It isn't essential to our overall fitness, but having a few pieces of fitness gear can help us stay motivated, give us a training edge, or allow us to reach that bucket list fitness goal.
Over the last few weeks, I sent a message out to you listeners and readers. I asked you to let me know the pieces of fitness gear that have served you so well in this last decade that you'll be bringing them with you into the new one. I received a bunch of emails and a pile of voicemail detailing everything from basic stuff like running shoes (thanks Genn) to more elaborate things I actually had to look up like a Bowflex Max Trainer (thanks Karen).
Before we dive into more of the gear submitted by the public, I'd like to recap some of the gear I covered in the past year.
Gear I talked about in 2019
Back in January, I took a look at Occlusion Training and how it can aid in muscle growth and allow you to lift lighter weights while reaping the same benefits as lifting heavier ones. To do that, you need some gear that I think is essential for any fit individual—resistance bands. I will definitely be using my resistance bands in the new year and onward.
In an interview with neuroscientist Dr. Bob Schafer, I looked at How Your Brain Keeps Your Body Fit. During our conversation, we talked about a piece of software called Lumosity. While playing brain games on your phone can't grow your biceps or increase your flexibility directly, indirectly, it can have a large impact on our fitness. As Dr. Schafer said in the interview "habits, focus, and repetition are just scratching the surface of how our brains can play an important role in optimizing our fitness levels."
I will definitely be using my resistance bands in the new year and onward.
Last spring I went undercover at a gym called 9Round and tried my hand at a boxing style workout. While my experience was not stellar, I did get an appreciation for how challenging and fun a boxing style workout can be. This made me seek out other gyms that are cheaper and more conveniently located so I can use their frustration relieving heavy bags and gloves on a semiregular basis.
Responding to some audience questions I wrote about whether or not Amino Acids Build Bigger Muscles. The verdict was that most of us do not need to purchase them if our diet is rich enough in an essential building block—protein. But if you feel that your diet is deficient, amino acids are something you could consider investing in.
Getting better at cycling requires that you have one of my favorite pieces of gear—a bike. Once you own a bike, you could also invest in a bike trainer (or even a smart trainer) that will allow you to ride in the climate-controlled safety of your own home. You can also accomplish some very specific workouts that are tricky to do out in the real world (single-leg pedaling, for example). And, of course, if you're going to be safer than I was in the photo that went along with my summer cycling vacation in Scandinavia article, you'll need a helmet too.
Much to my delight, a DNA test can even tell me how I'm going to react to one of my favorite pieces of 'fitness gear', a cup of coffee.
While not technically a piece of gear, we learned from Dr. Dan Reardon that a DNA test from a company called FitnessGenes could help you zero in and target your own specific fitness needs. Much to my delight, a DNA test can even tell me how I'm going to react to one of my favorite pieces of "fitness gear," a cup of coffee. I examined the impact of coffee and caffeine in my episode about whether avoiding caffeine can boost your athletic performance.
One of the best pieces of fitness gear you can invest in is a book. Whether it is Peak by Dr. Marc Bubbs, Dottir by Katrín Davíðsdóttir, or Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden, you can get information, training plans or good old inspiration from any of them.
I am a fan of both the minimalist shoes and the bike, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Finishing off the list is a couple more solid pieces of gear. First is a brand of minimalist footwear from Vivobarefoot CEO Galahad Clark, who joined me to talk about whether or not we should be going barefoot more often. Then, more recently, Rahul Bernath, the marketing director for the artificial-intelligence-controlled stationary bike called CAR.O.L, joined me for a friendly debate about whether or not you can truly get "fit " from riding a stationary bike a few times per week. I am a fan of both the minimalist shoes and the bike, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Your favorite gear
Now let's take a look at what you, the listeners and readers, have been using and plan to continue using as we close our eyes and dive headfirst into a new decade.
Raoul says that he will be keeping his Garmin Phoenix 5. He is an ultra runner, and without it, he feels like he may end up "running around aimlessly in the woods."
Morgan says that she is going to focus on warm layers of clothes. She loves to hike, especially in the fall and winter. She likes layers because she can start with a lot of them and, as she warms up, she can peel them back.
Dan says that he's keeping his Smart Trainer in the new year because "they are awesome." I agree, Dan. I use mine a few times per week, especially in the fall and winter.
Emily loves her foam roller. She can not say enough good things about it. She does a lot of running, and she uses her foam roller before or after her long and short runs and believes it has saved her from "a million aches and pains."
Dean had a few pieces of gear to share. He has some push-up Bars, a 10-pound Medicine Ball, a door frame pull-up bar, a "dip station," a stability ball, a heart rate monitor, and a skipping rope. It sounds to me like Dean has one heck of a home gym!
Karen wrote that she is a big fan of her Keen hiking shoes, which she uses on the lovely hiking trails in Washington state. She also can't do without her hiking companion, her dog. I love it! We all need a loyal hiking companion, and one that is willing to snuggle up for a nap afterward is even better.
Tess wrote that she can't do without her FitBit. When she can measure her step count and heart rate, she feels that it helps her to live a healthy lifestyle.
Heidi likes her gym membership. It provides her with the variety of exercises she needs to stay interested. She likes that she can work out alone or with a group. And making friends with people in class keeps her returning since she only sees those folks at the Y.
Karen wrote that her favorite exercise equipment is her Garmin Connect app/computer program. She feels that it is not so much any particular watch/activity tracker she prefers, but the Connect website that keeps track of all her workouts. She enjoys keeping track of her progress (or lack thereof) as well as her heart rate and GPS tracking. Karen also likes something called the Giam Peanut.
Neal send me an email saying that his favorite addition to his workout regimen is the Gym Fit resistance band handles. He uses them to get a good resistance workout at home.
Maurine wrote in and said that the three items she's using more and more as she gets more fit are an over the door pull-up bar, ab wheel, and—since it was sleeting outside where she lives—Kahtoola Microspikes to make her shoes less slippery.
It's not just about the gear
It has been a gear-filled year! And yet, at the same time, it hasn't. If you've been following this blog and podcast for a while, you know that I am a firm believer that fitness, first and foremost, comes from the movement we do outside of a formal exercise setting. We can spend 30-90 minutes each day sweating like crazy in a BODYPUMP class or pedaling away at Soul Cycle, but if we spend the rest of the day firmly planted in a chair, it may all be for naught.
I am a firm believer that fitness, first and foremost, comes from the movement we do outside of a formal exercise setting.
So aside from all the fun gear we just talked about, let's make a pact to get more movement into our days in this new decade and treat gear the way it should be treated—as a fun way to jazz up our dedicated exercise time but not as a panacea or a necessity. Personally, I've made peace with my Apple Watch by disabling most of the notifications. I now use it as a tool, not as a step-counting overlord.