At Strong Tower we have a mantra we recite: “Train Strong. Eat Strong. Think Strong.”
This mantra outlines the framework by which we build happier, healthier, more mission-minded people. And working out on Thanksgiving likely undermines all three.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Athlete A is talking to Athlete B about their Thanksgiving plans. Of course Athlete B is starting the day with a workout. Hopefully a really “good” one too. One that makes them work hard and sweat a lot. Why? Because, it’s Thanksgiving and they “need to earn that food, those calories.” I know it’s true because I’ve heard it and even said it. And even though it might be said in jest, there is a grain of truth in every joke.
Using exercise to compensate for food you have eaten or will eat is a foundational thought pattern for an unhealthy relationship with both exercise and food.
Far too many people use exercise as punishment. They indulged all weekend so they need to “burn it off” Monday at the gym. They ask how many crunches it will take to burn off that cupcake. They are planning how many miles they need to run in order to offset dinner. Or, worse yet, they create a “caloric deficit” by working out intensely Thanksgiving morning so that they can eat dinner “guilt-free”.
Exercise is not the work you must do to offset your food. It is not the punishment for the beer. It is not trying to prove to other people that you are worthy of love. This is an unhealthy view of exercise and of yourself.
Exercise should be a celebration of what your human body is capable of. It should be preparation for your mission in life, allowing you to pursue you passion and calling for as long as is possible with your health never being a limiting factor.
Further, an important part of training strong, is being wise about your rest and recovery. Too many of us seek intensity more often than we should. Your body needs to rest and recover more often than you think. Taking Thanksgiving off won’t undo all the fitness you built. Just like your fitness wasn’t built in an evening, you cannot lose it in an evening either.
Rest. Your mind and body will thank you.
Food is fuel. Food is also an integral part of human connection. Both of these things are equally true. Be it a family dinner making the family unit stronger or religious sacrament and liturgy being based on the breaking and sharing of bread, food connects us and builds bonds between us as human beings. That bond, this connection, is more vital than your training regiment or diet will ever be.
Read that last sentence again.
I’ve heard coaches instruct people to be the outlier and be the weird one when it comes to food and community. They suggest not breaking bread, avoid going out, refusing the food offered to them, or worse yet refusing to have community with people who do this. And while they might hit their marcro-nutrient count, it comes at a much more grave expense. It fractures relationships.
No one is saying to overeat and become a glutton, least of all me. You can absolutely enjoy Thanksgiving food in a wise and sustainable way. Use a tip my wife calls The No-Thank You Serving. Take a small amount of what’s offered to you even if you have no intention of finishing it. It blesses the giver and integrates you into the community.
You are not a bad person because of the food you eat. You are not to be punished for the calories you eat. This is an unhealthy view of food and of yourself. Just like you did not achieve a sustainable eating habit, weight loss, and fitness in one evening, you cannot undo it in one evening either.
Break bread. Literally. The bread. Partake of the bounty. Sit at the table and laugh with someone over cranberry mold. Your heart and soul will thank you.
This is likely the biggest reason why you should not workout on Thanksgiving. An idea behind Thanksgiving is to pause and be thankful. This is a practice you should perform daily. Yet most all of us do not.
Gratitude has a number of documented effects:
- Enhances your mood
- Increases positive thoughts
- Increased self-satisfaction
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts immune response
- Increases your likeability (seriously)
- Builds empathy
- Strengthens interpersonal relationships
Yet, we’re somehow willing to think that as long as we exercise and eat well we don’t need to worry about the practice of gratitude. But by glancing back over that list, there are health benefits there that simply cannot be obtained through diet and exercise.
Gratitude is a significant tool in your health and wellness toolbox. Take the day and focus on those people and places and things you’re grateful for. Really reflect on them and feel the depth of your gratitude for them, especially when you consider where you would be with those things.
If you are serious about your whole health, not just a tiny part of it like your back squat or Fran time, then you’ll skip the gym and spend the day with food, friends, and thankfulness. And yes, virtual counts this year 😉
We’re so serious about this aspect of your happiness and health that we’re closed on Thanksgiving this year. We want out staff to be happier and healthier, so they are no allowed to work. We want you to be happier and healthier, so you can’t come in.
I’m so thankful for you, dear reader. What are you thankful for?