I’m a terrible gift giver. My wife insists otherwise, but I know she’s just being her usual kind and considerate self when she smiles and says how much she loves whatever it is I stuffed inside that reused gift bag we keep in the bottom drawer of our kitchen cabinet. The problem is, I always wait until the last minute to take care of the Christmas/birthday/anniversary shopping. I buckle under the pressure of finding the perfect gift and settle on the passable.
If you’re like me and you’ve yet to even think about which fitness freak on your Christmas list has been naughty or nice, don’t fret. Most of the following gifts can be picked up at your local mall (remember malls?), so you won’t have to worry about shipping delays. And if you opt for Amazon, well, forking out some extra cash for express delivery is the price you pay for being a slacker.
Dressed for (lifting) success
Those clunky, thick-soled New Balance sneakers you’ve been wearing since college? They’re the reason your knees hurt when you squat. Traditional running shoes elevate your heels under a heavy cushion before tapering off at the forefoot, plus there’s all that extra structural support in the arches. Great for the road, not so great for the weight room where you need to plant your feet on a firm, stable surface in order to generate maximum power.
Minimalist shoes address this by stripping things down to the bare essentials. With those fancy frills out of the picture, the muscles in your feet are forced into action, delivering a more tactile training experience. I’ve been wearing the Prio from Xero Shoes for most of 2018 and recommend them to everyone. Another excellent choice: Nike’s Metcon trainers, a versatile hybrid between traditional and minimalist shoes for those whose feet require a certain level of TLC.
Chances are those shoes aren’t the only items in your gym bag begging for an upgrade. A relative newcomer in the ever-expanding athleisure-wear market, MPG is making waves by offering high-stylin’ gym clothes with all of the functional design features you’d expect from more expensive brands. Even their jeans are made from stretchable denim, perfect for the athletically minded urban hipster on your shopping list.
Gear for the gym
Transforming oneself into a mountain of muscle takes food. A lot of food. Invented by pro bodybuilder Stan Efferding, the Kooler solves the logistical issues by allowing lifters to carry cold meals and protein shakes with them wherever they go. Indestructible and leak-proof, the Kooler also has handy storage compartments for your wallet, keys and workout supplements.
Most fitness gadgets are useless pieces of junk (Shake Weight, anyone?). The Stealth Core Trainer is one of those rare exceptions where the gimmick – making the plank exercise more fun and engaging by incorporating video games into the mix – has practical value. Users download the Stealth gaming app to their smartphones, assume a plank position on top of the Stealth balance board, then game your way to a six pack! It’s that easy … at least according to the infomercial.
Don’t forget to train your brain
I like to think that the misguided notion of weightlifter-as-idiot-meathead becomes less popular with each passing year. To further the fight against this stereotype, it’s important for gym rats to spend some time working on that mass of matter in their skulls.
One of the best memoirs I’ve read, Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder tells the story of Sam Fussell, bookish Oxford graduate turned steroid-abusing powerhouse. Whether recalling the halcyon days of the 1980s California lifting scene or analyzing the insecurities that fuelled his torturous workouts, Fussell’s impressive literary chops make this a must-read.
Part instructional guide, part historical encyclopedia, The Purposeful Primitive is a contemporary classic of weightlifting literature. Marty Gallagher, powerlifting coach extraordinaire, digs deep into the history of physical culture, delivering biographical portraits of iron giants such as Bill Pearl, Dorian Yates and Ed Coan while dissecting the training methods that made these men legends.
Regular readers of my column know that consistency is the key to achieving your fitness goals. In Atomic Habits, author and self-improvement guru James Clear outlines a practical framework for improving just about every aspect of your life through the power of habit. Needless to say, the strategies put forth in this instant bestseller have implications that reach far beyond the gym.
Paul Landini is a personal trainer and health educator at the Toronto West End College Street YMCA. Follow him on Twitter @mrpaullandini.
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