Healthy Tips for Running in a Turkey Trot
This time of year, most people are looking forward to getting together with family and filling up on delicious food on Thanksgiving. Before you settle in at the dining table that day, consider getting an active start to your holiday with a Turkey Trot—a 5K or similar distance race on Thanksgiving morning.
“Turkey Trots are great for runners of any level to get moving with family and friends,” says Kevin DuPrey, D.O., Crozer Health sports medicine physician. “These races are a way for everyone to have fun and burn some calories before gearing up to eat and drink the rest of the day.”
Turkey Trots can be an unintimidating introduction to racing if you’re new to running, or a fun way to test your speed if you’re more experienced. Here are ways to make sure you have a safe and healthy time trotting.
Dress to Impress (and for the Weather)
Some people choose to dress up as turkeys, pilgrims or their favorite side dish for the race. Whatever you decide to wear on race day, make sure it can keep you warm. The end of November is usually pretty chilly, and most Turkey Trots are held early on the morning of Thanksgiving.
“Avoid wearing clothes made of cotton as these can actually hold sweat and make you feel cold. Dressing in layers can always help if you start to heat up and want to take items off,” DuPrey says.
Pace Yourself (Especially at the Beginning)
It can be an exciting time if it’s your first race or even your first race in a while, but you can easily end up making your experience worse with the wrong pace.
“Any level runner can get excited at the start of the race and want to sprint off the starting line. Going out at a pace you can maintain for a while can help you avoid feeling the burn in your lungs and legs. A maintainable pace can also help you avoid slowing down or getting injured,” DuPrey says.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Warming up and cooling down are important for whenever you exercise but especially when you may be running in cooler temperatures. Doing stretches before and after the run can also help you avoid injury or feeling sore later.
“Before the race, take five to 10 minutes to do a dynamic warm-up which can include light jogging, lunging or kicking up your knees. Doing this can help raise your body temperature and loosen your muscles to get moving,” DuPrey says. “For a cool down, do a series of static stretches. Stretching after a run helps your body come down safely from working out.”
Keep in Mind You’ll Burn Calories, But Maybe not as Many as You Think
Running a Turkey Trot can be a great way to get moving before sitting in front of a table of yummy temptations. It’s important to realize that running a race is not a reason to go totally overboard at dinner.
“On average, the human body burns about 100 calories per mile. Most Turkey Trots are around three miles, meaning you’re likely to only burn around 300 calories during a race,” DuPrey says. “That doesn’t equal the average Thanksgiving meal, which can easily exceed 3,000 calories if you go for second helpings.”
While you don’t have to totally give up your Thanksgiving feast, you should be aware of how much you might burn during the race compared to how much you might consume later.
“Thanksgiving is a time for feasting and it’s ok to do that for a day, but everyone should be aware of what and how much they consume—and to not make it a habit when the holiday ends,” DuPrey says.