Trying to figure out what to get for the important people in your life who are on a mission to get fit? Here's a curated gift list for your fitness friend, workout well-wisher, multi-sport mate, health-nut honey, or cycling sidekick.
When I get asked for my “secret to staying fit,” the best secret I have to share is to “hack your habitat.” Instead of having to go to the exercise, bring the exercise to you! By making exercise and movement easy and available, you can truly stay fit without having to carve a bunch of time out of your busy schedule.
If you've been listening to my podcast or reading my articles for a while, you'll know that I don’t go in for the idea that you have to have all the latest, greatest, cutting-edge, newfangled devices in order to get a decent workout. I know many amazing athletes who shun gyms and gear altogether and prefer to make all their workouts as simple and barebones as possible.
By making exercise and movement easy and available, you can truly stay fit without having to carve a bunch of time out of your busy schedule.
Personally, I fall somewhere in between. I admit it—I like toys. But I don’t have unlimited space or money, so I try to walk a fine line and only buy the stuff that will give me the most bang for the buck and won’t ruin the aesthetic of our living room.
With that in mind, here's my official 2020 Get-Fit Guy holiday gift guide to help you in your quest to be a holiday hero. And please feel free to forward this to your partner or loved one to give them some hints on what you might like this year! You really can't go wrong with any of these fit, fun suggestions.
Let’s start with some fitness gear.
Adjustable dumbbells and kettlebells
Dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment you can get, but as you get stronger and expand your repertoire of dumbbell exercises, you are going to want more and more variety of weights. That can take up a lot of space and get messy - that is where adjustable dumbbells come in.
I have the Powerblocks dumbbells and have been happily using them for more than 10 years now. The set I have ranges from 2.5 lbs. to 50 lbs. with some simple adjustments and you can purchase a set that goes all the way up to 175 lbs. if need be.
Powerblock also sells adjustable kettlebells and if you read my recent article about kettlebells, you will know I'm a fan. Although they're not as versatile as dumbbells, you might go as far as to say that kettlebell exercises provide the ultimate combination of cardio, power, coordination, and stability all packed into one neat movement.
Elastic resistance bands
As I got into in my article about how to use Resistance Bands, they are compact, inexpensive, and light, which makes them perfect for your home, office, or travel use. Plus, when used correctly, you can build significant strength and muscle size using resistance bands alone.
They're also cost-effective. While you can easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars purchasing a home weight system, you can find a good set of resistance bands online for about twenty bucks. Sure, you can get into fancier and more expensive systems (like the X3 Elite Band), but most of us will do just fine with the cheaper and more colorful option.
With a bar at home, you can do pull-ups, chin-ups, and hand-over-hand dangling whenever you need a break, want to think, relax a tight spine, or partake in a movement snack.
As I said in my article about why I think you should have a pull-up bar at home, don't worry if you haven't done a pull-up in years (or ever). Starting this activity as an adult takes more than just simply buying a bar and doing it. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy one for a loved one this holiday season. Ho-ho, heck no!
The type of bar that I have at home uses tension and pressure to lock into a doorway. I had an over-the-door-frame type of bar but the last two places that I have lived had fancy door trim that made that type of bar impossible to use. So, unless you can count on very regulation-style doorways, I would encourage you to purchase a bar like the Garren Fitness Maximiza bar to ensure it is useful for your loved one.
Exercise stability ball
These balls have many names—yoga ball, stability ball, exercise ball—but no matter what you call them, they are one of the most useful pieces of fitness equipment anyone can have around the house. From using it as a weight bench to doing core exercises to sitting on it like a chair, this is a great gift for your fit friend.
I would encourage you to look at the weight limit before you buy a stability ball. For most stability balls, the limit is 250 lbs. (about 113 kg), although models capable of supporting much heavier weights are not uncommon these days. Also, look for a ball that is burst-resistance or anti-burst. This means that if the ball is accidentally punctured, it won't burst and disappear terrifyingly from under you. Instead, the air will slowly leak out so you're less likely to hurt yourself.
Now here are some online tools for your tech-savvy fitness friends.
