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Happy Thanksgiving day! Welcome to another edition of ‘Life’ Ingredients, the newsletter where I share a workout, a healthy recipe, and a piece of motivational advice.
It’s November, and that means Thanksgiving! And the proper start of the holiday season. This is my favorite time of year because of the food, and I get to spend more time with my family, but as I shared earlier this week, there are many of our nation’s heroes unable to be with their loved ones during the holidays. And I hope we all take a moment to think of them.
I also recognize that for millions of us, it’s the busiest time of year and that carries with it more stress, worry, and anxiety. I’ll have some thoughts to share on the double-edged nature of this time of year in the motivational portion of this newsletter, but for now, I want to talk about LEFT OVERS!
In many ways, telling you what to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers is a bit of an empty gesture. You probably have your own traditions by now—whether that’s a simple late-night turkey sandwich, a big pot of turkey soup, or the preferred favorite of dads across America: picking at the turkey with your bare hands and feeding yourself right there on the spot with the refrigerator door open. I pass no judgments on any of these behaviors, even if others in your household do.
But what this recipe offers you is a brand-new way to experience those leftovers. When you follow these relatively simple steps, your meal is not merely “Thanksgiving, again” or “Thanksgiving, but on bread” but an entirely unique dish that transforms those leftovers into something greater than the sum of its parts, a meal you’ll pine for year-round.
Now, I know this time of year can be stressful, so I want to dive into the workout section. After all, in my 58 years on this planet, I’ve yet to discover a better way of dealing with stress…
It pays to divide your body into halves when you train. Here’s why.
Forcing your body to pump blood to alternate hemispheres of your body gets twice as much work done in the same amount of time.
An old-school bodybuilding split looks like this: chest and back one day; biceps and triceps another; legs on another; shoulders on another; repeat. Splitting a routine up like this allowed bodybuilders to cram a lot of volume in for a single body part to help build it up, and since you’re not working that body part again for another four or five days, there’s ample recovery time. The other major benefit: When all your exercise choices focus on the same area, blood rushes to that area of the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. Some of the old-school splits combined shoulders and legs for time’s sake, but serious bodybuilders split these up; if you’re trying to get big shoulders, you don’t want your legs siphoning blood away.
But if your goal isn’t to get big, what do you do? Specifically, if your goal is like many—to lose weight—how should you structure your workout? It turns out that you’ll want to do the exact opposite of what a bodybuilder would do—send blood rushing from your upper body to your lower body, back and forth, for much of the workout. This forces your heart to beat faster to keep up, adding a cardiovascular training element to a traditional weight routine.
To take things a step further and build greater strength, try independently training the right and left sides of your body. For example, alternate dumbbell curls, left and right, and do single-leg moves like split squats, pistol squats, and single-leg leg presses. When using any plate loaded (hammer strength) machine, try doing all your reps for the weaker side of your body (if you’re right-handed, try doing all reps for your left side first).
When the left and right sides of your body work in tandem with their combined strength acting upon the same object—as in a barbell curl, bench press, or barbell squat—the weaker side of your body can be “carried” to some extent by the stronger side of your body. Working left and right sides independently can help diminish the strength discrepancy between the left and right sides of your body, if not eliminate it altogether.
Dave Reid is an injured Army veteran, a Robert Irvine Foundation staff member, and one of my favorite work out buddies. I’ve asked him to film the workout for you to follow along or you can read the directions below.
After a five- to ten-minute warmup, perform the following workout as a circuit, resting for only two minutes after completing the Russian twist. Do three circuits total.
EXERCISE X REPS
Dumbbell Split Squat X 20
Left-Right Dumbbell Press X 20
Dumbbell Lunge X 20
Left-Right Hammer Row X 20
Dumbbell Step-up X 20
Left-Right Bench Press X 20
Left-Right Calf Raise X 20
Left-Right Dumbbell Curl X 20
Dumbbell Kickback X 20
Russian Twist X 50
Thanksgiving may have a simple message—that we take one day to set aside our desires and ambitions and merely spend this time being thankful, especially for our loved ones—but it’s not that simple or easy for many of us to take to heart.
Work is the first factor. Most employees experience serious deadline pressure right before a major holiday. The work week might be a short one, but the work still needs to get done. That compounds the pressure that’s already inherent to any holiday, meaning the prep time to shop, cook, or travel is truncated into the tiny space we can squeeze after we get our work done.
The second factor is more directly self-inflicted. I’m referring to the fact that the default stress reliever for many adults, especially around the holidays, is reaching for a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail. There’s nothing wrong about relaxing with a drink; please, I own a liquor company and a pub. I love a good drink. But I would implore you as you approach the holiday to be fully present and examine your own motivations; to wit, if you find yourself reaching for a drink, ask yourself if it’s to join in the celebration or if you’re literally using the alcohol because you can’t relax without it. There’s a big difference.
After a moment of reflection, if you think you might be using or abusing alcohol rather than merely celebrating, then what you really need isn’t a drink.
If you break your back by overextending yourself to host the perfect event, then you’ve done yourself a disservice. Working hard to make the holiday special for your family is a wonderful thing to do, but not at the expense of your mental health.
So slow down, check in with yourself, and speak with a loved one, a friend, or a mental health professional if you need to. Try to remind yourself of how much pain and strife there is in the world right now. The perfect Thanksgiving, then, really has nothing to do with what kind of food you put on the table. It has everything to do with being able to gather with your loved ones at all.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
And never forget the words I live by…Nothing is Impossible.