If you’re anything like me, you still haven’t finished your Christmas shopping (shhh . . . don’t tell my wife!). If so, I’m sure you’ve been racking your brain, trying to figure out what to get those important people on your Christmas list, and trying not to buy the same old shirt, perfume, or coffee mug that you bought last year. If this sounds like you, why don’t you try something different this year? Why don’t you make this Christmas a merry “Fit-Mas” for that special person on your list who is looking to get a little more fit after the holidays.
There are a lot of inexpensive yet thoughtful fitness gifts you can easily pick up to start the New Year off right. Anyone — whether a beginning exerciser, fitness enthusiast, adult recreational athlete, or even a child — can have a merry Fit-Mas if you think outside the traditional gift box this holiday season.
Now, I’m not necessarily talking about high-end gifts like treadmills or three-year gym memberships. If anything, I’d discourage big purchases like that because they place pretty big expectations on the recipient. Ideally, you don’t want to (unintentionally) guilt someone into committing to a longer-term exercise program than what they think is realistic, or they just won’t stick to it. You’re better off starting with small purchases that are a little less intimidating, particularly if you’re buying for someone who is just starting an exercise program.
There are several gifts under $25 that make great stocking stuffers. First and foremost, don’t discount healthy snacks like protein bars, 100-calorie snack packs, and turkey jerky, rather than Christmas cookies, chocolates, and candy canes. Healthy snacks can be great, tasty alternatives to traditional higher calorie holiday sweets. If you’re looking for something a little more tangible, pedometers (which allow you to count steps taken during the day) can be purchased at your nearest sporting goods store. These neat little devices are a great way to set activity goals for that person looking to get moving in the New Year. Small calorie count books (like the Calorie King), which can be purchased at any local book store for less than $10, are great options for that person looking to watch what they eat after the holidays. Pair the calorie count book with a pocket-sized food journal, and you’ve got the perfect gift for that person who’s looking to food log after the first of the year.
If you’re shopping for someone who likes to open gifts wrapped under the tree, fear not, because there are some inexpensive gifts that will work for that person on your list. New workout clothes are always great option for that person who’s looking to start a new workout routine after the first of the year. Although you can pick up some expensive “designer” workout clothes that cost a pretty penny (maybe more than you want to spend for a shirt and some yoga pants), Target sells a line of durable, comfortable workout clothes that are a great value. You can get most workout outfits at Target for less than $25-30. In addition, resistance tubing with handles is a great way to perform more than 50 exercises for your upper and lower body without ever leaving your living room or basement. Bands come in various resistances (from light to extra heavy) to accommodate different strength and experience levels. Resistance bands are the perfect gift for that person on your list who travels a lot but still likes to get in a workout.
Finally, there are some great books you can wrap up and put under the tree to educate everyone from the beginner exerciser to the most hardcore runner. Weight Training Fundamentals (by Sandler) is an outstanding book for that person on your list who’s just starting a weight training program. The Lore of Running (by Noakes) is a must-read for every runner who has even considered running anything longer than 10K. And, the “Eat This, Not That” series of books is outstanding for anyone who is looking to eat healthier without sacrificing taste.
If you’re looking to spend a little more money on a gift (but not break the bank), there are some slightly more expensive fitness gifts you can pick up. Heart rate monitors (which allow you to track the intensity of aerobic exercise) can be purchased for $50-75 at most sporting goods stores. Heart rate monitors are great gifts for the outdoor walker or runner on your list. Stability balls are a great, compact way to perform a multitude of fun, yet challenging, exercises for the entire body, and the best part is the ball can even double as a bench to do chest presses on. Stability balls are normally around $35-50 (depending on the material); keep in mind that they come in different sizes, based on height, so use the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines to make sure you get the right one. Small hand weights (or dumbbells) are a great gift for that person your list who is a home-based exerciser. Dumbbells are by far the most versatile piece of exercise equipment, allowing you to do literally hundreds of exercises in a 3’ x 3’ area. They normally cost about $1/pound, and generally can be purchased cheaper at sporting goods stores (like Dunham’s or MC Sports) than at fitness equipment retailers. A full set of dumbbells for your average women should include 5’s, 8’s, and 10’s. The average man might need a slightly heavier set of 15’s, 20’s, and 25’s.
OK, now that we’ve talked about what to get to make this a Merry Fit-Mas, it’s time to talk about what **not **to get, so you don’t waste your money or your gift recipient’s time, energy, or enthusiasm. In general, I would just tell you to use your judgment with respect to anything you see on TV that seems too good to be true. But, just in case you had any of these gifts in mind, I’ll get a little more specific about a few of them. First, weight loss pills: they don’t work, they are overpriced, and, in some cases, they can even be dangerous (oh, and did I mention they don’t work?!?), so please save your money. Second, the “Shake Weight” — if you’ve seen this “workout device” (using that term loosely), the claims that it makes can’t possibly be validated with any real science. Not only is it overpriced and ineffective, but the user will feel really silly performing any of the exercises. Third, if you’ve read our previous newsletters, you already know how I feel about the “Fitness Footwear” craze (if you missed that article go to: The Truth Behind “Fitness” Footwear). Enough said! Finally, whatever you do, don’t buy any devices that target “abdominal or thigh fat,” mainly because you can’t target abdominal and thigh fat – these devices are scams and a waste of time and money.
Now, this is certainly more of a gift-giving guide than a must-buy shopping list. A merry Fit-Mas might not be right for everyone on your gift list, but I’m sure there are at least one or two people on your list who would appreciate a jump start to their New Year’s fitness goals. So, to those people, I say Merry Fit-Mas and here’s to a healthier you in 2011.