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Top Five Exercise Gifts

Let’s face it.  There’s at least one person in your life who couldn’t hurt from getting a little extra encouragement to get them fitter in the upcoming year.  Right now, I’m staring down some poundage that snuck up on me in the last season, after I’d diligently worked my routine the whole year.  I’ll be getting STS Shock Cardio soon, though, so I’m set on my motivator for the new year.  But for those of you who are thinking about getting something for yourselves or your friends and loved ones, but don’t know where to start, here’s my Top Five Exercise Gifts.

  1. Heart Rate Monitor — The price on this little gadget can range anywhere between $50-$300, depending on its functions.  I’ve tried out the Polar F11 and the FT40, and I’ve been very pleased with the results.  By having this gadget handy, you can train more effectively in the heart rate zone you want to be in.  Say that you want to do a long, “fat burning zone” workout — you can keep your  HR in that zone by checking the display the whole time.  Or maybe you don’t want your heart rate to drop below a certain level or skyrocket above another — you can configure some monitors to start beeping if that occurs.  Most monitors also sync up with cardio equipment at the gym, as well, so you don’t even have to look at your watch.  If you’re the kind of person that trains alone often (without the aid of a trainer, class, or video), this tool can drastically improve your success, whether your goals be fat loss or cardio endurance.
  2. Resistance Bands — These little buggers can fool you.  They look like the items that seniors use at physical therapy — and they ARE — but they can also fry your muscles.  Unlike gravity-based weights like dumbbells or barbells, resistance bands force your body to fight against a constant tension, which strengthens your muscles in different ways.  It feels different.  It feels good.  (It can also feel like evil.  Yes, you can *feel* evil.  Anyone say, “bonus burn”?)  Resistance bands are cheap, anywhere from $5-$20, and they’re incredibly portable.  One major piece of advice: unless you have a latex allergy, go for latex bands in the beginning.  Non-latex bands are much stiffer and harder to break-in and use in the beginning.  (And as much as I love Cathe Friedrich, I would NOT advise using the FBC non-latex resistance bands.  Buy from Dynaband or Theraband.)
  3. iPods/mp3/media player — A fantastic multitasker of a gift!  These make awesome presents even for non-fitness related activities.  If you’re going to go out on a run or outside or hop on the treadmill, who wouldn’t rather hear their favorite music instead of listening to musings of the thin Barbie doll on the machine next to you or the cars honking at each other?  Definitely a pricier gift, but you can still get some for under $50.  Some people may want super portability, and some may a big screen to watch video.  Your price changes with the specifications.  (Personally, I want Santa to bring me a Zune HD.)   All in all, an awesome gift.
  4. Step — My Original Health Club Step is by far the best piece of equipment I’ve ever spent money on.  I will never stop doing step aerobics until medical conditions prevent me from doing so or I die.  You don’t need a ton of space, but by adding this vertical element to your cardio workouts, you intensify the exercises.  You heart rate goes up and your muscles get stronger from going up, up up!  It’s possible to do a cardio-intensive workout — and I mean really get your HR up there — and keep it all low-impact by adding height to your step.  In addition, it’s been a fantastic multitasker as well.  I’ve used it as a weight bench so I can do heavy chest work, or lying extensions, or even incline weight work (though I would advise you get the slanted risers for that).  There are a couple different forms of the step done by different companies, but I really like the Original Health Club Step.  You can add risers to it as you need (I use four risers on each side for my STS Strength Plyo Legs Workouts); the nonskid surface does exactly what it’s supposed to; and it all absorbs shock really well.  If you’re going to go for another brand, I would suggest the Reebok Step.  It only adjusts to 6″, 8″, or 10″ — which is most of the height you would need — but it’s all in one piece, so you don’t have to buy extra pieces or worry about misplacing them.  With either model, you’re looking to spend a solid $80-90 but completely worth it’s weight in gold (if not more).
  5. Workout Videos/Downloads — Look, I’m a exercise vidiot, but honestly, I have learned more from the really high quality exercise videos than I have from attending studio classes.  Sad, but true.  But, you know — whatever gets you off your butt and working out!  I think videos are a great intro into exercise for a lot of people.  You don’t need to have a ton of equipment in the beginning, and if you’re shy and self-conscious like me, it’s nice to be able to burn some calories in the privacy of your own home.  Frankly, I burn more calories and work harder in my home doing Cathe videos than I ever had at the gym or in classes (well, except for Cathe’s class in NJ).  I also get bored easily without having the cue right in front of me, so this floats my boat beautifully.  But what about your runners?  There’s a great download for you, as well: Cardio Coach.  I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s supposed to be an amazing supplement to your running training by helping you control your pace as well the type of running you do (steady-state vs. interval, for example).  And you weight lifters out there?  The whole STS series can be downloaded to a portable video device like an iPod Touch or Zune HD  at www.cathedownloads.com.  Click and sweat at the gym.  High quality downloads cost as little as $4 and range up to $15 for a single workout, and its pretty easy to get bulk discounts..

So, there you go — a quick hit list of exercise gifts ranging from the stocking stuffer to the big bow presents.  I realize that some people may find buying presents for exercise to be implying someone’s out of shape, and that’s a no-no.  If you have loved ones who will be more hurt than appreciative, then of course, don’t get them the items on the aforementioned list.  But I think most people today realize how important it is to be healthy and active and appreciate all the emotional support they can get!  Finding your fitness bug is by far one of the best presents you can ever get in your lifetime as it keeps on giving and giving.  Spread the love, and remember: those who sweat together, stay together.

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