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8 Stocking Stuffers for Fitness Lovers

by
author image Greg Presto
Greg Presto is a sports and fitness reporter and video guy in Washington, D.C., who thinks fitness should be fun and an adventure, whether you're on a trail, in the gym, or on the living room floor. He's done work for "Men's Health," "Women's Health," "Shape," "Prevention," "Reebok," "USA Today" and others.

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8 Stocking Stuffers for Fitness Lovers
iStockphoto

Shopping for a big gift for the gym rat, cyclist, runner, or yogi in your life --or anyone who aspires to be fitter -- is a sweat-free snap. A new mat, a heavier kettlebell, shiny sandbag, new helmet, or cool fuel belt can fit perfectly under the tree (and bigger gifts like a squat rack or new bike may not fit, but they’ll certainly bring a smile to your loved one’s face). But what about the gifts that hang from the mantle in a sock? Candy canes won’t cut it, so fill your fitness lover's stocking with these small gifts that can have a big impact on their results. THAT will make them feel very merry.

A Travel Band That Fits In Even the Smallest Carry-On
Superband

A TRAVEL BAND THAT FITS IN EVEN THE SMALLEST CARRY-ON

Resistance bands let you take strength training anywhere, turning a hotel room, park, or the backyard into a fully-stocked gym. But handles can make them bulky, and for frequent travelers, every inch of carry-on space counts. Get the road warrior in your life a no-handles superband ($7.95 and up, Performbetter.com), and problem solved: These little wonders can roll up as small as a belt, and will allow users to perform overhead presses, resisted pushups, rows, pulldowns, and even advanced stretching maneuvers (see the next slide).

Related: Purchase the Superband

How To Use It: Tricep and Lat Stretch
iStockphoto

HOW TO USE IT: TRICEP AND LAT STRETCH

Brett Klika, director of athletics at FitnessQuest10 in San Diego, Calif., recommends the Superband for loosening muscles in the back of the arms and upper back. Start with one end of the band in your right hand, and put your arm straight overhead. Then bend your elbow so the band hangs behind you. With your left arm hanging down, bend your elbow and reach up to grab the band behind your back. In this position, pull up with your right hand while you pull down with your left. Then switch sides. The band can also be looped around your waist while a partner holds on from behind for resisted sprints, or it can be used to help with pull-ups and pushups.

The Hardware Store Staple That Works Your Body
Lowes

THE HARDWARE STORE STAPLE THAT WORKS YOUR BODY

Fitness companies have begun selling products that allow exercisers' arms or legs to slide across the floor, and with good reason, says Jared Meachem, Fitness Services Director at Sky Fitness & Wellbeing. "Instability training with gliding exercise is an incredible way to work out through a full range of motion," he says. This type of training "ensures that your body works harder because all of the small stability muscles have to engage during the movement." But you don't need an expensive contraption to get this training effect. While cheaper options are available at your local hardware store (furniture sliders), we recommend the Valslide ($29.95, valslide.com).

Related: Purchase the Valslide Classic

How To Use It: Sliding Reverse Lunges and Lying Leg Curls
Valerie Waters

HOW TO USE IT: SLIDING REVERSE LUNGES AND LYING LEG CURLS

Start with a glider under one foot and push the gliding foot backwards until your front leg is in a full lunge position, with your knee at a 90-degree angle. Use your front leg to stand back up, sliding your rear leg back up to the starting position. Repeat, and then switch legs. Lying leg curls, meanwhile, are a serious challenge for your hamstrings. To do them, start on your back with knees bent, feet flat on two gliders, and hips slightly raised off the ground. Slowly press your feet straight down away from you, until your legs are almost straight. Then forcefully contract your hamstrings to slide your feet back toward your body, returning to the starting position. Repeat.

Related: Purchase the Valslide Classic

Headphones to Last Through Their Sweat Session
Bose

HEADPHONES TO LAST THROUGH THEIR SWEAT SESSION

Science proves that the right music pumps you up. Researchers found in one study that athletes increased their power by 10 percent by listening to upbeat music. But you'll only get the benefit if you can hear the tunes, and after a long run or ride through the rain, your headphones can fizzle and even fail. Keep the bands marching on with Bose's SIE2i sport headphones (Bose.com; $149.95 with microphone for phone calls, $119.95 for music only). Like all Bose products, these green or orange buds are pricey, but they've got quality to back it up --they're designed to be both water-and salt-proof, protecting your buds from the sweat that makes cheaper headphones falter.

