Holidays are all about being with the ones you love, but let’s be honest, a huge part of them involve food. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and hey, even Valentine’s Day—all of these involve big meals with comforting (albeit) not-so-healthy foods.
But if you plan to indulge in your favorite pumpkin pie or green bean casserole dish (it’s a holiday, after all!) make sure you earn it. Sign up for a Turkey Trot, or put a Spartan Race on the books, so you can enjoy your holiday meal feeling accomplished. Plus, beyond preemptively torching calories before the meal, there are several other benefits to doing a race on a holiday. Here's why you should race on a holiday.
1. Knock Destinations Off of Your Travel Bucket List
Most holidays come with additional days off either before or after the holiday itself. “By doing a race on a holiday, this may create an opportunity for you to travel to race in a city you've never been,” says Robin Legat, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, SGX L2, a Spartan Race athlete and Spartan SGX Coach.
Get to know a new city or visit a favorite one, and race on new terrain while you are there. It’ll make for a great experience and a fun way to enjoy the holiday. “Plus, sightseeing and touristing can be amazing active recovery after the race,” she adds.
2. Recruit Your Friends and Family
Holidays are often spent with family, so invite them to join in on the fun for a race or competition. They can participate with you, or come cheer you on. If they join in, they’ll also get in a great workout and it fosters connection leading up to the holiday. “There's no better way to bond with your loved ones than doing so in an extreme way. Hitting the racecourse and enjoying some shared suffering will bring you together in a way that no other bonding event ever could,” Legat says. Plus, you'll bring back great stories to share at your holiday dinner.
3. Max Your Ample Recovery Time
After a race, you’ll need to recover, and some people might need a few days even. “Since most holidays come with additional days off, why not use that extra time for some serious recovery? Hit the spa, take a gentle hike or go on a bike ride the day after your race,” says Legat. Use that extra time to work through the soreness and feel like yourself once again—you have time to do so before resuming normal life.
4. Offset Your Calorie Intake
Ahh yes—you can’t forget this one. “Most holidays tend to have an element of indulgence. So it's nice to get a bit of activity early in the day so you can feel good about the decadent meal you'll be enjoying later,” Legat says. Most people eat 3,000 - 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving alone, so offset the indulgence with a workout. But why limit yourself to an ordinary gym sesh when you can run, sweat, and get gritty on a racecourse?
5. Get Dressed Up
Depending on the holiday, you may have the opportunity to get a little whimsical with your race gear. “Get decked out in stars and stripes for a Fourth of July race. You can don your Santa hat or jingly reindeer antlers for a Christmas Race. Don your finest sparkles for a New Year's Race,” Legat suggests. Holiday races are the perfect place to let your hair down and have a good time, even if your goal is to compete and win.
6. Fight Stress
Everyone knows the holidays can be pretty stressful, so use a race as a way to relieve that burden and fight off some of that tension, physically. “Starting the day with the race allows your body to pump out those feel-good endorphins prior to dealing with family drama, helping to put your mind in a more relaxed state,” says Chrissy Carroll, CPT and USAT Level I Triathlon Coach at Snacking in Sneakers.
7. Wake Up with Goals
Having a race on the calendar can keep you straight about your goals for the day, and entire holiday weekend. “While holidays are a perfectly acceptable time to dig into foods you might normally skip over, some people want to make sure they don't overindulge for the holidays,” says Carroll. “When you wake up and tackle a race on a holiday, that healthy motivation can trickle down throughout the rest of the day.” This will empower you to make better choices.
8. Give Back
“During a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, many of us are looking for ways to give back to the community. These days, many races offer a portion of their proceeds to charity, making a holiday race a must-do for giving back to your community,” says Carroll. Inquire about where the proceeds go and if you can run for a charity yourself. That way you can feel good about your accomplishments and help others in need, too.