In pursuit of a guilt-free Thanksgiving

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Ah, Thanksgiving.

My favorite holiday for so many reasons: food, spending time with family and friends, and lots of time to ride during day light hours while off from work.

Of course, any racer worthy of the title obsesses about the first and last items in my brief list. The food on Thanksgiving is delicious, and often consumed in disgusting quantities. Sometimes, food is even accompanied by alcohol for racers who have really fallen off the wagon. Riding over Thanksgiving, as a result, although fun as always, falls squarely in the middle of a rest period for most of us, and is therefore done at least partially out of a sense of guilt for many of us.

Such was the scenario on Friday morning, when I rolled into Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and immediately found a 20-rider peloton already doing laps. I hoped right in, joining what turned out to be a growing group of cyclists anxious to work off the previous day’s gluttony.

A day earlier, while riding with a similar group in the same park, there was talk of riding extra laps to build a larger calorie deficit. There were people representing three perspectives on Thursday’s ride. First there were men taking advantage of a day off from work, while their wife or family slaved away in the kitchen at home. Then there were people so genuinely excited about turkey and candied yams that they truly wanted to make “extra room,” silly though the notion may be. I generally try to avoid generalizations, but I will divulge that most of the riders in these first two categories could have been safely labeled “recreational.”

Then there were others, myself included, who were more concerned about the long-term ramifications of overstuffing on stuffing, and were thus willing to stay an extra hour in the park before our holiday meal, with the goal of minimizing holiday weight gain. I would say that each of these three attitudes is fairly common among cyclists, as we’re always obsessing about a few extra grams of body weight.

Yes, we cyclists can be somewhat nuts when it comes to food.

A high school health teacher might say that this constitutes disordered eating or compulsive exercise, but I prefer to think of it as calculated indulgence. It’s the off-season and eating pie and drinking are supposed to be OK — in moderation — so I, and many other cyclist riding loops in the park on a Thursday morning, probably shouldn’t have been connecting miles ridden to potatoes to be consumed later, but it’s impossible to turn that part of the brain off, at least for me. The key is that you can’t let your mini mania get in the way of your holiday fun.

Does that mean the high school health teacher is right? Yeah, maybe, but I believe that doesn’t make us unhealthy, it just adds a dimension to our healthy cycling enthusiasm. Besides, comparing holiday meals is infinitely more fun than comparing wattage.



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