Related: Purchase the Bose SIE2i sport headphones

How To Use It: Interval Run (Or Ride) to Music
Bose

HOW TO USE IT: INTERVAL RUN (OR RIDE) TO MUSIC

Want to do some challenging interval training? Your tunes can help. Put together a playlist with songs at varying BPMs – up tempo tracks during work sessions, and slower songs for your rest periods. That way, when you hit the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike, your headphones will help you set the right pace.

Related: Purchase the Bose SIE2i sport headphones

The $2 Rehab Tool for Every Athlete
iStockphoto

THE $2 REHAB TOOL FOR EVERY ATHLETE

Lots of gyms provide foam rollers for myofascial release, a type of self-massage that relieves sore muscles, speeds recovery and feels amazing. But at Crossfit gyms, a smaller, simpler tool has been added to the arsenal for release -- a lacrosse ball. "Expensive therapy balls go missing, so you're loath to lend them out. The lacrosse ball is about two bucks," says Kelly Starrett, DPT, creator of MobilityWOD.com and a pioneer of the lacrosse ball technique. Starrett uses the balls to work on the thoracic spine and restore motion in the ribs, helping everyone who sits in a chair all day improve mobility and decrease reliance on painkillers.

Related: Purchase a lacrosse ball

How To Use It: Lower Body Relief
Lululemon

HOW TO USE IT: LOWER BODY RELIEF

Starrett suggests spending 15 minutes each evening on the ball to roll out your hamstrings, glutes, and feet. Start with the ball on a chair or hard surface, like a wood floor. Slowly put the weight of one glute on the ball. "If you find an ugly spot, contract your buttocks around it," Starrett says. "Then suddenly, release. You'll sink right through that ugly spot and that restriction." After two minutes on each glute in this way, try taking your full weight on the ball on one glute, and--very, very slowly--roll side to side on the ball. Do this for 2 minutes, then switch glutes. When you're finished, do the same on your hamstrings and the bottom of your feet.

Related: Purchase a lacrosse ball

Help Your Yogi Avoid the Funk
Jo-Sha Wipes

HELP YOUR YOGI AVOID THE FUNK

Yoga mats stink. The same porous qualities that help them keep down-doggers from face-planting also cause them to soak up sweat and eventually wind up stinky. Make your yogi's mat last longer and keep their mat-mates from holding their noses with a gift of Jo-Sha mat wipes ($11.95 for 20-pack, matsmatsmats.com). These individually-wrapped mat cleaners come in 4 fragrances -- lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and tangerine -- and none include alcohol (hello burning elbows) or bleach. The first ingredient in each? Water.

Related: Jo-Sha Mat Wipes

Shuffle Up and Deal Your Body a New Workout Every Day
Bicycle

SHUFFLE UP AND DEAL YOUR BODY A NEW WORKOUT EVERY DAY

Want to add variety to your loved one’s post-Christmas workouts? Get them a deck of cards ($3.99, shopbicyclecards.com), says Greg Robins, a coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, Mass.--the suits and numbers can give them a new workout every day. Start by assigning a movement to each suit --lunges for spades, pushups for hearts, squats for clubs, and inverted rows for diamonds, for instance. Then draw each card, performing the number of reps indicated--the 7 of hearts would be 7 pushups, and the 9 of clubs would be 9 squats (face cards all equal 10). Flip through the whole deck … if you can make it. For a bonus challenge, Robins suggests using aces for burpees (11 of them).

Related: Purchase Bicycle Playing Cards

Sweet Post-Workout Snacks: Almonds
Emerald

SWEET POST-WORKOUT SNACKS: ALMONDS

Instead of a powder or power bar, load their stocking with almond-based treats -- they're packed with protein and filling fats that may help with weight loss. In one study, dieters on a low-calorie diet including almonds lost more weight than those on a similar-calorie diet high in complex carbs. And there are heart benefits, too: Almonds can help lower bad cholesterol and raise the good. Try Emerald's Cocoa Roast almonds in 100-calorie packs ($15.92 for a pack of 4, amazon.com). These little bags feel like you're eating candy, but because they're dusted with dark cocoa instead of coated with milk chocolate, you can taste the indulgence without it going to your gut.

Related: Purchase Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds

Snack Sensation: Almond Butter
Justin's

SNACK SENSATION: ALMOND BUTTER

Squeezable almond butter packets are even easier to put in your pocket, and they're perfect for a sandwich on the run, spreading on a banana or apple, or slipping into a hiking bag. Justin's Nut Butters (justinsnutbutters.elsstore.com; $9.99 for a pack of 10) offers these packets in flavors including honey, maple, chocolate, and natural almond. Find them in the peanut butter aisle, at a natural grocery store near you, such as Whole Foods.

Related: Buy Justin’s Nut Butter Packs

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