Feast on this Thanksgiving Day Swim Workout from Walnut Creek Masters

The Walnut Creek Masters Swim gathers every Thanksgiving morning for a special four-course "buffet" of swimming—and we've got the recipe for the first two courses.

Photo: Walnut Creek Masters

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While turkey trots are the activity du jour on Thanksgiving morning, there’s a different tradition taking place in northern California. For more than 15 years, the Walnut Creek Masters Swim Club has kicked off the holiday by diving in for a special four-course “buffet” of swimming known as the Practice to Feast On.

The tradition was established by coach and founder Kerry O’Brien, who wanted to offer members of the close-knit group a way to spend time together on the holiday. “This workout serves as a celebration of our swim family before dashing off to spend time with our blood families,” said coach Steve Stahl, who took over for O’Brien after his retirement in September 2021. “Needless to say, it is our most crowded workout of the year.”

More than 140 people dive in to the pool’s 20 lanes for the 90-minute workout. Due to the popularity of the workout, non-members and out-of-town guests are not allowed, though a few younger members on college breaks have been known to sneak in. If it sounds chaotic, it is—but in the best kind of way. “Everyone is thankful and appreciative of their fellow lane mates,” Stahl said. “The positive vibe, even with seven or eight swimmers to a lane, is a sight to behold.”

A practice to feast on


300 easy

200 kick

200 pull

Set 1: Choose your veggies

Succotash Yams
Swim 6x(25-25-50)
All on moderate intervals
25s are of different non-free strokes, easy intervals 50 choice
Swim 4x(75+3x25)
All free
75s @ +5 interval
25s @ fast-to-moderate
Total: 600 Total: 600

Set 2: Choose your meat

White Dark Turducken
Swim 10x(25-50-75)
All @ ascending/descending intervals
Odd rounds: Easy-moderate-fast intervals
Even Rounds: Fast-moderate-easy intervals
75s are back-to-back fast
Swim 6x(100-100-50)
1st 100 @ FSPO*
2nd 100 @FSPO +10
50 easy
Swim 10x(25-50-75)
All at moderate interval Within each round, each distance a different stroke
You may change strokes from round to round
15s are always sprints
Total: 1500 Total: 1500 Total: 1500

*FSPO: Fastest Possible Send-Off

“For some of our swimmers that need more time to finish the workout, we offer the same practice  ‘Jenny Craig’ style,” Stahl said. “These involve smaller ‘portions,’ or fewer repeats and smaller total yards.”

Set 3: Stuffing
Set 4: Pumpkin Pie with “Whuppin’ Cream”

The fun continues at Walnut Creek with two additional sets. However, Stahl says those are a “family recipe” he just can’t share with us. Swimmers doing this set on their own could go for second servings of veggies and meat, add on a set from one of our Weekend Swim Workout archives to round out the platter, or simply cool-down—it is Thanksgiving, after all, and that turkey won’t eat itself.

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