I talked about the rise of Massively Multiplayer Online Training platforms quite a while ago and in my mind there is one clear winner that has hung around (and gotten better and more popular) since then. It's an online cycling and running game called Zwift.
Zwift is a massively multiplayer online cycling and running physical training app that enables users to interact, train, and compete in a virtual world. For example, this morning, from the comfort of my own home, on my own bike, using my own smart trainer connected via Bluetooth to my tablet, I was able to ride through the streets of Paris along with about 14, 000 other cyclists from around the world.
Zwift isn't a perfect substitute for riding in the great outdoors, but it is a lot more fun than staring at my stopwatch like I used to do back in the olden days of the early 2000s.
For your loved ones who aren’t into running or cycling indoors, this is a great platform to keep your body moving and have some fun in your own living room. As I wrote in my article all about it, Body Groove was one of the top ten most Googled fitness crazes of 2019 and it's still going strong.
Each Body Groove video is about 5 minutes long and it leads you through a dance or aerobics-style routine where you do a couple of easy dance moves in many variations that provide options for any levels of fitness.
And don’t worry if you have two left feet! Even if you're not a dancer or if you have some movement limitations, you're meant to adapt the movement in any way that works for your current mobility and fitness level and let yourself get into it.
Honorable mention to Mike Peele’s Hip-Hop Fit videos, which would also make an excellent fitness gift choice.
Biomechanist, Katy Bowman teamed up with fascia expert Jill Miller to create a comprehensive “whole body” program that breaks down the act of walking into its components. By tackling each one separately, their aim is to help improve your gait, gain distance, and make every step count for whole-body health and longevity.
The program is aptly called Walking Well: A Stepwise Approach to an Everyday Movement. I finished the entire 14-segment, six-hour course, and I can say firsthand (as an avid walker) that Walking Well is for everybody ... and every body.
Moving on, recovery gear can get a little more expensive but your fit loved ones will be thrilled to receive any of these gifts.
NormaTec Neumatic Compression pants
Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC) is essentially the same as those super-tight clothing we see athletes wearing but more complicated. It is pulsating pressure that surrounds the body by using inflatable sleeves or boots. In theory, as I discussed in my interview with Associate Professor of Physiology, Jeff Martin, the sequence or pattern that the pressure is applied with will help with the circulation of blood and lymph fluid, which is something that your circulatory system does to keep you limber and able.
I got a chance to try out the NormaTec Pulse 2.0 and I still lament the day that I had to send the demo pair back. There really is something delightfully magical about having your legs hugged repeatedly after a long training day.
Hypervolt Percussion Massager
Percussive and vibration massagers are the latest among a neverending parade of recovery and performance fitness trends. This type of device applies rapid bursts of pressure into your muscle tissue, transmitted to your skin through specific frequencies of vibration.
In the power-drill-looking version—like the Hypervolt, which I have—the rapid pressure is transmitted to your skin via a shaft extending and retracting very quickly in and out of the device. The end of the shaft has a variety of attachments—round, flat, and pointy.
If you're thinking about gifting one of these this year, you can rest assured that there's some scientific evidence that it's at least as effective as a real massage and plenty of anecdotal evidence (from yours truly) that it just plain feels good.
What gift list would be complete without some books?
In the book Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery, Christie Ashwandan looks at some of my favorite recovery tricks, methods, and devices with what I would describe as an air of skepticism but also true science. You can learn more about that book in my interview with the author.
My fellow Canadian runner and sport science writer Alex Hutchinson’s wrote a great book called Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, which asks the question: What if we all can go farther, push harder, and achieve more than we think we're capable of?
More fitness gift ideas?
There you have it! A great list of gifts that any fit friend would love to receive. Using this list, you can shop guilt-free for your entire list and feel smugly satisfied that you gave the gift of health and fitness this holiday season.
If you have questions, additions, or suggestions, feel free to tell me about them on Facebook or Twitter, and remember that all the purchases you make using most of the links provided help support the Quick and Dirty Tips network.
Happy and fit holidays, everyone!