

If you’re hanging around your house or visiting family, why not work up a sweat together? Here are two workouts I made up a few years ago that are just as tasty now as they were then: 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. Plus, short burst workouts like this are even OK for people like me with thyroid issues.

A few guidelines for Turkey Day Tabata:
1. Be sure to do a solid warmup before you start. Walk/jog around the block, swing your arms, do some air squats; anything to get the blood flowing.

2. You can take a brief rest between each exercise, but between the eight rounds of an individual exercise, try not to 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) and don’t require a ton of thinking about form (for example, I wouldn’t throw barbell work 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.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. Or ignore counting all together and just be in the workout.

Turkey Day Tabata
400m run, easy pace
high knees, air squats, walking lunges

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

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

Feast Gone Bad

When in doubt, I like to default to the CrossFit 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 air squats
1:00 walking lunges
1:00 dumbbell/kettlebell overhead press
1:00 jump rope or jumping jacks
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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  • These look great! I am going to try to make my family do some with me on Thanksgiving!

  • Nina says:

    Hi girl! Even though we do not do Thanksgiving here (boooo…) I think I might wanna try your Turkey Tabata tomorrow!
    Had a great time with you yesterday! I wen’t for a coffee with a friend later that day and we went to Angelato, where I had the best ice-cream ever, chestnut one, in a gluten free cone, it was amazing, you should look it up 😀