If you’re planning on running a Turkey Trot this year ahead of your Thanksgiving feast, you’re in for some fun—and one entertaining workout. This non-competitive and just-for-fun race has been a tradition in most towns for a hundred years, and it’s easy to see why.
Chances are, the Turkey Trot going on near you is just like so many other Turkey Trots happening across the country the day of, or week before, Thanksgiving. It’s an open invitation for locals to join in on a just-for-fun race in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. Sometimes they’re put on by the town and sometimes they’re put on by charities or other organizations as a way to raise money for a good cause.
No matter the details around your Turkey Trot, one thing is for certain: you have to be prepared to run! You don’t have to be a veteran runner, but you should be able to clock a couple miles, since a 5K is 3.1 miles and a 10K, which some turkey trots consist of, is 6.2 miles. “The Turkey Trot isn’t something you have to train hard for, since a lot of Turkey Trots are fun and casual and about the atmosphere,” says Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer. However, she points out that you also don’t want to be sore and limping while you’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.
To help ensure your Thanksgiving Turkey Trot goes smoothly and that you’re ready to tackle each and every mile, here are some expert tips for how to prepare.
Pick up your bib number early
Most Turkey Trots require everyone to register so that each person has a bib number to monitor where they fall in the race. Don’t make the mistake of planning to pick up your bib number on the morning of the race, as you will very likely be late to the starting line, warns Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist and fitness expert. “Many race directors will offer early bib number pick-up, often at a local running store, to help you avoid the long lines and accompanying race-morning stress,” he adds.
This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how fast the weather can change in late November. Even if it was fairly mild outside a few days before Thanksgiving, it might be frigid the morning of. For this reason, it’s a good idea to dress warmly—with several layers that can be removed or added on. “Many people make the mistake of overdressing and end up overheating as a result, which can make the experience significantly less enjoyable,” Holland says. “A simple rule of thumb is that you should be slightly chilly when you start the run, as your core temperature will elevate and warm you up just a few minutes after the gun goes off.”
Save breakfast for after
While sports nutrition is highly individualized, Holland warns that issues often arise when participants eat or drink before a Turkey Trot. “There is no need to ‘carb up’ for a 5K like Michael Scott did on The Office, suffering GI issues as a result,” he says. A better way to enjoy the race without feeling weighed down is to start with an empty stomach and enjoy a big breakfast after.
Set realistic goals
Instead of trying to push yourself to finish in a certain amount of time or with a certain pace, Mansour recommends focusing on the big picture. “Running the turkey trot is often one of the first races someone runs,” she says. “Make it your goal to finish at a steady pace, even if it’s not quickly, as burning calories is the main goal, and you should congratulate yourself on that no matter what.”
You’ve probably been told to warm up before exercising before—and you should do the same prior to your Turkey Trot, especially since the weather is likely to be cold. Mansour even recommends running or jogging in place beforehand to get your body moving. “Remember to stretch your arms and legs before the whistle blows so that you don’t injure yourself right before the holidays,” she adds.
When mentally preparing for the race, keep in mind the importance of pacing yourself once you get started, as this is one of the most important parts of any race, according to Mansour. “If you want to succeed, you need to make sure you set a consistent pace that won’t tire you out too much by the end of it,” she says. “It’s easy to get too excited and ahead of yourself and run too fast in the beginning, but when this happens, it can become hard to finish the race.” Instead, she suggests trying to keep a steady pace throughout instead.