Giving thanks…for the workout

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

As Thanksgiving approaches, there is much talk of…what else? Food! Recipes passed down through generations, familiar aromas filling the kitchen, families and friends gathering to watch football before the hearty meal…it all seems very “Norman Rockwell” in its charm, doesn’t it?

One thing that Mr. Rockwell most likely did not engage in during his typical Thanksgiving gatherings was intense exercise.  Today, we know a lot more about the dynamics of the body than in the good ol’ days, and this is a great time to put those healthy ideas into action. Since many fitness centers remain open during the holiday, there is little if any excuse for not including exercise as an integral part of Thanksgiving. 

If you are like most Americans, no matter how hard you try, one workout probably won’t burn as many calories as you enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner.  However, a tough training session can help put some of those excess calories to good use building muscle, or at the very least provide some piece of mind if you do choose to overindulge. A high-intensity/high-volume workout is intended to deplete glycogen stores, the body’s primary energy source. When glycogen is filled, the consumption of extra calories can play a role in weight gain. Starting out in a depleted glycogen state, however, enables the food you eat to be utilized for refueling the body, restoring energy and facilitating muscle building as well as repair after a tough workout.

A “depletion” workout functions like a big circuit, consisting of 11 exercises of your choosing. After a warm-up, one set of the first exercise is performed, followed by a rest for 20 to 30 seconds, and then the next exercise is started. Following this pattern for 11 exercises keeps the metabolism revved.  After resting for 2 to 3 minutes, keep the weight the same (or decrease if needed) and increase the number of repetitions performed in the next round. Try the following number of reps on each round of the circuit: 

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First set = 10 reps per exercise.

Second set = 12 reps per exercise.

Third set = 15 reps per exercise.

Fourth set = 20 reps per exercise.

If at any point you find that your body is unable to execute all the repetitions listed, do as many as you can, rest, and move on to the next exercise.  No need for guilt…you are already moving more than the majority of Americans do on this holiday!  Have fun with this workout, Pilgrim!