Surviving Thanksgiving as an athlete

For an athlete-in-training, there are many challenges around the holidays, especially when it comes to staying consistent with training and healthy eating. Your frustration is not well-understood by your non-athlete family members but your training buddies understand that a routine disruption disrupts your goals and makes it difficult to get back on track. 

So what's an athlete to do? 

Do you put your training on hold and say "oh well" to healthy eating, every time there is a disruption to your routine? 

Do you become stubborn with your ways and begin to remove the distractions from your life, even if it means pushing away your family and close friends....maybe even quitting your job, because it takes up a lot of your time and energy?

What's an athlete to do.

While it's not necessary to put your training on hold for an extended period of time or avoid your family in order to get in every minute of your prescribed workout, it's important that you see any disruption, like a holiday, as a great opportunity to enjoy a little downtown and change up your normal routine. 

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your Thanksgiving break. 


1. Create a better internal dialogue in your head when you are eating, especially as it relates to your body and food. 
2. Trust your body. Tune into your true signals of hunger and satisfaction as a way to guide you through your holiday feast. 
3. Treat yourself to family, don't make the holidays just about food. Enjoy your time around your loved ones or if you are alone, call up an old friend or volunteer and help out those in need. 
4. Slow down and taste your food. Appreciate the aroma, presentation, flavor and texture of your food - real food and store bought. Share a story if a dish reminds you of something happy. 
5. Love what you eat. The first few bites of anything should always taste amazing. If you don't love it, don't eat it. 


1. Get it done early, but not too early. Enjoy waking up without an alarm but if you can squeeze in a workout before your day gets busy, you'll find yourself energized and you won't have to deal with the guilt that comes with removing yourself from family time, just to train. 

2. Loosen up. It's ok if you have to modify a set or reduce the volume. Heck, skip a workout if you want to! Prioritize the workouts that give you the most payback for your investment at this phase of training. A few modified workouts over the holidays will not affect your race performance in September. 
3. Keep training fun. Participate in a Turkey Trot, exercise with your kids, go for a hike or set up a local group workout. Do something each day that is good for your mind and body. 
4. Be efficient with your time. Indoor workouts provide a great bang for your buck as you can get in a quality workout, with minimal distractions. 
5. Communicate. Now more than ever is the time to communicate with your family. You may be surprised that if you tell your family/kids on Wednesday, that on Friday you will be gone from 8:30-10:30 for a workout, they won't care about your absence. But if you tell them last minute, they may be upset that you are suddenly leaving them, which then leaves you with guilt, if you get in your workout. 


1. Don't skip meals throughout the day. Excessively restricting calories or an entire food group (ex. carbohydrates) will likely lead to overeating at your upcoming feast. Instead, focus on small meals throughout the day, eating every few hours. Prioritize higher fiber, natural food options like fruits and veggies at your meals. Don't forget to stay hydrated - with water, of course. 
2. Do not go into your big meal with a starving belly. Plan a healthy snack around 45-60 minutes before your meal. Options like apple slices and pistachios, deli meat and lettuce wraps, celery sticks with cheese or a few almonds with figs should take the edge off so you don't eat with your eyes when serving yourself. 
3. Fuel your workout. Seeing that there is a good chance that you will workout in the morning, restricting calories around/during your workout is not a permissible strategy to indulge (or to eat more calories) at your upcoming feast. It can actually backfire on you as you will likely be so famished by meal time, that you may eat beyond a feeling of fullness - stuffed and very uncomfortable. Treat your workout like any other day. Fuel smart and hydrate well. And be sure to eat a healthy breakfast after your workout (or Turkey Trot). 
4. Choose wisely. Create a healthy plate of a little of everything. 
5. Indulge wisely. You are not forced to eat everything at your feast but you are allowed to indulge. Choose your favorites and say "no thank you" to the unappealing or familiar options. Share, split and limit yourself to just one. 

It's very easy for athletes to remain rigid around the holidays for a change in the normal routine (training or eating) can bring anxiety or a feeling of loss of control. 

In the big picture, a few days away from your normal routine may be a good thing. Don't stress and enjoy yourself. The holidays are a wonderful time to give thanks to your body, to your friends and to your family.
Be sure to tell those around you how much you appreciate them for putting up with you.....I mean, supporting you, throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Don't forget to yum!