Pumpkin pie weighing you down? Get moving.

By Lenny Bernstein
Thursday, November 26, 2009

Picture this: You and a dozen other people are gathered on couches somewhere today, watching a football game on the big screen and consuming a ridiculously fattening selection of snacks that precede an enormous and even more fattening Thanksgiving meal.

You lean toward your favorite hors d'oeuvre and, with just a trace of smugness, say: "Well, I guess I can have one more, after that fast 10K/really hard spin class/two hours of yoga I did this morning." And with that, you eat the last deviled egg.

C'mon, does it get any better than that?

If overindulgence is in your Thanksgiving plans, exercise should be, too. The list of choices offered by local organizations, most of which incorporate the day's themes of gratitude and charity, is almost as vast as the menu at Aunt Marge's house.

You'll feel slightly better about that second slice of pecan pie, you'll very likely help someone less fortunate and you may spend a little extra quality time with family or friends you haven't seen in a while.

"It's become a part of Thanksgiving morning, at least here in Bethesda and surrounding communities," says Tracy Miller, race coordinator for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase YMCA's 27th annual Turkey Chase, which expects 10,000 people for its 10K and two-mile events. "It's what you do. And maybe it does make you feel a little less guilty come dinnertime."

The run is also the year's biggest fundraiser for the Y and the local Rotary Club; it brings in about $100,000 for scholarships provided by both organizations.

So let someone else worry about the bird while you try some of these. Check around, I'm sure there are other events, too.


You probably have the day off, so you can go for nice long run, especially if the weather's good. But for those who want to give a few dollars to charity and do that workout with neighbors, there are more organized runs than you can shake a (drum)stick at.

The Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K and Fun Walk in Centreville raises money for a program for cancer patients and their families at Inova Health Systems; the eighth annual Trot for Hunger in the District combats hunger and homelessness through the organization So Others Might Eat; and the Turkey Trot in Frederick raises money for Way Station, a group that helps people with mental illnesses.

Not finished? Okay, on Saturday, Housing and Community Services of Northern Virginia sponsors the Drumstix Dash 8K (that's about five miles for the mathematically challenged) in Burke Lake Park.

Nationally, Thanksgiving is "the biggest running day of the year," says Kathy Freedman, owner of the Capital Running Co., which provides timing services for some of the runs. "People want to come out and enjoy a fun, healthy activity before they go and overeat."

As always, don't tackle a 5K or 10K if you haven't trained for it. Most events include separate walking options or will allow you to walk the running course.


If you want to sweat, laugh and relieve the stress of a long day with the in-laws, Willow Street Yoga's Silver Spring location hosts its Burn the Bird class Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The $40 session is not for first-timers, says Joy Kirstin, Willow Street's studio manager, but for veterans "it will help get your system moving" after the gluttony of the day before.

Don't overlook the psychic benefits. The Anusara yoga class "will give your mind and your spirit a workout, too," Kirstin says. It can be "energizing or calming," depending on your needs.

First-timers may want to check out another class at Willow Street's Takoma Park location on Thanksgiving at 10 a.m. The suggested donation of $20 goes to Oxfam, the international anti-hunger group, and teacher Elizabeth Goodman will match any contribution over $20, up to $200.

Both classes are expected to fill up quickly, Kirstin says. Other yoga studios open on Thanksgiving include Tranquil Space in the District, Bethesda and Arlington; Capitol Hill Yoga; and Flow Yoga Center in the District.


Your local fitness center hasn't overlooked the trend toward pre-Thanksgiving-meal workouts. The South Run recreation center in Springfield is sponsoring the Tri-Turkey mini-triathlon for 15 people, says Laurie Strickland, fitness director of the facility, which is part of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Free to members and as little as $6.85 for residents who buy a day pass, the event includes 30 minutes of running outside, 45 minutes on a spin bike and 30 minutes of swimming in the center's pool, Strickland says.

Don't want to try the tri? The center also offers 30-minute classes in spin, crossfit, core training, fitness circuit, group weight training, step aerobics, stability ball cardio and zumba, she says. You can take as many as you want.

Participants are urged to bring canned goods and toiletries, which will be donated to the Lorton Community Action Center.

Don't overlook your regular gym, which may be open in response to demand. Skyline Sport & Health in Falls Church hosts a Yam Jam on Thanksgiving morning that combines cardio, strength exercises and stretching into one 90-minute workout under the slogan "Let us burn that holiday turkey before you do."

Touch football

You'll have to organize this on your own, but it's well worth the effort. Any year that my family and I are in town, we play in a large, muddy game in our neighborhood park that brings out friends and neighbors we have not seen for some time. These anarchic affairs are dominated by swift teenagers, but they proceed with an unspoken ethos that allows the very young, the very old and the very sedentary to take part and enjoy. Plus, you'll feel like a Kennedy for an hour.

Just be prepared for seldom-used muscles to be very sore the next day.

New Year's resolutions It's not too early to think about next year's fitness goals! Send your New Year's resolutions, including how and why you intend to stick to your routine in 2010, to misfits@washpost.com, and we'll print some of the best in early January. We may even help you reach those goals.

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