Fall and Winter are my favorite times of the year. I love the holidays, the fires, the cooler weather, the lights/decorations, and the general atmosphere of celebration and thanksgiving. Not to mention all of the fun and festive races that are (typically) held during this time. It has been so cool to see how runners have continued to persevere and make the most of virtual races.
Thanksgiving gets me so excited. I get to enjoy amazing food, and I am forced to slow down and reflect on my many blessings. However, I know for many runners that Thanksgiving can be a stressful time regarding our training and feelings around food. Are you wanting to truly enjoy this holiday and are looking for some general guidance to approach the day? I have created a simple list of do's and don'ts for fellow runners to get the most out of Thanksgiving.
DO: Eat and enjoy the foods you love.
Food is more than just fuel for our runs. Food is also celebratory, emotional and cultural. We are made up of many biological processes, but we are also emotional and feeling beings. When we try and separate the two, things start to get a little messy. It's OK to have nostalgic feelings about your grandma's apple pie. It's OK to feel some-type-of-way around green bean casserole. Food is enjoyment and fuel for your runs. Take this day to enjoy the foods you don't always get to eat on a day-to-day basis. One day will not make a huge impact on your running goals.
DON'T: Skip meals to "save up" for the feast.
This is a classic mistake that many may be familiar with. The story typically goes like this; they skipped their breakfast and lunch meals to "save up" for Thanksgiving dinner. By the time Thanksgiving dinner came around, they were hangry. They couldn't even taste the food they ate so quickly and so much. Conscious choices flew out the window. After the meal was over, they felt uncomfortably full and sick. Unable to enjoy the rest of the evening with their friends and family. I get it. You don't want to be full prior to the Thanksgiving meal with all the yummy food. There's a better way to fully enjoy the day, and the answer is to not skip meals. Still shoot for balanced meals within ~3-4 hours of each other prior to your Thanksgiving meal. A balanced meal contains; carbohydrate, protein and fat (preferably with a vegetable/fruit thrown in there, too). This will help keep your energy levels high, your conscious brain on, and minimize your hangry-self from coming out with family and friends. You will allow yourself to consciously decide when you are done with the meal, and continue to enjoy the rest of the evening.
DO: Rest, if you need it.
Holidays are such a great time to relax, and catch up on some much needed rest. COVID has affected everyone in different ways. For many, work-life has completely changed and perhaps may be even more stressful/crazy/demanding than pre-pandemic. You have permission to rest (Thanksgiving day and every day you have permission to do whatever you wish). Running will still be there for you. In fact, you may find running to be more sustainable for you year-round if you allow yourself to rest as you need it. Even elite athletes take breaks! I say "as you need it" because it's important to note that it is not wrong, either, to enjoy a run. To be clear; you do not need to run on Thanksgiving day, but you may if you want.
DON'T: Feel like you have to "work off" your food.
If I could permanently delete and/or throw out all those photos comparing foods to burpees or walks or squats - I would in a heart beat. When we equate exercise with calories or "earning" food, we promote negative and potentially damaging behaviors. It is difficult to sustain exercise that's chosen out of punishment or guilt. This line of thinking minimizes all the positive effects of exercise and the value of food. You deserve food regardless of what you have eaten, are eating, or will eat. End of story.
DO: Enjoy time with family & friends, however you choose to do so.
I hope each and every one of you will get to spend time with beloved family and friends this holiday, whether in person (with masks) or virtually. What a crazy year. I am yearning for unyielding physical social interaction, but I know this is not forever.
DON'T: Spend your entire holiday thinking about food.
Don't get me wrong here. I get that Thanksgiving is primarily centered around gratefulness and great food. You should be excited and thinking about the amazing dishes that await. However, I am talking about the fear, anxiety, or guilt that may be associated with the types and amounts of food that will be available during this day. I am talking about those that know their entire holiday may be hijacked by these negative food thoughts. Remember: one day of eating is not going to make a huge impact on your running goals.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING RUNNERS! I am most excited for homemade pecan pie and green bean casserole!
Maddi Osburn RDN LD
Interested in nutrition coaching that uses an intuitive eating approach to improve your running and reach your athletic goals? Click here to schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation call with Maddi.