How to Prep for a Turkey Trot

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays—and one of my favorite ways to celebrate is by running a local Turkey Trot—usually a 5K race. It also doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving unless I’ve run a race that morning to earn those extra calories coming later in the day!

If you have never run a Turkey Trot, I’d like to both encourage you and help you prepare—even though it may only be a few weeks away. This holiday race just might be the catalyst for a physical breakthrough for you. Plus, they’re just plain fun!

Start Where You Are

Start your Turkey Trot training from your own, personal fitness level. So many people try to begin a program where it starts. But if you are only able to run or walk one mile, then starting a program that launches with a three-mile session could be detrimental to your body, not to mention your confidence.

It’s also important to note that if you’re not already a runner, walking is a totally fine place to start. Just make sure you start from there, which leads me to my next point. Keep your progress as slow and gradual as possible. That way, no matter what your level may be, your body will hardly feel an increase in training.

Change Up Your Pace

It’s also a good idea to vary your workouts, tweaking either the intensity or volume (or both), to keep your muscles changing. One of the most common mistakes I see runners make is that they don’t vary these factors enough. So then the body simply adapts and progress can stall. Try to mix things up, whether that means adding intervals to your training (like speeding up your pace for one-minute bouts—walkers can do this, too!), or including one long, slow run in your week.

Finally, try not to prove anything to yourself or “cram” for the race with your training. Cramming may work for college exams, but when it comes to racing it is only detrimental. Even if you feel woefully underprepared for a Turkey Trot, don’t increase your training right before the race day. You will only tire yourself out and make things harder for yourself. It’s much better to be fresh, full of energy, and undertrained, than to be over-trained, flat, and tired at the starting line.  

If you’ve been training hard, it’s actually a good idea to taper your training in the final few days (or week) prior to the race. It will help preserve your energy.

Just Show Up

If you feel underprepared for this year’s Turkey Trot, and don’t have time to get in race shape, do the race, anyway. (Remember: Walking is always an option!) At the very least, your experience could serve as a springboard to your future fitness goals. A race atmosphere can be one of the most motivating environments a runner can experience to fuel future training. Plus, I’ve always said the most important factor to any physical breakthrough is being continuously thankful in spirit.

Above all, I hope your Turkey Trot is filled with gratitude, good memories, and a delicious meal as your reward!

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