Oh, Thanksgiving. It’s the opener for “sipping season,” candied yams, marshmallow salads, and decadent pies. Concerned about the calorie overload? We’ve got your back with four Thanksgiving-themed workouts for before, during, and after your feast prep.

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Design by Yendi Reid; Photograph by Erik Stromlund/Getty Images

Let’s keep it real: No single workout is going to torch all those Turkey Day eats. And fitting-in a quick workout before the meal isn’t a way to “earn” dessert. Those kinds of diet-culture goals are toxic AF.

One research review with animal and human studies showed that exercise can clear your head, boost your mood, and squash stress. So, if a Thanksgiving sweat sesh will make you feel good, go for it!

On the other hand, a workout fueled by guilt is no bueno. It’s even worse if the guilt is driving you away from festive times with family or friends.

Sure! You could do a few calf raises while you stuff the bird, tighten your abs while you chop veggies, or even do jumping jacks while you wait for the gravy to simmer.

All movement burns calories. For example: A person who weighs 155 pounds burns about this many calories during 30 minutes of these everyday activities:

  • Pushing a shopping cart: 135 calories
  • Cooking: 93 calories
  • Standing in line (or at the kitchen counter?): 47 calories
  • Light prep work: 56 calories

When it comes to weight management, healthy eating is just as important as fitness. Here are some ways to lighten up your feast.

  • Skip the frying. Roasted meat is juicy and savory without the added fat from oil.
  • Reach for the white meat. Dark meat has more calories than white turkey breast. Def skip the super fatty skin.
  • Save the sweet tooth for dessert. Skip the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and wait for pie instead.
  • Use smaller plates. Whether you go for a full-on tapas Thanksgiving or just dine from the salad plates, you’re less likely to overeat from smaller dishes.
  • Pass the bread. It’s easy to munch on endless rolls and crackers, but who needs the processed flour when you’ve got pecan pie for later?
  • Mind the gravy. The calories in sauces like gravy, cranberry sauce, and caramel drizzle on dessert add up quickly.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget about water when you’re sippin’ on wine or mocktails all afternoon. Remember to chug a glass of water between drinks. You’ll feel fuller and reduce your risk of a hangover.

Thanksgiving week workouts are usually best first thing in the morning. According to a research review, even a short exercise session has psychological benefits.

Exercising a few times a week will help you feel more energized — essential for soaking up quality time with loved ones (or mustering the patience to deal with unhelpful comments about food)

Squeeze in a workout as soon as your alarm goes off, then put on your stretchy pants and enjoy the rest of the day!

Your Turkey Week workout plan

Mon.Tue.Wed.THANKSGIVING 🦃Fri.Sat.Sun.
5 Rounds for 5 Helpings Wing TorcherFeast-to-Beasts ModeTurkey Day TabataRest or 30-45 min. of low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS)Turkey Day Tabata, but 4 rounds instead of 2Pick your fave workout

Workout 1: 5 rounds for 5 helpings

Do 5 sets of the following:

  • 15 sit-ups
  • 30 double-unders or regular jump ropes
  • 15 air squats
  • 30 double-unders or regular jump ropes

Do it like this

In this workout, form trumps speed. Find an open spot on the floor, pop a squat, and complete 15 regular sit-ups, followed by 30 double-unders, aka jump-roping with the rope going under twice. Next, get low into 15 air squats (just pretend you’re sinking into an invisible chair), followed by more double-unders.

Repeat this routine 5 times for a burning core and booty.

Time it takes

As long as you need! Remember, proper form and posture is more important than racing through the workout.

Equipment needed

Just a jump rope!

Modification options

No rope? Use your imagination! As you jump, circle your wrists and arms as though you were jumping rope.

Workout 2: Wing Torcher, aka Bear Complex

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Gifs by Dima Bazak

To complete 1 round, do all 5 exercises 7 times without putting down the barbell. Aim for 5 total rounds, resting after each round.

  • 1 power clean
  • 1 front squat
  • 1 push press
  • 1 back squat
  • 1 push press

Workout deets – https://thumbs.gfycat.com/AngelicFrayedGopher-size_restricted.gif

Dinner got your feeling like your stuffing’s poppin’ out? This is our Thanksgiving take on the Bear Complex, a classic CrossFit routine. Prepare to feel the burn across your wingspan and core. Switch up the weight on your barbell for anything from a light roast to a total torcher.

Power clean: For this exercise, bend your knees and grip your loaded barbell overhand. In one powerful, continuous lift, bring the bar up along the front of your bod. At the end of the move, the bar should be parallel with your upper chest, elbows out in front of you.

Front squat: With the barbell held in place against your shoulder line, sink into a deep squat. Then stand straight again.

Push press: In this exercise, bend your knees slightly while keeping your heels anchored to the floor. Powerfully push upward to extend your arms, raising the bar straight overhead. Soften your knees as you lower it behind your head onto your upper back.

Back squat: In this squat variation, keep the bar resting on your upper back while you sink your hips low. Tighten your core to stay balanced!

Time it takes

Take all the time you need to complete all 5 rounds with proper form. Plan for 30 to 50 minutes — about the time it takes to bake Grandma’s pumpkin pie.

Equipment needed

A barbell + weight plates

Mod options

No weight set? Grab a broomstick, weighted bar, or DIY gym equipment. The workout will be speedy and light without weights, but you’ll still feel the burn.

Workout 3: Feast-to-Beasts Mode

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Gifs by Dima Bazak

Partner up and take turns performing these exercises for 30 seconds each.

Here’s how

HIIT (high intensity interval training) is all the rage, and partner workouts are boss during the holidays. This one is all about expending maximum effort in a minimal amount of time.

So, grab your partner, do jumping jacks for 30 seconds, then take a 30-second breather to check on the pumpkin pie in the oven.

Repeat the jumping jacks 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off by taking turns with your partner for each move.

This looks easy, but you’ll be glistening like a basted bird by the end.

Time it takes

12 minutes

Equipment needed

A chair for the tricep dips and step-ups. A wall for the wall sit.


Don’t stress if no one in your fam wants to join your Thanksgiving workout. You can complete this workout solo in 7 sizzling minutes.

Workout 4: Turkey Day Tabata

Hop off the gravy train and make room for more with 2 rounds of the following:

  • Tabata burpees (20 seconds)
  • rest (10 seconds)
  • Tabata weighted sit-ups (20 seconds)
  • rest (10 seconds)
  • Tabata kettlebell swings (20 seconds)
  • rest (10 seconds)
  • Tabata burpees (20 seconds)
  • rest (10 seconds)

Workout deets

Tabata is a type of HIIT that includes 20 seconds of amped exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.

For the burpees: Jump up, place your hands on the floor, then jump your feet back into a plank. Quickly jump your feet forward again, stand, and repeat.

For the weighted sit-ups: Hold a kettlebell, dumbbell, or even a giant can of cranberry sauce on your chest while you do sit-ups.

For the kettlebell swings, squat slightly, keeping your back straight. With your core tensed, swing the kettlebell down between your legs, then back up. Repeat.

Time it takes

About 5 minutes.

Equipment needed


Equipment alternatives

For the kettlebell swings, use anything compact and heavy. Got a milk jug? Swing it! Laundry detergent, cranberry sauce, and even frozen meat will do.

Set your alarm, squeeze in a workout, and dive into your Thanksgiving feast! Moving your body before the meal releases stress, boosts your mood, and gives you energy for days (Black Friday, anyone?).

And remember — whether you work out on Thanksgiving to avoid holiday weight or release stress, the holidays are a great time to give thanks for what your body can do. 💪