We talked with Monica Vazquez, the trainer in charge of the “Don’t Be a Butterball” project, and got her answers to some possible questions.
I’m doing a turkey trot. So I can eat anything I want, right?
You know how many people think, “I did a turkey trot; I’ve earned the food”? You burn about 100 calories when you run a mile. Most of these races are 5Ks to five-milers, which is barely a piece of pie. There are 3,000 calories in a typical Thanksgiving meal. It’s okay to have something extra, but there’s a difference between a small slice of pie and an entire pie.
What if I starve myself all day until dinner?
Absolutely not. If you’re ravenous, you’ll stuff your face. It takes the body time to recognize that you’re full. You’ll end up eating more than you would have, and you won’t feel well.
I’m stuck in the kitchen all day. Are there any exercises I can do while I cook?
Put a lot of things you’ll need on top of the fridge, and put a step stool there, so you’re climbing up and down. That can get your heart rate up. Grab cans of cranberry sauce to do biceps curls and lateral raises. Find a kitchen chair and do squats sitting onto it, but just barely grazing the seat. You definitely have a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’re going to do it nonstop for one minute three times. I’ve also seen my husband do push-ups off the counter.
I’m traveling in a car/plane/train for a long time to get to my family for the holiday. What are your suggestions for stretches to do along the way?
Sitting wreaks havoc on the hip flexors. They wrap around the lower back and so it gets tight. If you get up — say, to go to the bathroom — put one leg in front of the other. It’s a small step you can do it in a tight space. Then, keeping the back leg straight, lean over with only your hips. You’ll feel a wonderful stretch on your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and then do the other leg. The other thing is the figure-four stretch, which I’ve done on planes. Put your right ankle over your left knee. Then put your right hand on your right knee, push down and lean your torso away from the knee you’re pressing. It stretches the lower back. Then lace your fingers together, lift your arms overhead and reach left and then right. You won’t be distracting your neighbors more than adjusting the air.
My family tends to just sit around on the couch after we eat. Any ideas for a more active family tradition?
A scavenger hunt. The next day is Black Friday, so you can get coupons and gift cards and hide them. Make sure people have to go upstairs and downstairs and climb on top of things. The whole idea came from the Afikomen. My family’s Puerto Rican, but I went to Jewish friends’ Passover seders growing up. And that part was so much fun. Everybody wants to win a prize.
My family makes fun of me for wanting to exercise on Thanksgiving. How do I deflect their jokes — and maybe even get them to join me?
I lost 65 pounds. I remember that first Thanksgiving after and everybody said, “You’re already so skinny. You don’t need to do that.” What I’ve learned is vanity isn’t an acceptable reason, but health is. So you can say, “When I eat rich things, my stomach bothers me and that makes me feel bad. I just don’t want to feel sick.” I don’t know why, but people push less and are more accepting when you say that. You can also bring up the endorphins you get from exercise. Tell them, “I feel better after a morning run. I’ll enjoy it more.” You can also remind your relatives that this is a good time to step away and talk about family drama. Say, “I find this is a good way to de-stress before Aunt Crazy or Uncle Gossip comes over” or “I want to get away from Mom and Dad,” and you’ll be able to pull a few partners in crime away.
My home will be stuffed with tons of relatives visiting. How do I find space (and time) to exercise?
A bathroom workout. No shame from this girl. You can do jumping jacks, do squats on the toilet. If people have a hard workout, what do they say the next day? “I had a hard time getting off the toilet.” That’s because it’s a squat. You can do triceps dips off the side of the tub. Even if it’s just a few minutes of alone time, it can be beneficial. And if you don’t want anyone to hear you, run the water.
I’m getting up early tomorrow to shop the Black Friday specials. What’s a good warm-up for making sure I don’t get hurt running around and dodging crowds?
Do you know what burpees are? [They’re squats, followed by a push-up and a jump into the air.] You’re jumping to the ground like you’re reaching something low, and then you’re jumping up like you’re reaching for something high on a shelf. It also works your reaction time, which will help you in dodging crowds. And you’re not going to find nearby parking anyway. So park as far away as possible. You’ll get more alert and good to go by the time you get to the door. On your walk back, do some curls with the bags.
I always totally overdo it on Thanksgiving. What are some good ways to blast a lot of calories the day after?
You can scrub the house down. I’m talking I-can-eat-off-my-floors clean. You’ll probably have people over soon anyway. Go from the top floor to the bottom floor. Take the recycling out — one item at a time. Move furniture back. It’s productive and has to be done after Thanksgiving anyway. If you’re not hosting, offer to help. They won’t say no.
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