It doesn't matter if you're a walker, runner or just love to stomp on leaves, turkey trots are the funnest way to work up a good appetite before your Thanksgiving feast.
But if you're new to running or planning your first turkey trot this year, you may want to brush up on some last-minute race day tips. And while you'll want to consider race-day logistics — like your nutrition and warm-up — make sure to enjoy the experience, too. After all, this race only happens once a year!
1. Prioritize Your Pre- and Post-Race Fuel
The snack you eat before your turkey trot is a key part of your race day. Compared to a marathon, the 5K is a relatively short distance. Nevertheless, it's important to prioritize carbohydrate-rich foods before your race, like oatmeal or banana, recommends the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Carbs supply your muscles with energy, giving you some extra oomph during your run.
Avoid foods that are high in fat or fiber before hitting the starting line, though, advises the NASM. Although these are important nutrients to help increase satiety and maintain stable blood sugar, they can cause bloating or stomach upset. So, if you're eating a high-fiber breakfast, have your meal at least three to four hours before your — and guzzle plenty of water to help your digestive system out.
If you already have a favorite pre-run snack or meal, don't deviate from your usual routine, says Melissa Wolfe, a Mile High Run Club instructor. "I'd recommend eating what you typically eat for breakfast on a normal running day," she says. "We hear at marathons all the time, 'nothing new on race day,' but the same applies for any distance."
After your race, replenish your energy stores, promote protein digestion and rehydrate your body, advises NASM. Choose snacks or meals filled with lean proteins and carbohydrates. Because it's Thanksgiving, if you're planning a large afternoon feast, consider keeping your post-race meal light and high in protein.
2. Warm Up Properly
Considering November usually ushers in cooler weather, it's important to warm up properly before taking off. While running in colder weather in and of itself doesn't necessarily make you more prone to injury, it does make performing a proper warm-up even more important.
Incorporate a dynamic warm-up routine to get your blood flowing, recommends the American Council on Exercise (ACE). As running involves moving in just one direction (forward), dynamic exercises can help incorporate different planes of motion, helping prevent injury.
Try these three warm-up exercises from Winnie Yu, DPT, CPT, a New York-based physical therapist and certified personal trainer.
Move 1: Lying Figure-4 Rotations
- Lie on your back with your arms stretched out to your sides, knees bent and feet flat.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee, maintaining the bend in your left knee.
- Keeping your shoulder blades glued to the ground, tilt your body to the left until your right foot touches the ground.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Move 2: Side Lunge With Opposite Hand Reach
- Begin in a wide stance, feet facing forward, hands at your hips.
- Reach your left hand toward your right foot, ankle or shin, feeling a stretch in the back of your right leg.
- Holding your left hand on your right leg, begin to bend at your right knee and lower into a side lunge until your right leg forms a 90 degree angle.
- Hold for a few moments before straightening your leg and returning to the starting position.
Move 3: World's Greatest Stretch
- Begin in a runner's lunge with your left leg forward (bent at 90 degrees), right leg extended straight out behind you. Frame your left knee with your hands.
- Keeping your right hand anchored to the ground, raise your left arm above your head and open your body to your left side.
- Pause for a few moments before your bring your hand back to the ground.
- Continue opening and closing with your left arm for eight repetitions.
- Repeat this exercise on the other side with your right leg forward, left leg extended and right arm opening and closing.
3. Dress in Layers (and Costumes!)
Come November, it's likely chilly outside — and don't forget about the wind chill factor. Especially if your race is near a lake, river or ocean, wind can get through your clothes and expose your skin to even colder temperatures, according to the Mayo Clinic.
On race day, you'll want to dress in layers that you can easily peel off during your race, according to the American Heart Association. Wearing multiple layers not only protects you from snow or rain but can also help your body trap heat, creating a level of insulation. If you tend to heat up quickly, wear some older sweat clothes you can shed mid-race, as you may not be able to find them again afterward.
Because the turkey trot is a fun run, you're likely to find plenty of turkey-themed costumes among the crowd. Don't hesitate to join in the festivities — just be considerate of other runners on the course, says Wolfe.
"Be mindful and preemptively respectful of others on the course: Make sure your costume won't pose any danger or inconvenience to other runners," she says. And while we all love to perform at our best, it's Thanksgiving, so race safely and make fun and family a priority.