Did You Earn Your Turkey?

This is America.  When we have holidays we go big, don’t we?  We stuff our faces at Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day barbeques.  Our football tailgates put food drives to shame, we ‘upgrade’ to a larger size at every opportunity.  Thanksgiving isn’t any different, is it?  Between the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and whatever else you can think of, we like to go H.A.M.  They may be Canadian, but the Epic Meal Time crew embodies our Give me Moar! attitude:

Since I was a wee little lad, I knew that with the big holidays came big feasts, and I loved it.  Food, family, wrestling matches with cousins? Yes, please.  Those things haven’t changed much over the years, but now I’m much more conscious of how and what I’m eating.  Does it change how I eat around the big holidays?  Eh, not really.

Structured, healthy eating is important, but you’re not going to enjoy yourself if you spend the holidays monitoring how many flowerets of broccoli are on your plate.  I’m not saying that you should let all dietary restraint out the window around holidays; in fact it’s a time that we really should reel ourselves in.  In this New York Times article, Tara Parker-Pope points out that the holidays are a “high-risk” time for weight gain.  Monitoring what you put on your plate and in your mouth can go a long way to curb the typical weight gain for the next month.  As always, watching what you eat is going to be the best thing you can do to take care of any weight fluctuations.  Now, for those of us that do like to eat…

Planning is a given, but how do you plan for the a food filled holidays?  Scheduling both your eating and your training!  Nutrition plays a larger role here than training, so let’s talk about that first.  Periodizing your nutrition is a good idea, but I think it’s a great idea this time of year.  If you have solid control over your eating patterns, then a one day holiday binge won’t cause much harm.  Even a weekly holiday party for the next month won’t be a big deal, if you spend the 6 days between each party following a clean diet.

I myself find that some caloric micro-periodization, or day-to-day fluctuations in what you eat can be a very effective strategy for properly fueling your training as well as preventing excess fat gain.  It makes plenty of sense; Eat the most on the days you train the hardest, and eat less on the days that you don’t train.  That’s not a green-light for Kobayashi impressions, but it will allow your body to make the best use of the calories you are consuming.

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Most folks would agree that since your days of high intensity eating and high intensity training go hand-in-hand, it’s going to be a good idea to train on the days that you’re eating a lot.  Makes sense, right?  Since most events are in the afternoon or evening, that leaves mornings for you to take care of your training.  ‘Training’ doesn’t mean go bench press and curl, then rock the pump at the dining room table while you pass the gravy; it means you’re deadlifting, doing chinups, push-ups, squats, etc. Exercises that require a whole lot of body.  Capiche?

My typical training program was complicated by my gym closing on Thursday for Thanksgiving, but the world didn’t end; workouts were simply rescheduled so I could get everything done.  Solving the Thursday morning training problem wasn’t much of a dilemma, as I repeated last year’s Thanksgiving training and headed over to a local elementary school to make use of their playground.  I convinced my friend Matt to wake up at 8am and go with me, and we completed the following exercises after warming up:

  1. Chin-Ups
  2. Dips
  1. TRX Inverted Rows
  2. Band-Resisted Push-Ups
  1. Battling Rope Alternating Waves
  2. Burpees

It made for a short workout, and we had completed everything in about 45 minutes.  Once we were done, we spent some of our ‘cool down’ time goofing around with some of the equipment, and I’ll include some of the videos below.  The first one is of my last set of chin-ups, using one of the fatter pipes on the playground.  It was probably around 2.5″ in diameter, and my cold hands were having trouble hanging on to that bar.  Thankfully I just bought some Fat Gripz from EliteFTS, so I’ll be having some fun challenging my grip strength.

In these next two videos, you’ll see both Matt and I performing inverted rows.  Matt was using the TRX and was directly under the anchor point, and I was just above the anchor point.  The battling ropes threaded through the top of the swing set, and simply provided a different grip to use for the rows.  The 1.5″ ropes were difficult to hang on to, and I found this version much tougher on my lats.

You’ll see a black Super Band from Perform Better around my back for the push-ups, which helped to make a great exercise even better.  The towel and TRX case were only there because my hands were going numb from the ice crystals on the rubber.  That wasn’t fun at all.

This last video is my favorite, because it’s more about playing than training; I have no idea what you’d call this exercise, and I wasn’t thinking about the training carry over that it would have for ‘functionality’.  It was simply, “Hey, that was fun 10 years ago, it’ll be fun now!”  After trying it a few times, I think we could call it “Isometric Chin-Up with Alternating Elbow Extension/Flexion”, but that sounds a little ridiculous.  Doesn’t “Chin-Up Sliders” sound much better?  For the “What does that work?” crowd that loves to hear about each muscle worked during kettlebell swings and rope slams, just expect to get your arms rocked; it looks like a chin-up, and your arms are moving.  Finally, for the functional training fans out there, this should have a great carry over to fist-pumping in the club with flared lats.  I’m going to ask the cast of Jersey Shore if they think it’s effective.

Simple exercises, right?  Sure, we used some equipment, but all of that is doable with minimal equipment.  Playgrounds are great places to train, as you’re forced to get creative and use body weight exercises.  It’s slowly becoming too cold to comfortably train outside, but I think it serves as a good example of planning appropriately to make the best of the holiday meals that are coming our way.  Sure, you don’t have to eat, and avoiding calorie bombs is definitely easier than trying to out train them.  If you’re like me and you’d rather earn your turkey than avoid it, make sure you’re eating clean on the days before and after a big eating event, and make sure you train before the party.  You’ll feel much better when you’re contemplating if you want to get seconds and thirds.

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