Your Labor Day Cheat Sheet: How To Enjoy Labor Day Without Stalling Your Progress

In 1894, an election year, Grover Cleveland was faced with a serious dilemma. You see, in the late 1800’s the railroad industry was the hip place to be. It was the driving force of our economy. The railroad was like Silicon Valley on steroids.

Silicon Valley works well when most of the workers are happy and taken care of. The railroad was no different. Grover Cleveland realized this when the railroad workers went on strike because their wages were cut.

When the workers of your most valuable industry all decide to strike, that’s considered a problem. Enough of that, and the entire economy is shut down. Cleveland recognized this, and reacted in a way we wouldn’t really call level headed.

Cleveland used excessive force in response to the striking workers, which further outraged all the people striking for better wages. When people get underpaid, and then beat up by police, they’re generally unhappy. Crazy, I know.

Cleveland realized his error, and signed Labor Day into federal law, a day in which the entire country honored the workingman.

In reality, Grover was just making something that already took place official. Labor Day parades had been happening in big cities like New York for nearly a decade, and Canada had already made their own version of Labour Day an official law. That’s actually where we got the idea to begin with.

120 years later, and Labor Day is a day where we celebrate the worker. We celebrate Labor Day as the last “great day” of summer. There’s grilling out, boating on the lake, beach parties, and enough alcohol to drown the entire nation.

Labor Day is also one of those holidays that can derail all your hard earned progress if you’re not careful. Here’s how to keep that from happening.

You’ve got to save for your Labor Day party.

If you’ve ever thrown a Labor Day party, you know it’s not a cheap endeavor. You want to take care of your guests, so you buy plenty of burgers, brats, and beer.

Buy enough to supply 20 people, and you’re out a few hundred dollars. If you’re smart about that, you save. The same can be said about your Labor Day calories.

With alcohol and a social setting it’s easy for someone to throw back 1,000+ calories on top of what they normally would. That’s not enough to equal even 1lb of fat gain, but it can slow progress. If you’re in a diet, slowing progress is the last thing you want to do.

Most of this slowing comes in the form of alcohol, which has a three-pronged approach in halting fat loss:

  • You metabolize it first, so all other fat burning shuts down
  • It lowers inhibition, so you’re more likely to eat more when drunk
  • It makes it more difficult to get quality training sessions in the next day

Prepare and prevent fat loss stalling by saving calories in the days leading up the festivities. The harder you intend to go, the more you should save.

Go big picture.


Your caloric intake is a big picture view. We often think of calorie intake as a daily thing, when it’s really a weekly and monthly measurement. So with anomalies like Labor Day taking place, calorie intake is slightly raised. Not by a ton over the course of a month, but enough to be a speed bump to progress.

We plan for that by removing a few hundred calories per day in the time leading up to the festivities. If you plan 5 days in advance, and eat 200 calories fewer per day, you’ve saved 1,000 total calories to enjoy on Labor Day without destroying your progress.

1,000 extra calories in the bank that you can enjoy on Labor Day, all by removing a serving of peanut butter every single day.

If Labor Day is more like a Labor Weekend for you, like it is for most of us, then you need to be a bit more careful in planning. Over the course of 3 days it’s easy to get in an extra 3,000 to 4,000 calories, and this can do damage to a fat loss program.

In order to prepare, you might need a more drastic deficit in order to create enough savings. Or, if you don’t have enough time, you may need to eat at a larger deficit for a few days after to make up for the overall intake.

I like capping the deficit at 500 calories, because anymore gets pretty tough to deal with from a mental standpoint. So instead of removing just a serving of peanut butter each day, also remove a couple of servings of olive oil or carbs.

The Labor Day Laboring.

I’m a big fan of working out on holidays like Labor Day. The gym is usually a bit less crowded, and I like to get a great sweat session in to burn through some additional calories, as well as get my metabolism humming along before the impending debauchery.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by incorporating strength circuits. Think of compound movements that involve some heavy weights, all done at a fast pace.

This keeps my heart rate high, and gets plenty of muscles firing at once. This makes for some pretty serious calorie burning, in a very short amount of time.

What’s also beautiful is an effect known as EPOC. EPOC is putting your body into an oxygen debt via exercise. When you do this, your body must compensate by burning more calories to make up for the oxygen debt.

This effect can last for a long time, about 24-48 hours. Couple that with the calories you burn during a workout, and the calories you’ve saved via diet (the BIG key), and you’ve got a formula to prevent fat gain even in the most debauchery filled holidays.

The Labor:

Circuit A

  1. Goblet squat x20 reps

  • Dumbbell incline press x15 reps
  • 1 arm dumbbell row x15
  • Dumbbell Romanian deadlift x12

(Do this 4x total, resting 60 seconds between each round. Move from exercise 1,2,3,4 then rest. That’s 1 round.)

Circuit B

  • Kettlebell swing x15
  • Kettlebell front squat x10

  • Kettlebell press x8

(Do this 3x total, rest 40 seconds between each round)

Circuit C

  • Burpee x10
  • Mountain Climber x40

(Do this 2x total, resting 20 seconds between each round)

What to keep in mind

Calorie intake is a big picture thing. One day won’t lead to 5lbs of fat gain. You may be more on the scale, but that’s not fat. Most of that is likely from water and full carbohydrate stores.

It’s really hard to gain 1lb of fat, especially in one day. Plan ahead by eating at a deficit. Give yourself more calories to play with, guilt free. Work out to get your metabolism humming, burn calories, and deplete carb stores.

Enjoy the hell out of the holiday. Let yourself have that pie, that cake, and that beer. If you’re beating yourself up over what it might do to your waistline, then stop it. Unless you’re a competitor who is a week out from competition, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

After all, the holiday was made in celebration of us workers. It’d be rude not to celebrate it.